A half-dead bouquet of roses…
That’s what Sunny Chadha unknowingly sent his crush, Seema Bansal, on Valentine’s Day.
“She was ranting and sent twenty photos of this wilted bouquet,” Chadha recalls. “I knew she was appreciative of the thought but the bouquet did not match the photo of what I thought I had purchased online.” The Valentine’s Day stumble made a long distance relationship feel even more distant…
Chadha lived in New York and Bansal in Canada. The two had recently met when Bansal was visiting friends in New York and hit it off immediately, in part, because both come from families with business backgrounds. “Half of the roses he sent were wilted and dying,” Bansal says. “There was more greenery than live roses and it just wasn’t my style.”
Instead of lamenting what might have been …
The couple envisioned what could be; what if they could source and deliver roses that actually lived up to the product images that persuade shoppers to buy flowers online?
“The idea was born from that terrible experience,” Chadha says. One week later Chadha and Bansal had a business logo. Within three weeks the couple had their box samples. “We were starting a relationship and a business at the same time.”
It’s a mix of love and business. And in this instance, it would result in tears and an emergency trip to Ecuador.
Just Not Working
It started with traditional roses …
The idea behind Venus ET Fleur, the business Chadha and Bansal named after the Roman Goddess Venus who represents luxury, attraction, and romance, was to deliver roses exactly the way they appeared in the beautiful marketing pictures online.
“What people see is what they ought to get,” Chadha says.
So with Bansal’s packaging expertise and Chadha’s operational prowess, the couple began selling roses online and delivering locally in the New York City area. It was July 2015 and as the company grew, Chadha found himself delivering to more and more zip codes.
Then the orders started pouring in from out of state…
People in Texas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee wanted what Venus ET Fleur was selling, which led Chadha and Bansal to begin experimenting with various expedited shipping methods. “But the flowers were dying before they arrived at their destination,” Chadha explains. “Even the bouquets delivered via next day air didn’t look like the pictures on our site.”
The couple tried various shipping methods and packaging combinations…
It was a tense time waiting for customer feedback. While Chadha and Bansal scored some delivery wins here and there, they couldn’t consistently ship vibrant roses that arrived in a customer’s hands exactly how they looked online.
“I remember crying because it just wasn’t working,” Bansal recalls. “I didn’t know what we were going to do but I remember Sunny refused to give up and said we were going to find something that worked.” That meant leaving the next day for Ecuador to visit the farm that supplies the roses.
In Ecuador, the couple discovered something they had previously only seen in storefront window displays; gorgeous floral arrangements that didn’t die after just a few days. The flowers are treated with a special solution that preserves them for at least a year. “We wondered whether we could take the concept and adapt it to create retail floral arrangements that would last a year and that we could ship anywhere in the world,” Chadha says.
Remember, this is a couple that moves quickly …
Bansal had already relocated to New York from Canada and two weeks after a trip to the farm, the couple launched what it calls its Eternity Collection, roses that last a year and are packaged in square or round containers inspired by Parisian hat boxes.
“We’re not florists,” Bansal insists. “We offer a luxury floral product that leaves a lasting impression.”
The beautiful arrangements quickly started to turn heads.
In fact, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian fell in love with Venus ET Fleur and mentioned the company online. “We were getting three calls per minute after the Kardashian post,” Chadha recalls. “People were actually showing up at our office and waiting outside hoping to purchase.” What happened next is tragic in a business sense. Chadha and Bansal told every caller and visitor there were no Eternity roses for sale.
Tag Your Boyfriend
That farm in Ecuador has some lofty standards …
In fact, Chadha suggests the farm throws out approximately half its roses during stringent quality control checks. The high standards can limit supply. Combine that with the growing popularity of Venus ET Fleur and you can see why the company was unable to sell arrangements following the Kardashian buzz.
“We had just sold out two weeks prior,” Chadha says with a hint of pain in his voice. “We just couldn’t capitalize financially but still really appreciated the support.”
But with inventory replenished and new arrangements, Venus ET Fleur recently upgraded to Shopify Plus, a commerce platform for high-volume merchants focused on growing and scaling quickly. “We were calling support five or six times a day in the beginning and feel very fortunate we found Shopify,” Chadha says. “I don’t know what we would have done had we not been able to call and get help.”
That support along with Venus ET Fleur’s unique positioning resulted in the following highlights during the Valentine’s Day 2017 period:
- 295,678 visitors between January and February
- An average of 417 new orders per day
- Transactions from 56 countries
- 3,304 new customers from Jan 1-Feb 15
- 566 returning customers from Jan 1-Feb 15
- More than 100,000 Roses sold in February alone
Venus ET Fleur credits its sequential monthly growth of 30%, in part, to seamless integrations Shopify Plus affords merchants in need of unique solutions. For example, Venus ET Fleur was missing out on potential sales because customers weren’t able to customize arrangements the way they’d like.
“Customers had to call if they wanted custom colors or box sizes,” Chadha says. “Each of those calls lasted twenty minutes and really slowed us down.”
It’s why Venus ET Fleur installed Infinite Options, an application that allows shoppers to customize orders and personalize their experience with brands. Instead of spending time on the phone as Venus ET Fleur had been, Infinite Options lets customers do the work associated with creating custom arrangements via dropdown menus, text, and number inputs.
“We feel really blessed and proud of the growth we’re experiencing,” Bansal says. “We love seeing customers show off their arrangements on Instagram. Girlfriends are even tagging their boyfriends in the posts — hint, hint!” Both Chadha and Bansal come from families that operate businesses…
“I just got my dad to switch two of his sites to Shopify,” Chadha says. “I recommend Shopify to everyone.”
“I’m trying to convince my dad to switch now,” Bansal adds. It seems business and now Shopify run in these families…
The Gift For VIPs
Expect Venus ET Fleur to expand its product line beyond floral…
You’ll also likely see the company offering innovative packaging designs in the same vein as the Le’ Clair collection, which comes in a clear box that has a functional drawer and may be used beyond a rose container as a storage unit on a makeup stand or office.
“We’ve also opened a showroom in Manhattan so customers can experience the brand,” Bansal says.
Another key differentiator is Venus ET Fleur’s ability to custom match roses with a corporation’s brand colors. Besides attracting business from party and wedding planners, the company’s color matching technology is increasingly making its floral arrangements popular corporate gifts.
“Large brands are sending our floral arrangements to their VIPs,” Bansal says.
The success is only a reality because of the 22-hour days Chadha and Bansal routinely put in during the lead up to holidays like Valentine’s and Mother’s days. “We’re proof that if you dream big, get your hands dirty, and put in the hours your dream can come true,” Bansal says. “We can do anything we set our hearts to.”
Might Chadha and Bansal’s hearts be set on one another? “We’ve taken the dive into business together but it’s a dive built on trust,” Chadha says.
“We’re honest with one another while also allowing each other to play to their strengths and along the way we’ve become best friends and truly love each other,” Bansal says.
It might not be a definitive answer. But it is proof great things, in whatever form they ultimately take, can grow from even half dead bouquets of roses.