Gelbard delivering on the Wild side

Flower delivery company Bloom & Wild has revolutionised the way flowers are sent and delivered, making it as easy as getting a card through the post. Co-founder and chief executive Aron Gelbard tells Toni Sekinah why a desire to please people powers his business.

Bloom and WildCelebrations, congratulations, commiserations and appreciations are the main reasons people send flowers to one another.

But there is a small complication if no one is home to receive them as they may have to be left with a neighbour, which is not convenient on either side. If the bouquet is returned to the sorting office to be collected at a later date, there is a good chance they will have wilted beyond recognition by the time they get to their rightful owner.

Aron Gelbard’s company has come up with a solution so that flowers can be delivered at anytime. The flowers from Bloom & Wild arrive in a box, that though is 60cm long, can fit through standard UK letterboxes.

In the box is a personalised card and the ribbon-tied flowers with each flower head encased in protective netting. They come with a small sachet of plant food and there is even a little instruction card from Bloom & Wild that explains how to arrange the bouquet.

“We started Bloom & Wild to make sending and receiving flowers the joy that it should be,” says Gelbard.  “We think that people send flowers at times that are really emotionally important to them and they should have a great experience every time they do so.”

With his co-founder Ben Stanway, Gelbard set up Bloom & Wild in 2013, to be a flower delivery service that would give its customers a better retail experience than with traditional bricks and mortar and other online florists.

Bloom & Wild deals directly with flower growers, who pack and send out the flower boxes, from their own warehouse facility in Lincolnshire. This means that the middleman is cut out and the blossoms can be in customers’ homes within four days of being cut.

“That compares to 10 days plus in the traditional flower supply chain which means that the flowers are not only longer lasting but also that we can offer more attractive prices,” says Gelbard.

The bouquets also have attractive names such as The Luna with blush roses and cream lisianthus, as well as the The Imogen with Asiatic lilies and alstroemeria, also known as lily of the Incas.

The bouquets range in price from £20 to £37 for one-off bunches with delivery included. Users can also get weekly, fortnightly or monthly bundles for three, six or 12 months. They can also have an on-going subscription that can be paused at any time. Delivery is next-day across the UK with Royal Mail and DPD. In parts of London is can as little as two hours with an express service powered by Shutl.

No doubt, Mother’s Day was a busy day for Bloom & Wild and incidentally part of Gelbard’s motivation for setting up the business comes from his childhood and his relationship with his mother. He grew up as an only child raised by his mum so pleasing people was very important to him.

“If I could create something which would bring pleasure and happiness to large numbers of people everyday that would be something that would really motivate me,” he says.

He met Stanway through a mutual friend and they realised they had both been looking at the workings of the flower business – Stanway from the supply chain side and Gelbard from the direct-to-consumer ecommerce angle.

Gelbard was particularly inspired by Warby Parker, a vertically-integrated eyewear brand in the US and a British personalised postal snack company that is also letterbox-friendly.

The pair was going to New Covent Garden Flower Market, trying to understand how the auctions in the Netherlands worked. Then at a birthday party, Ben was serendipitously introduced to someone who worked for a fruit and vegetable grower who was also cultivating flowers. This led to the direct relationship with the flower producers.

During the summer, Gelbard says that as many flowers as possible are sourced from the UK, especially peonies as they are now coming into season and “English peonies are beautiful.” However in the winter, some of the flowers are sourced from further afield.

Gelbard and Stanway created their own tech for the company with the backend platform running on Ruby on Rails with their own API. The API powers the website which is built in Angular and JavaScript as well as the iOS and Android apps.

Bloom & Wild closed a  £2.5m series A round in July last year led by MMC Ventures as well as earlier SEIS and EIS rounds from angel investors. MMC also invested in Pact Coffee and Gousto, similar direct-to-consumer businesses, so Gelbard feels there is a good fit with the investor. However the co-founders initially put their own savings into the business and learned an important lesson in prudence early on.

“We thought we had finalised our box design and ordered 1,000 boxes. We sent out 20 test orders to people we were talking to about Bloom & Wild and flowers in 17 boxes arrived with a disease,” says Gelbard. Botrytis, a necrotrophic fungus, had blighted the blossoms as the boxes did not allow for sufficient ventilation.

Gerlbard and Stanway had to throw away 980 boxes that weren’t fit for purpose. At £2 a box, that was £2,000 of the founders’ own money that had to be written off.

“It’s a lesson that I’ll always remember because we were trying to go probably a little bit quicker than we were ready to whereas we should have focused on continuing to learn as quickly as possible and minimise the absolutely spend,” he says.

The business has since flourished and Gelbard and Stanway are now working with a team of 25 across, development, branding, creative, marketing, floristry and ‘customer delight.’

An interesting discovery he and Stanway have made is about their ‘delighted’ customers. Gelbard says that 75% of their customers are female who are often buying flowers for other women – whether they be their mothers, daughters, sisters or friends.

“I think when a man buys flowers for a wife or a girlfriend, there is still quite a traditional notion of the partner opening the door and the man presenting this big prearranged bouquet and it is a bit of a macho moment almost for the gift-giver,” he says.

He assumes that with women, they are less interested in making a grand gesture and a good impression of themselves and are more interested in giving a really thoughtful gift.

Bloom & Wild is constantly experimenting with new creative bouquet designs, some of which are limited edition with some luxurious options coming up in the future. He says that this creativity and attention to detail led to its customers constantly rating Bloom & Wild the top flower company in the UK.

“The entire system we’ve created is delivering an experience that people prefer and it’s a brand that people are starting to really love in flower gifting.”

*First published in May 2016 on TechCityinsider.


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