Sramana: What solution did you have in mind to address these issues?
Farbod Shoraka: Our first beta version of BloomNation was a place where florists could create profiles, almost like FaceBook. This was a place where they could put up info about their store to include location and delivery zones. They could also list their designs for sale.
We told florists to think of us as their stores’ FaceBook page. Florists across the country wanted to show off their creativity. They took photos of their work and put them for sale on the site. We originally thought that we would start in Los Angeles but florists started talking about it and sharing the site with others. The next thing we knew, we had almost 1,000 florists listing their products on the site all across the country.
Sramana: It sounds like they were basically setting up their online store on your portal.
Farbod Shoraka: That is exactly what they did. It was very similar to Etsy, which is a handcrafted items marketplace. We jokingly say that we are the Etsy for flowers. Everything is locally created and delivered. Only florists list real products that are available with them. The photos come from the florists and are not some edited photos from photo studios. You knew that the local florist had created these, which was exciting.
The second thing is that as BloomNation grew, we started looking into how flower shops had problems with their own website. Florists did not have e-commerce, they did not know what to do with their own online presence. They came to us because they loved how easy it was to put photos on their profiles and asked us if we could help them with their own websites. A light went off in our head that we should give them beautiful ecommerce powered sites that use all the great technology that BloomNation built for each individual florist website.
That is when our whole enterprise BloomNation florist platform was born. We created a suite of tools that allowed flower shops to analyze their business, build e-commerce websites, and have a point of sale system for their in-store customers. That created an entire ecosystem around BloomNation for florists. That is where we are today.
Sramana: Tell me a little bit about what you did on the business model side? Obviously the florist were not happy with the existing business model of the industry. How did you frame your business model?
Farbod Shoraka: We looked away from what the brokers were doing and looked at what Amazon, eBay, and Etsy were doing in the space of marketplaces. We built our model around simplicity versus competitors like 1-800-Flowers who had different fees, junk fees, cancelation fees, and heavy contracts. We went in the exact opposite direction. We set a flat 10% fee across the board, no matter what. That has worked beautifully for us. In today’s day and age, everyone wants to deal with something that is simple and easy to understand. Those businesses that have gotten away with nickel and diming their customers are going to get taken down by simple, transparent companies like ours.