A View from the Top: Bloom & Wild founder Aron Gelbard on starting one of the UK's fastest growing businesses

Since launching in 2013, Bloom & Wild has mastered letterbox flowers

Hazel Sheffield
Tuesday 09 January 2018 12:27 GMT
Flowering entrepreneur: Aron Gelbard, the 35-year-old founder of Bloom & Wild
Flowering entrepreneur: Aron Gelbard, the 35-year-old founder of Bloom & Wild

How do you fit a Christmas tree through a letterbox? It might sound like a bad cracker joke, or the premise for a festive TV film. But it’s the real life problem of Aron Gelbard of Bloom & Wild, a startup that arranges flowers in boxes to be delivered through the standard UK letterbox.

Since launching in 2013, Bloom & Wild has mastered letterbox flowers. They have tried a letterbox orchid plant, which turned out to be less popular. In 2016 they trialled letterbox wreaths that came in two semi-circles and they sold a few hundred, though they decided not to repeat them for Christmas 2017.

But the tiny Christmas trees really took off. In their third year, the trees were delivered in a soft pot that could be filled with soil, mini baubles and lights – for £37. “We think of ourselves as letterbox innovators,” Mr Gelbard says. “We’re always coming up with new ideas with what we can fit through letterboxes. Once you use fabric and plastics, the possibilities are endless.”

Mr Gelbard credits Bloom & Wild’s success to this stream of new ideas – in the lead up to this Christmas, customers were able to order letterbox gardening and men’s travel kits as gifts for £25 – as well as a better digital service than its competitors. About half of Bloom & Wild orders come from its app, while 62 per cent of web traffic comes from mobile phones. Mr Gelbard says Bloom & Wild will overtake Interflora, the biggest florist chain in the UK, within four or five years.

Bloom & Wild has just been named the second fastest growing business in the UK, after Deliveroo, by Deloitte. The company has attracted more than £7m in funding and expanded into Germany, France and Ireland over the last year. But the numbers Mr Gelbard really cares about are approval ratings.

Mr Gelbard had a grandfather from eastern Europe who owned a chocolate factory. The two men never met, but Mr Gelbard says his family have talked about the concept of ‘delight’ when giving gifts.

“Delight is a big thing,” Mr Gelbard says. “Chocolate is something that really delights people. Like flowers – they are universally loved by people.”

Now 35, Mr Gelbard was born in France to an Israeli mother and Australian father, though he has lived in the UK since the age of five. He studied modern languages at Oxford and worked for several years at big corporate consultancy firms with retail and technology clients, where he learned about e-commerce and who was doing it well.

He admired Graze, a startup that sends snacks to people through the post, started by a fellow Oxford alumnus, Anthony Fletcher. The pair stayed in touch, and the concept of mail order snacks partly inspired Bloom & Wild. “[Fletcher] has been a useful sounding board for me,” Mr Gelbard says. “I went to visit the Graze factory not long ago, it was proper Willy Wonka territory: fast machines, chocolate swishing past.”

Mr Gelbard says Bloom & Wild is “quite a long way off” that sort of success. “It’s a different business: more mass market, more a production process. But we hope that we can be on a similar or faster trajectory.”

When Bloom & Wild was a small team of 20, Mr Gelbard got everyone together to decide on the company values: care, pride, customer-first, innovation and delight. Now the team has grown to 60, it’s a bit harder for him to gather everyone together – but Mr Gelbard says he’s committed to getting to know everyone in his team and everyone the company is close to offering a job.

“We’re still at the scale where we can have personal relationships, but as we grow we naturally need to have a bit more process. We send out tens of thousands of flowers every week, so we need to have a proper process to make sure that we’re organised.”

Bloom & Wild sends its flowers out from a central warehouse in Lincolnshire that serves several different clients. Mr Gelbard describes Lincolnshire as “the home of the UK flower industry” for its proximity to growers. Its central location in the country and proximity to Royal Mail and DPD hubs also means it has a later cut-off time for next-day delivery, which Bloom & Wild offers six days a week apart from Sunday. In London, customers can get two-hour delivery from the Bloom & Wild warehouse in Vauxhall.

These are the closest Bloom & Wild has to bricks and mortar stores. “I wouldn’t rule out stores, but flower shops can be inefficient in terms of a flower inventory. We send out all our flowers from a central point where we know how much of each flower the UK consumer is going to order and when. If you have stores in different parts of the country it can be more difficult to predict.”

Plus, 90 per cent of Bloom & Wild orders are long-range, where the sender and the recipient don’t live in the same part of the country, so going to the shop is not possible.

Being digital-first not only allows Bloom & Wild to gather data that makes it more efficient at predicting how much of what types of flowers it will need at any given time, it also allows the company to learn more about its consumers and when they need flowers.

The Bloom & Wild app, which takes half of all orders, has a built-in occasion planner to remind users a few days before their mother’s birthday, for example, and suggest a seasonal bouquet to send. “We’ll make that the first thing you see on the website,” Mr Gelbard says, “so we’re creating more relevant shopping experiences for people.”

The future for Bloom & Wild is to make sending gifts “more personal, more cross-border and more mobile”, he says. Is there anything they wouldn’t try to send? “We couldn’t do spiky cacti or anything like that,” he says. ”It’s a handling risk.”

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