A Better Florist looks to spread love … at scale!
By Benjamin Cher October 1, 2015
- Ex-Googler tackles flower industry issues with data
- Sends flowers direct from the farm to customers
FLOWERS are an easy way for people to send across their messages of love – or at least, that’s what florists tell us.
According to CNN, 224 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, with people spending up to US$1.9 billion on flowers just on that special day.
But florists can also be the weak link in the love chain, as A Better Florist chief executive officer Steven Feiner found out first hand.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, for my girlfriend’s birthday, I spent twice as much money as I wanted to just to find the perfect bouquet for her,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore.
“The problem was that the flowers didn’t arrive on her birthday but the day after, and they died three days later,” he added. “It nearly broke us up!”
That’s when Feiner became fixated on this problem and made it his mission to solve the issues of the flower industry. “Flowers are ‘love at scale’,” he declared.
Rooted in entrepreneurship
The startup bug first bit Feiner (pic above) while he was studying supply chain management and marketing at the University of Maryland, when he cofounded Terplist, an information resource for the university’s students.
“After graduating, I wanted to learn how the best businesses operate at scale, so I went into Strategy Consulting,” he told DNA.
“This was followed by three years at Google – first in global business strategy in San Francisco, then as an analytical lead in Singapore, focused on e-commerce,” he added.
Entrepreneurs wear many hats to get their startup off the ground, an experience that has left Feiner humbled while allowing him to get to grips with his strengths and weakness, he said.
“It is a very humbling experience to know you want to be 10 times better than today, but it takes time to get there.
“You just have to keep hacking every day – until suddenly, you crack a tough nut you've been hammering on for a month, and that’s when you know it’s worth every second of it,” he said.
The challenges Feiner faced in getting A Better Florist off the ground overturned just about everything he was taught on how to overcome challenges.
“I come from a culture where if something isn’t working, you stay up all night and you get it done,” he said.
“But not all problems can be solved that way. For example, a great user experience cannot be brute-forced in hours – good things take time,” he added.
A Better Florist is currently self-funded by Feiner, who’s betting on himself to make it happen.
“We believe in the vision, business model and growth strategy so much we are willing to put our money where our mouths are,” he declared.
“The company is 100% founder-owned as of today,” he added.
A Better Florist currently has a team of four, comprising a chief technology officer who built the platform, a product officer in charge of user experience, and a farm operations officer to ensure the flowers get to customers, and, of course, Feiner himself.
Subtract middlemen, add data analytics
The flower industry is an age-old one, responsible for one of the earliest bubbles in history. Yet Feiner believes that the flower industry is ready for a shakeup by disruptors.
Customers deserve better than the prices and flowers local florists currently offer, he argued.
“Florists source their blooms from wholesalers, and by the time the flowers arrive at your door they are 10 days old – that’s the main reasons flowers die so quickly in your home,” Feiner said.
“Those flowers have also gone through four to six middlemen, unfairly inflating the price for the consumer,” he added.
While local florists have gone online, the number of arrangements and bouquets being offered is astounding, and sifting through the pages just to find the perfect one can test anyone’s patience, Feiner argued.
“We change all that – we get our flowers directly from the farm so they are always fresh, and we also cut out all the middlemen to make sure every bouquet is at an affordable price,” he said.
A Better Florist wants to stave off the “tyranny of choice” and so scaled down its bouquet selection to just five. Customers have the ‘deluxe’ option as well to add more flowers to a bouquet.
Beyond just an online ordering platform, the startup also integrates data analytics into its backend system. Crunching the numbers helps to predict customer demand and optimise inventory, according to Feiner.
“With my expertise in Google, our product offering is 100% data driven,” he claimed.
“We have built our platform to analyse what bouquets our customers want, optimise our inventory levels based on statistical predictions, and link in every order with our last-mile delivery team,” he added.
A Better Florist officially launched with the website going live on Sept 28. This came two months after it set up its flower supply chain. It currently delivers across all of Singapore.
“We started taking orders via SMS from Day One, and have delivered countless handcrafted bouquets personally,” Feiner claimed.
“Now you can finally send someone special flowers in just a few clicks, with free delivery,” he added.
Scaling, with KL on its sights
A Better Florist plans to hire more people so that it can fulfill more orders. “We believe we have put in place the right team to scale,” Feiner said.
“Ideally, we will hire one to two florists to help us deliver even more bouquets – and a chief operating officer to streamline day-to-day operations,” he added.
Beyond scaling the business, Feiner believes that customer experience still trumps low prices and fresher flowers, and aims for A Better Florist to provide that.
“It is imperative for us to deliver the best possible flower experience to our customers – it isn’t about better prices or fresher flowers, it is all about the experience,” he said.
The aim is to make A Better Florist the first thing on people’s mind when they want to send flowers to someone.
Having built its foundation in Singapore, the next step is expanding into neighbouring countries. However, this will only come after it has a firm foothold in the island republic.
“Once we have earned our customers’ respect in Singapore, we will expand this experience into other geographies – spreading the love at scale, starting with Kuala Lumpur,” Feiner said.
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