When Farbod Shoraka’s aunt, an Irvine, Calif. florist, aired her grievances about the mass-market ecommerce websites like 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora, he recognized an opportunity to help alleviate the stressors threatening to shut down her business.
Where his aunt once enjoyed steady walk-in traffic, the invasion of online florists depleted her traffic substantially, and she was forced to rely more on online orders from corporations that not only take a high percentage of her profit, but limit her opportunity for autonomy and client relationships.
Another problem: consumers are tired of receiving floral arrangements that don’t match the online photo.
So, Shoraka, chief executive officer, partnered with his University of California, Berkeley friend David Daneshgar, sales, marketing and strategic development officer, and family friend Gregg Weisstein, chief operating officer, to create a platform for local florists that empowered, not dampened, florists’ ability to practice their craft and retain the quality in which they specialize.
After conducting research, consisting of Shoraka traveling to nearly 100 florists to hear what they needed to survive, by mid-2012, BloomNation was born, an ecommerce website for florists across the country that allows floral designers to work with consumers, promote their brand and retain about 90 percent of the final sale.
“People were tired and frustrated about seeing cookie cutter images and fake photos of the flowers they’re going to buy, paying crazy fees and receiving nothing like what you saw on the Internet,” Shoraka says. “So people try to find a local florist to do a better job, but most don’t have a great ecommerce system, so we realized there’s an opportunity there to create a platform that lets florists sell what they really have.”
Local florists can set up free profiles on bloomnation.com and upload real photos of their arrangements.
The BloomNation team’s goal is to allow the consumer to have essentially the same experience online as they would making the transaction at a florist in person. It’s especially important, Shoraka says, to maintain the florist/consumer relationship that is vital to the consumer’s satisfaction with the end product.
“The consumer gets to list what they want, and the florist can be creative and come up with unique arrangements, “Shoraka says. “With BloomNation, the florist’s real name is on the line, so they want to please the customer more.”
Where many florists did not have a professional website, BloomNation seeks to be their platform where they can promote themselves in a whole new way.
“The floral industry is such an aesthetic thing,” Weisstein says, “but a lot of florists don’t have a website because they don’t have a web developer. But with BloomNation, now they do. Now customers can do anything they would do in the physical shop, online.”
One way BloomNation is ensuring customers will have an authentic experience is with “Bloomsnap”— a way for florists to communicate directly with their customers by sharing a photo of the arrangement before it ships so customers know exactly what they’re getting.
Weisstein says the company is currently working with more than 2,500 florists. The founders plant to expand their coverage to more rural cities to “make one of the best curated group of products you’ll see on the Internet.”
The reaction from local florists, Shoraka says, has been positive, and the founders have developed a close relationship with many of them.
So close, in fact, the florists have created an unofficial “floral advisory board” that the founders look to for expert advice and fresh ideas.
“When you presume to know better than the florists do about building a product for their industry, you’re in trouble,” Shoraka says. “Working closely with the florists allows this to be a better service.”