TechRound recently had a chat with Steph Douglas, founder and owner of Don’t Buy Her Flowers to find out more about what they do and why they do it…
Don’t Buy Her Flowers send thoughtful gift packages for all occasions. The aim is to offer TLC and to encourage the recipient to take a bit of time for themselves.
Customers can choose from a set package, like The Book Package or the recently launched Tween or Teen Package (just in time for exam results); or they can create their own with items they know their recipient will love. You can choose from beauty, books, teas or booze, snacks and more.
What Inspired You To Start The Business?
When I had my first baby, I received around eight bunches of flowers. They were obviously well meant, but it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift was another thing to care for, when you’re doing more caring than you’ve ever done in your life. From then on, when a friend of mine had a baby, I started sending packages with treats for them. A magazine, chocolate, a mini bottle of booze or teas; nothing big, but just accompanied with words of encouragement.
Their reaction was always so unnecessarily grateful, and it made me curious as to why someone wasn’t doing that.
It was after my second maternity leave when I really couldn’t shake the idea and combined with wondering how my role at work was going to fit with family life, I started to get curious about the idea of running my own business.
I started a blog as a bit of a steppingstone, writing honestly about motherhood and relationships, and the success of that told me that other people felt like me: overwhelmed and a bit lost and acknowledgement of those feelings really helped me connect with people. I launched as gifts for new mums a few months later and very quickly found customers wanted to send our packages for a whole host of reasons; always to offer TLC, but for birthdays, bereavement, work gifts etc.
Nearly seven years on we now have more than twenty employees and upsized our warehouse a couple of years ago, which was great timing, as when the pandemic hit, demand went to a whole other level. There were months during the last year when we were 600% up on the previous year as the product was so popular during lockdowns (with people wanting to send something thoughtful to friends and family). The business has settled into a new rhythm, and we are currently more than 200% up in revenue YOY. Seven years of hard work has definitely come to fruition.
How Important In Your Opinion Is Company Culture And The Morale Of Employees To The Success Of Any Business?
The pandemic definitely clarified how important communicating with the team is, but especially with regard to their wellbeing. Everyone was going through something, feeling anxious, worried for their families and loved ones, nervous about the virus and I learned a lot about what I want our culture to be. To ensure people could talk freely about their worries, that they could put their families first, we could work flexibly where needed.
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Maintaining that culture as we’ve grown has become one of my main roles, as well as listening to the team when they’ve come up with ways to keep everyone positive, including a ‘random acts of kindness week’ and team challenges where people were given the opportunity to develop ideas for packages that we’re now taking forward. I’ve learned its ongoing and you can’t encourage everyone to communicate well and then hope they maintain it, it needs revisiting and working together with everyone constantly. Our biggest strength has been developing people beyond the role they joined us for – recognising skills and building roles to fit and stretch them.
The majority of the management team joined us as warehouse packers and seeing how proud they are to be a part of the story is hugely rewarding.
Honestly, the loyalty and dedication the team displayed when crisis hit in the early stages of lockdown just showed how important treating your workforce well is. It isn’t even worth thinking about how we would have pivoted, delivered and kept sane if we hadn’t had a happy workforce we had invested in prior to the crisis.
Of course, we all hope that we never experience anything like the last 18 months, but if it has shown me anything, it is the importance of a strong, dedicated team and ensuring they feel supported in return.
How Have You Found Team Morale Has Been Affected in the Last 18 Months…Have You Maintained It?
The main thing was maintaining the rapid growth operationally while ensuring everyone stayed healthy and supported. We went into lockdown just before Mother’s Day, we had a great piece of PR on the Lorraine show and the orders just soared. We then saw that pace wasn’t going to slow down and all of a sudden this was the new normal. So, this meant growing the team and shifting people’s responsibilities. This came with some challenges but again communication was key. We had to make some decisions to make processes better and along with this came consistent and clear communication.
What Are The Biggest Challenges You Believe Businesses Face In Managing Employees And Multiple Teams?
I think the decision making around when to expand and grow your team to balance finance and operational requirements is difficult for any first time Entrepreneurs. I certainly found this tough. It is hard making the decision to grow a workforce, particularly during a time of unpredicted fast growth like we saw; but I believed we had to put the people in place to allow us to take the business to the next stage.
Plus, you then know your financial goals and build a plan to meet them. It’s a part of forecasting which is a continuous challenge, and sometimes requires taking a leap of faith. I have to say, so far, every time we’ve taken that leap it’s paid off if anything I held the business back in the first few years by feeling nervous about building the team but have now learned that as soon as we do it, we see the growth.
What’s Your Secret To The Ongoing Success Of Don’t Buy Her Flowers?
Hiring a really strong team while remaining present in the areas I know I am good at. I am still very involved in the buying process with brands, so I know the packages and products we are selling are really in-line with what we set out to do. I also ensure our content and tone of voice doesn’t lose the intention I set out with from day one. The core idea of thoughtfulness has to run through everything we do our products, our team, our customer services, how we advertise; absolutely everything.
Beyond that we are investing this year in areas we know will take us to a new level of growth, our website will see a relaunch in September (watch this space) and along with this will come operational improvements with a new stock management system to help us do what we do more efficiently.
What Are Your Plans For The Next Few Years?
I am very focused on growing Don’t Buy Her Flowers and can see more than ever the potential this business has. Having bootstrapped it from the beginning, we continue to reinvest profits into new areas; now it’s just on a larger scale, which is exciting and actually makes me really proud. 2020 showed our team what DBHF is capable of and it’s just the beginning.
We have so many more ideas up our sleeves, and because we haven’t taken investment, we have rolled things out in a controlled, focused way, which has allowed us to really see if something works, whether that’s a new package idea or a marketing tool before we invest more in it. That has served us well, but with more people on the team and money behind us, we can try new things more quickly now.
How Can We Find You?
At DontBuyHerFlowers.com and mainly on Instagram @dontbuyherflowers