Case Study » Blooming success: A decade of growth with Bloom & Wild’s VP Finance
Blooming success: A decade of growth with Bloom & Wild’s VP Finance
From its humble beginnings to becoming the leading European flower delivery service, Bloom & Wild's journey is a testament to strategic growth, customer-centricity, and sustainable practices. Sophia Meadows, the company's financial director, shares insights on navigating challenges and seizing opportunities in a dynamic market
Sophia Meadows is the VP Finance of Bloom & Wild. One cannot help but smile at the irony of a ‘Meadows’ leading the financial strategies of one of Europe’s most successful flower companies. It is as if nature itself conspired to place her amidst blooms and bouquets.
Earlier in September, Bloom & Wild celebrated its 10th birthday. In the office, there were balloons and party bags for staff, and a planned celebration to recognise a decade of success. From a modest turnover of £400,000 in 2014, Bloom & Wild has experienced a meteoric rise, boasting a turnover of £145 million in 2021-22.
Unlike a large share of businesses, the pandemic was a catalyst for the business. “The UK business has been profitable since 2020, which was a huge milestone for the finance team,” Meadows says. “We grew 60% year-on-year until Covid, and then when the pandemic hit, we grew over 100%.”
The biggest challenge for Bloom & Wild during 2020 was dealing with the rapid increase in delivery orders. Meadows says overnight, the volume of orders doubled and continued to grow in the following months.
“Operationally, and financially, the hardest thing was making sure we had the infrastructure that would allow us to fulfil this increase in demand,” she says. It was the company’s strong relationships with growers and suppliers that allowed them to continue to keep up with demand. In 2020, after Amazon, Bloom & Wild was the most delivered business.
However, not all Bloom & Wild’s success can be measured by revenue.
“Our KPIs have evolved with our growth,” Meadows explains. “Until last year, our focus was revenue growth, as it is in any startup or scale-up. But because of the cost-of-living crisis, we have made a strategic change in direction to focus back on profitability.”
The success of Bloom & Wild’s growth is largely because of the onus it places on customer care. Another one of Meadows’ career highlights has been the Thoughtful Marketing Movement.
In 2019, Bloom & Wild gave its customers the chance to opt out of emails about sensitive occasions (like Mother’s Day). And the response was unexpectedly huge. Meadows says the company saw enormous potential to make a positive impact by spreading the principles of opt-out more widely. The movement is now a community of over 150 international companies.
“It’s all about customer care. And we are completely obsessive about the customer experience, with every single aspect of our business,” Meadows says.
Bloom & Wild’s co-founder, Aron Gelbard, has ensured data has driven the business forward from day one – a detail Meadows says has been crucial to understanding their customer base.
“We have had a business intelligence and data science team for almost a decade,” she says. “And because of this, we have almost 10 years’ worth of customer data in a cohort model that predicts, to some extent, how a cohort is going to behave.”
Bloom & Wild’s teams have also relied on this data to manage risk – specifically delivery risk. Meadows notes that for busy periods their AI model predicts which deliveries are likely to fail. They will then actively send another order to arrive on the right day before the customer is even aware.
“We are tech-enabling a really good customer experience,” Meadows says.
Data has also been the biggest informant of the businesses’ diversification. For a long time, Bloom & Wild were the only letterbox flower delivery company in the UK.
Its loyal customer base, due to the business’s focus on customer experience, has meant it has been able to maintain its profitability for longer than most other companies without having to diversify.
However, on the basis of the strength of its platform, the trust of our customers and the size of the opportunity, Bloom and Wild has recently taken the plunge and entered the gifting market.
“We have this amazing reputation and people trust our platform. It was the right time to go into something else and show we were not just a flower delivery service,” Meadows says. The company has launched afternoon tea sets as well as new mother and baby packages.
The business has also launched itself into new geographies through two acquisitions. The business already had a footprint in Europe, expanding its delivery service to several countries but in July 2021, it acquired Bergamotte, a French-based competitor.
The acquisition gave Bloom & Wild access to a local brand within the French market and secured it a top 5 leading position in the country’s online flower delivery market. Bergamotte had also recently expanded into Germany.
A few months earlier, in April 2021, Bloom & Wild acquired bloomon – an Amsterdam-based online letterbox flower delivery company. “We knew who the big players in the market were,” Meadows says. “They were strong incumbent brands with good followship and we wanted to look at how to capitalise on that.”
Entering new markets is no mean feat, and Bloom & Wild learned a lot along the way. “They don’t have letter boxes in Germany,” Meadows says. “So, we spent time testing the range we were offering, how was it resonating, and testing what worked. We then allocated capital depending on the results of those tests.”
Fuelling the future
Bloom & Wild were only able to enter new markets due to successful rounds of fundraising. At the start of 2021, Meadows’ team helped to raise over $100 million in Series D funding.
“Working virtually actually made things easier,” she says. “We were able to jump into calls with investors and stakeholders without other areas of the business wondering why we were in meetings.”
The funding round came off the heels of some very strong growth. Revenues for the company were up 64% in 2020, with some 4 million deliveries of flowers in that period — more than had ever been made in the lifetime of the company previously.
Grappling with seasonality
In an industry deeply intertwined with nature, the challenges of climate change and weather fluctuations are ever-present. Bloom & Wild, with its global network of growers, has taken a proactive approach to these challenges.
“We have growers all over the world. So that helps but because of our focus on sustainability, we will try and work with the seasons,” Meadows says. In the UK, during the summer, the company offers the ‘Eco blooms’ which are entirely sourced and grown within the UK, reducing the carbon footprint associated with transportation.
However, the company’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond sourcing. “Our waste is under 10%, where it can be as high as 40%,” Meadows says. This is because Bloom & Wild have a growing network and planting programmes, which allows growers to produce blooms specifically based on their forecasts.
This forward-thinking approach not only reduces waste but also ensures that growers don’t face unexpected overheads. “It means we can inform growers really ahead of time, and they can plant for us, and therefore that reduces their overheads as well,” she says.
Leveraged through technology, this symbiotic relationship with growers ensures minimal waste and a sustainable system that benefits both parties.