When was the last time you bought flowers directly from the grower? No, we are not talking about grandma's backyard. There are a number of florists out in the market today, but the essence of buying fresh stems has been lost. Mainly, because customers have lowered their standards and companies have raised their prices. Worry not, we have a solution!
As big time lovers of fresh flowers and all-things-floral, we were excited to have been introduced to leblum, the go-to floral guru in town. Or in business terms, an innovative e-commerce platform that is revolutionizing the industry one stem at a time.
Sarah Corrigan and Gayatri Patel Bahl, the talented duo behind the brand may descent from different backgrounds but their passion for transforming an ordinary experience into an extra special one is what plants them together (pun intended). Gayatri, a graduate in Economics and Theatre from Emory University is a self-taught coder and an expert at building websites. On the flip side, Sarah studied architecture at Lehigh University, landed in a flower shop after quitting the corporate world and eventually, started her own garden design firm. But it doesn’t stop there! Shortly after, Sarah bought into a Tribeca based flower shop at the brink of bankruptcy and began turning it around. This is also when Gayatri met Sarah and assisted in refreshing the shop's website. Sales at the shop went on to nearly quadruple, which marked the beginning of their friendship. Eventually, this turned into a business partnership, when Sarah asked Gayatri to help build leblum in October of 2015.
Simple is Beautiful
Leblum was born to fill a market gap that exists between consumer options: cheap bodega finds to high end boutique shops. The founders very quickly realized that New York was a unique market in which consumers genuinely appreciated high quality flowers but not everyone could afford $200 arrangements. (Tip: on average, leblum flowers can last up to a week longer than the ones customers usually buy from stores). To fulfill this gap, leblum has curated various options including a LIVE market that opens for a few hours daily and lets you order fresh flowers along with a subscription model, blumBUNDLE, that schedules flower deliveries once every two weeks. Leblum is literally automating the way consumers shop. Soon, they will be launching a build-a-bear like inspired business model for event planners and DIYers that will enable them to curate and create arrangements per their taste.
When it comes to packaging, it doesn’t get any simpler than this: no packaging, no vases, no unnecessary garbage. Understanding that each farmer is different from the grower, leblum delivers flowers the way vendors receive them. Each arrangement is wrapped in a brown paper wrap with the leblum sticker on it. “There are many startups focusing on the flower business today but they are mostly digitizing 1800-Flowers. A lot of them have high overhead expenses that unfortunately bullies vendors in marking down their prices. We didn’t want to be a product that bullied people to make margins for our investors; we want to take the industry and make it uber-efficient. At the same time, we’re trying to raise people’s expectations of what they’re getting and educating them.”
So what makes leblum different from other ecommerce sites in the floral industry? “We use my expertise of who the best growers are, take their flowers and remove all the layers between the grower and the buyer. For example, with the blumBUNDLE, buyers get to experience flowers that they normally wouldn’t see at a bodega or Whole Foods.” No wonder leblum has several repeat buyers. Gayatri proudly reminisces, “just recently, one of our customers ordered peonies at the last second in our LIVE market and we were out of peonies. Sarah picked up anemones instead and emailed the customer saying he would be receiving different flowers (he wasn’t too excited about it) but within a few hours, he signed up for the blumBUNDLE. It was amazing to witness because he would have never have picked that flower, yet he loved it. As a flower buyer, we normally get attached to the flowers we love and tend not to take risks.”
The Name Game
“Knowing flower names simply doesn't matter; the important part is experiencing a perfectly grown, high quality bloom. When I worked at the shop, I literally made flower names up as I went: Hemoglobin, Chlorophyll, etc. If you say it with conviction, people actually start to believe you. But, this doesn't work with leblum because vendors will most likely cut our terms and now, I actually know all the flower names out there!” On an extra creative note, Sarah tells us how “coming up with a company name was a few weeks of making noises. I loved the sounds of “le” “bl” and “um” and eventually, when you’re taking three syllables and repeating them for weeks, you come up with “leblum.” (Woah!) It sounded like a blossom and premium pretty. It was cool to take a name that meant nothing and create a brand out of it.”
“We are trying to craft a personal experience of a small town flower shop digitally.”
“When we launched, we wrote handwritten letters to 500 people who we thought would enjoy the product. We value handwritten notes but it’s not sustainable with a two-person team.” Sarah’s original concept was to build a mobile business that didn’t require any overhead and was user friendly for vendors. Gayatri agreed to the fact that many companies today are growing very quickly and can’t sustain massive staff influx. To avoid that mistake, leblum is creating efficient systems and using technology to their advantage, with each future employee added for the value they bring to the company. This includes Wellington, leblum’s very own Butler who manages customer relationships.
Similar to many startups, having two founders was crucial to not only building leblum but also convincing investors and tech accelerators that there was structure to the company. Gayatri, who is a part time actress and dancer (she spent seven years in India to make a Bollywood debut), is in charge of coding, tech development, marketing and outreach. Meanwhile, Sarah focuses on brand, product, consumer, and design. Their advice to aspiring co-founders? Yoga and meditate every damn day! But on a serious note, it’s about never wanting to compromise the original vision of your company.
- Do as much in house as you possibly can
- Whenever you hear yourself say or think you can't do something, say “heck, yeah I can" and drink beetroot juice (known to increase your serotonin levels and make you feel happy)
- Have the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality (crappy margins, wonky user experience, no investors)
- Never accept the word “can't” or “no” unless it's from your mother
- Most importantly, have faith, nothing comes easily
Currently, leblum delivers in New York and is set to launch in the tristate area in the coming weeks. (Woohoo!) By mid-summer, they will be looking into their second urban market but this time, you get to pick where! Vote for your city here. With a 150% growth month over month since its launch in November of 2015, leblum has officially been invited to join one of the top tech accelerators in the world with an acceptance rate of 0.8% which is less than Harvard, Stanford and Yale combined! Basically, watch this space.
As a little push to experience the beautiful collections at leblum, here is a promo code: Radiche for 20% discount at checkout. If you are looking to get in touch with Sarah or Gayatri, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of leblum.