Last year we told you to buy flowers; this year we’re telling you not to. As Valentine’s Day approaches, BusinessesForSale.com speaks to Steph Douglas, the founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, for our latest video series Entrepreneur It!
Founded on the simple premise of thoughtful and useful gifts for new mothers, Steph Douglas started her online gift package business in 2014.
Before starting the business, Steph worked in government communications and in the private sector with the 2012 Olympics. The idea for Don’t Buy Her Flowers came to Steph after the birth of her two children:
‘When I had my first baby, I received eight bunches of flowers. We didn’t have a lot of space and we certainly didn’t own multiple vases, I had to give them away or bin the least fresh to make way for the most recent.
I also felt completely overwhelmed with everything – the baby, the visitors, the bodily functions – and trying to arrange flowers and dispose of them was a bit much, however pathetic that sounds. I found that other parents felt the same and Don’t Buy Her Flowers was born.’
After a while Steph decided that that the only way to make a career that worked with family-life was to start her own business – and being her own boss gave her the flexibility she needed, enabling her to be around for her children.
Sisterhood and social media
Social media has been an invaluable asset to the running and success of Steph’s business. With no advertising budget, she decided to use the internet in its place. Steph started her blog Sisterhood (and all that) in March 2014 and Don’t Buy Her Flowers in November.
‘You realise everyone’s going through the same so it kind of normalises it a bit and that went really well the blog’ she told us, ‘It gave me the confidence to quit my job and say right I can do this – I can do something’.
With any business comes the odd mishap or two. On the night she launched, Steph’s website crashed because she didn’t have a big enough server to cope with the traffic – a lot of which was driven by the followers of her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Steph feels that her business, as well as many other small enterprises, benefit from filling a hole that larger companies are just too busy to address. For the first nine months she was personally involved at every stage and while she now has admin and customer support, she sees every order that comes in and is still able to interact with each customer - something you just don't get with big business.
It also adds an element of satisfaction to the business:
'If an order comes in, I'll be aware of the personal message that's gone on it, I'll know when it's with the courier, I'll get a tweet or a facebook mention when someone gets it and says 'Oh my god I got this and it was amazing!'
Although the brand focus is still on thoughtful and useful gifts for new mothers and filling a niche gap in the market, the overall ethos is ‘TLC’ and letting the recipient know that they are loved.
Since the launch Don’t Buy Her Flowers have had an array of requests for gifts for other occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, get well soon and just to say ‘I’m thinking of you’.
Steph told us she believes the brand is ‘organically changing’:
‘I wasn't expecting orders for other occasions to grow so quickly, but it's what customers have demanded’.
Every business owner knows that running your own business is hard work. Steph agrees:
‘It just never stops, you’re always thinking about it and getting that feedback is important; its shows you’re doing something right’
But in Steph’s eyes, one of the best things about running your own business is the ‘boost’ you get from the positive feedback.
‘We get quite a lot of people crying when they open their boxes … the whole premise of the idea is being cared for, it’s really powerful‘.
Advice to small business owners
Her advice for the aspiring entrepreneur is to ‘be really clear what it is you want to do’ and most of all to be passionate about it.
‘If it’s something that you believe in and are really excited about and other people around you are going to get excited about, then you’re halfway there’.
She also emphasised that it’s extremely important not to rush into things:
‘You can get really lost in it. You're your own boss so you can take your time. It’s better to be steady so trying not to do everything too quickly is really key’.
Something Steph is still learning to do is to press the pause button every now and again and enjoy her successes. Many small business owners don’t give themselves enough credit for what they have achieved.
‘If people are buying your product and the sales are going up, the feedbacks been really good and you had a piece of coverage last week …you need to take a moment to enjoy that’.
Long term plan
Steph told us that she can’t imagine working for anyone else and that she loves the flexibility, describing running your own business as ‘hugely rewarding’:
‘When it’s an idea that you really believe in and it’s your own idea, you’re very passionate about it.’
‘You can see it all working and you get a massive buzz. Then you’re chasing that buzz for the next thing’.
Over the next two to three years, Steph wants to establish the brand further, putting even more of an emphasis on the thought and care that’s gone into choosing the products so that it feels the customer has put it together themselves.
As technology advances, Steph believes that the opportunities for small business are also changing, ‘because of the internet it’s more of an even playing field now because you can compete’.
So why not treat yourself this Valentine’s Day and buy a business?