Some of my readers have been kind enough to share their stories with me. I have decided to publish them in the hope you will gain some insight and inspiration from hearing about their achievements. This is the first story, courtesy of Will Wynne at ArenaFlowers:
We launched ArenaFlowers.com in September 2006. Our offering is simple:
- Great products
- Great prices
- A slick user experience
- Wrapped up with attention to detail
We think that offering will create delighted, repeat customers.
- We cut out all middlemen, to ensure longer lasting and better value flowers;
- Many of our products are ethically sourced and we are the only UK florist to be accredited by the Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Companies guide;
- We are the only flower website in the world where you can send a photograph or a video message with your flowers;
- Corporate customers have a bespoke system, Arena For Business, tailored to their needs (e.g. it halves checkout time, speeding up the placing of multiple orders);
- Last year we won an entrepreneurship award, so maybe we’re doing something right.
Before we gave up our old jobs, we spent a lot of time researching. Steve, our FD, and I went toSan Francisco to meet with SEO experts to turbocharge our web marketing knowledge; we went to Holland to meet key partners; we launched a test site to prove the SEO traffic generation model’s feasibility. Pre-testing the viability of the model was key and the insight generated helped secure angel funding.
Our core team has varied and complementary experience: I previously worked in venture capital and learned a lot about the web working at eBay.co.uk for 3 years. Steve has highly relevant experience from working in online floristry at a competitor prior to co-founding Arena. Ronald, our Dutch co-founder, has a wealth of experience from the flower and plant markets in Holland . Sam and Zach are experts in building websites and web design, having previously built sites for Toshiba and L’Oreal.
Post launch there have been numerous disasters and problems. Most things that could go wrong did go wrong at some point. There were also some great successes (breaking even was nice, as was taking our 100,000th order recently).
Top 3 thoughts:
- Measurement: Be it site analytics, marketing or accounting, up to date, accurate figures are absolutely key. We must know where we’re doing well and, more importantly, where we’re doing badly. Then we can fix things. With no numbers, we’re running blind which is very dangerous.
- Team: No single person can build a successful business all on their own. We have very much had a team effort, with different people taking care of different areas. This is key, in order to share the load, avoid overlap and maximise use of available human resources.
- It’s tough: No one ever said it was going to be easy but boy has it been tough sometimes. I’ve had two very stressful jobs before but nothing could have prepared me for the unrelenting pressure of the first 18 months with Arena. But then again, that’s part of the fun and part of the sense of achievement that is felt when hard work pays off.
The future? We have some ideas (e.g. we built and operate Prestat’s chocolate website and we may launch ArenaBloemen.nl) but our main aim is to consolidate our flower business and build it to last. We love what we’re doing too much to stop!