How two entrepreneurs started a company, fell in love and are gearing up for this Valentine’s Day despite the pandemic.
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The billion-dollar floral industry has seen a surge in innovation over the past decade, with direct-to-consumer companies reinventing the way people buy flowers. Online floral companies grew 11.8% over the last five years and are expected to continue to grow as the industry is set to reach $57.4 billion dollars in revenue by 2024. Venus ET Fleur, co-founded by husband-and-wife duo Seema Bansal and Sunny Chadha, has been a leader in this industry disruption thanks to their sought-after Eternity Roses, which purport to last up to a year if tended properly.
But as it turns out, this multimillion-dollar ecommerce company was borne out of a Valentine’s Day bouquet mishap several years earlier. When the holiday arrived in 2015, Chadha sent flowers to his now-wife, Bansal. While appreciative of the sweet gesture on their first Valentine’s Day as a couple, Bansal was surprised to learn that the product she received was very different from what was promised to Chadha on the florist’s website.
The couple immediately began researching whether what happened to them was a frequent occurrence for others. Once they realized it was in fact a common issue, the two put their heads together and conceptualized Venus ET Fleur as a bespoke rose atelier with a mission to transform the online floral industry. Not only did Chadha and Bansal want to make sure the bouquets customers received looked exactly like what was marketed online, but they wanted to create a space for long-lasting luxury florals.
Although neither Chadha nor Bansal had experience in this specific industry, they bootstrapped the company and received additional, early support from the Kardashians, which took their business to the next level. By Valentine’s Day 2016, orders were flying in, and come 2018, the couple made it onto The Forbes 30 Under 30 list for ecommerce. The company now offers a variety of eternity flowers and even candles, and five years later is still a go-to destination, despite — or perhaps in part because of — the pandemic.
“We had a surge of demand during the beginning of the pandemic, as people wanted to keep purchasing flowers to stay connected to their loved ones,” says Chadha. “And we are anticipating a surge this Valentine’s Day as consumers have completely shifted to online alternatives.”
Since the pandemic began, the company implemented fulfillment balancing between their two facilities to ensure optimal service. That included avoiding weather delays, providing transportation for employees who were wary of public transport, hiring additional supply chain canagement and instituting a new retail process for replenishments while factoring in potential closure.
“Having more experts to ensure our systems can handle the volume of orders coming in is very important for inventory visibility to our fulfillment teams,” Chadha explains, when asked to describe steps they took that other ecommerce businesses might heed. “We also introduced delivery windows versus a date-specific delivery for some of the higher-moving products so clients are aware of the timeframe they will arrive in.”
Venus Et Fleur’s supply chain team began planning and buying for Valentine’s Day far earlier this year than they have ever done before, as they knew there would be production and shipping delays. Making sure customers receive exactly what they order on time is Chadha and Bansal’s number-one priority.
“It’s very important to keep customers abreast with their orders,” Chadha adds. “Having multiple contact methods, rapid response and order updates allows the consumer to be at ease and not speculate on orders arriving late. Our tech team works very closely with our logistic partners to plan for time in transit to customers and shipping with the appropriate shipping service. We had to custom build our backend to understand time in transit while buffering for certain zones that were experiencing delays due to Covid. Luckily for us, this is a process we have already had within the organization, as we plan for weather-related impacts to the business during holiday times.”
All of this underscores how, while Venus Et Fleur stemmed from a Valentine’s Day mishap, the founders’ love story has blossomed into a million-dollar success that any aspiring business owner ought to emulate.