Aron Gelbard is the co-founder and CEO of online flower delivery company, Bloom & Wild. He started Bloom & Wild in 2013 with a view to make sending and receiving flowers the joy that it should be. Bloom & Wild are most known for making it possible to send flowers in well under a minute on a smartphone, and for delivering flowers through people’s letterboxes, all across the UK and Ireland. There are now 30 people at Bloom & Wild and they have raised £3.5m in venture capital and angel funding. Aron studied Modern Languages at Jesus College from 2000 – 2004, and first worked in technology when he spent his year abroad working in Paris during his degree.
Q: What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: After university, I worked in consulting, most recently at Bain & Company. As a consultant, I had the chance to work with a number of leading retail, consumer products and technology companies. This made me excited about the prospect of trying to start a company in this space. There are also lots of entrepreneurs in my family, so I thought I should try, especially when still young enough to be able to take a risk and to work really hard!
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: It’s about being prepared to give something your everything and know that you have to make it succeed, because you’ve promised large numbers of people that you don’t know that it will.
Q: How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
A: To be honest, I didn’t know and I think it’s hard to know. I think you need to set yourself a series of milestones, and constantly evaluate whether you’ve reached each one. Starting to get people that you don’t know being prepared to hand over money to you, and, in particular, to do so more than once, is a huge piece of validation!
Q: So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: I think first and foremost, you need to be a good listener. You are privileged to get a huge amount of feedback from customers, and you need to digest it without being defensive, and act on it. Secondly, you need to be a good storyteller – this inspires a team to get behind your vision, and investors to do so as well (and therefore to fund you). Finally, you need to be really dedicated – it’s hard work and things go wrong, all the time, so you have to stick at it!
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: I’ve got 2 favourites – one is hearing feedback from customers… We’re honoured to now be the UK’s top rated flower company across all major review platforms – reading the reviews and hearing about the difference we’re able to make to our senders’ and recipients’ lives is hugely rewarding. The other is getting to build a small team of passionate people who pull together to make something special happen!
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: There are lots, but one of my main inspirations is graze.com, which is now run by Anthony Fletcher, who was in my year at Jesus. They’re the pioneers of letterbox delivery, and we’ve learned a huge amount from them.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: I’m lucky that I get Anthony’s advice from time to time – he’s very generous. Graze has grown into a household name and we’re hoping to achieve the same at Bloom & Wild – it’s early days but we’re making progress!
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: Getting the first order from someone that neither my business partner nor I knew… And, more recently, seeing someone carrying a box of Bloom & Wild flowers on the tube
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A: The biggest mistake I’ve made was massively underestimating the importance of technology when getting started. My co-founder and I both had business backgrounds, and we thought technology would be just one of the things we needed. In fact, it’s at the heart of what we do, and we now have a decent-sized in-house tech team. I wish we’d realized earlier that this would be what could and now does set us apart from the many other flower companies out there.
Q: How have you funded your ideas? Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
A: We’ve been fortunate to raise angel and venture capital funding, most recently from MMC Ventures. We haven’t received any grants, however, we’ve benefited from being able to qualify for our investors to invest in us through the government’s SEIS and EIS schemes, which make investing in startups more attractive and less risky – this has been really valuable for us in raising funding.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: We aren’t based in Oxfordshire. However, we’ve just done an exciting local trial, specifically in Oxford, where we have advertised on the side of local drivers’ cars with really flowery images – it’s been a great way to build our brand among the academic community. The service was available in Cambridge too, but we obviously chose Oxford.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
A: I think many of the best resources are actually right around you. Oxford has a great community of smart and driven people, with varied and highly developed skills. Finding other people who are passionate about each other and working together is the most valuable resource there is… In terms of books, the best one I read was The Lean Startup – it saves you so much time (and precious cash!)
Q: Any last words of advice?
Give it a go! The learning experience is so much richer than you get in any other job…