Vanisha Narsey, co-founder of floristry software business Bouqo, talks branching out from the familiar to start the firm after she was made redundant due to Covid-19.
What does your business do?
Bouqo is an online marketplace that connects consumers with local florists, enabling an easy and intuitive way to [select] and purchase flowers for delivery. We aim for the platform to mirror the in-store flower purchasing experience, and it steps shoppers through an engaging wizard to understand their gifting needs. The platform uses an algorithm that offers potential options from local florists. The business launched in December.
On the florists' side, they have the ability to upload and manage bouquets as well as gain shopping insights to provide customers with range and choice. The software is live and real as opposed to other online marketplaces that offer flowers.
What was the motivation for starting it?
In terms of the business idea, it was sparked on a Saturday evening after I started re-watching clips of Jerry Seinfeld for some personal inspiration. He had this bit called Flower Power and he talks about how flower shops aren't set up for men yet the existence of flowers being the only reason why men are able to keep the relationship with women going for so long, and it made me think why people don't buy flowers as often as they could and I sort of dove into researching flower purchasing online.
My background is in consumer research, and what I quickly realised was that most flower shops online are basically translations of these old retail product catalogues in the digital space and that's completely opposite of any kind of ease or inspiration you might feel in store, so it was clear there was a problem here to solve and we set out to solve it. Personally, I've always loved getting and gifting flowers, I wanted to make it easier for people to see and experience the power of flowers.
I'm another Covid redundancy statistic - one of the 10,000 women made redundant last year - I was previously working in advertising and marketing, and when I was let go I decided I wanted to align with a longer-term goal of mine which was to help women in business - and floristry is an industry which is primarily dominated by women.
How many florists and users are on board Bouqo?
We started in June, launched in December, and have started with 15 florists in Auckland. The plan is to go to Christchurch and Wellington by the end of this year. It's early days for us.
How big is your team?
I'm working alongside my technical co-founder Bhavik Kumar and also Che Mearns. I'm working on the business full-time; Che and Bhavik both work on Bouqo part-time.
What are your long-term plans?
We're just getting off the ground now and the plan is to be in Wellington and Christchurch by the end of the year but we do have our sights set on the international market as well in terms of scaling this. In terms of the platform itself, we're looking to be continually ahead of the curve in ensuring an innovative way of purchasing - I'd love to see how online shopping experiences evolve with AI, AR and the use of data. This is our first iteration of the platform but I would see us evolving with those trends.
I can see Bouqo operating in Australia - that's our next focus. I've had some feedback from people overseas in Canada and the United Kingdom that say this type of thing could work really well there. However, we're really in our infancy stage at the moment.
How does your business make money?
We take a cut of each sale through the platform. We don't expect to turn a profit this year.
How has the floristry industry been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Flowers are typically grown in advance and a lot of the flowers that had been grown had to be chucked out when Covid hit, and growers had to start from scratch after the lockdown which meant the flower prices for consumers and florists were through the roof. It was only the end of November that flower prices started to normalise again. Smaller florists were definitely struggling. January is typically a quieter period, but from talking to my florists they have been quite busy recently.
What advice do you give to others who want to start their own business?
Consider your business idea thoroughly, and make sure it aligns with who you are and that you are being authentic to your personal values. Success ultimately as an entrepreneur comes down to perseverance and grit, and if what you have chosen to do does not align with who you are, then you will find it hard to find inspiration to keep going. Figure out what lights you up.