In 2013 Oxford languages graduate Aron Gelbard and Ben Stanway, a University of Bath Business Administration graduate, opened Bloom & Wild, an innovative online flower delivery business that sources flowers from the growers. By 2021, with sales of around £200 million($277 million) and £126 million ($169 million) of equity funding, it had bought Amsterdam-based Bloomon and its French rival, Bergamotte, one of Europe’s largest of such businesses.
After graduating in 2003, Ben joined the Business Bridge Program at the Tuck School of Business before securing employment as a hedge fund manager in the Financial Services Sector. Aron, who graduated in 2004, secured employment as a management consultant before joining the MBA programme at Harvard University, graduating in 2009. They decided to launch Bloom and Wild in order “to make sending and receiving flowers the joy it should be”. This involved customers ordering flowers on a smartphone in under a minute and having them delivered directly to their homes, through their letterboxes. According to Aaron, he got the idea for the business from the snack through the letterbox company, Graze, which was started by a friend of his, Anthony Fletcher, a fellow Oxford alumnus. Aron had always found ordering flowers difficult and was often disappointed with them. Therefore, he began to wonder whether letterbox packaging might improve the flower gifting experience. After renting space from a wedding florist in New Covent Garden Flower Market in London, he and Ben launched Bloom &Wild, despite neither of them having any great knowledge of either technology development or floristry.
“The market disruption afforded by our innovation certainly enabled us to move out of the blocks very fast, and as a result, we have been able to attract funding from that traction. We have been able to use that funding to hire great people, to continue to grow, to extend our offering internationally and so on” – Aron Gelbard
The business, which is one of the fastest-growing in the U.K., sends its flowers via the postal service out from a warehouse based in Lincolnshire, the home of the U.K. flower industry. It also sources some 50 per cent of them from Kenya, a country with up to 40% unemployment. While this clearly leaves a carbon footprint, growing flowers in a heated greenhouse can generate up to 7 times the CO2 as flying flowers over from Kenya, where they grow naturally all year round. As sustainability is important to the business, they audited their operation and found that 2.5kg of CO2 was emitted for every bouquet they delivered. So, from 2020 they have been offsetting their carbon emissions by supporting global projects that improve lives and cut carbon. Additionally, they have ensured that their letterbox packaging is 100% recyclable and, wherever possible, is made from recycled materials. As a result, they have saved some 60,784 kg of plastics and polyester from going to landfill.
Though Aron recognises the importance of technology to the business’s success, he believes that the key to their success is their five core values, care, customer first, delight, innovation, and pride. These were co-created by the whole team; hence they are owned by the employees – they are the way they work and have “become part of our brand because the brand is really an expression of the people behind it” says Aron. This is what makes Bloom &Wild different. It is why customers buy from them. However, it is necessary to get to this situation, as Aron says, “to make sure that people care and you don’t get someone to care by telling them to care. They need to want to care. So people need to feel a sense of mission and purpose and want to be a part of something extraordinary”.
While the goal of Bloom and Wild is to be Europe’s leading and most loved flower company, it is also diversifying its product range into the gift delivery business both to better serve customer needs and to offset the traditional flower industry peaks. Also, they have entered into a partnership with the grocery retail chain Sainsbury. They are innovating and learning constantly, and Aaron’s advice to students is to start sooner rather than later as he did, as you learn so much from doing so.
Bloom & Wild is very much an economic enterprise, but it is also concerned about the environment (ecopreneurship), people (humane entrepreneurship) and society (social entrepreneurship). It is a Harmonious Enterprise that addresses SDGs 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry Innovation and Infrastructure), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 13 (Climate Action).
Packer, H (2021) Interview Transcript: Aron Gelbard (Jesus, 2000). Oxford Alumni. https://www.alumni.ox.ac.uk>aricle
Sheffield, H., (2018), A view from the Top: Bloom & Wild founder Aaron Gelbard on starting one of the U.K.’s fastest growing businesses The Independent. 9th January (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/a-view-from-the-top-bloom-wild-founder-aaron-gelbard-growing-flower-business-a8127356.html.
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