How This 'Accidental Entrepreneur' Is Taking on Legacy Floral Companies and Disrupting the Industry
As Juan Palacio continues to build his flower empire, here are the most important lessons he's learned along the way.
My mother loves flowers. For every single occasion and important moment of our lives, I can always remember bringing home a bouquet of flowers for her. Now that I live several hours away from her, it's not as easy to regularly give her flowers that are fresh and beautiful.
I have tried and failed to find local florist shops in her town that provided monthly flower delivery subscriptions. I have ordered from some of the bigger players, only to be overcharged for a very small vase of flowers that didn't arrive on time. When I'm visiting her, I have been disappointed by the grocery store offerings, which always seem to wilt on my way home.
"We are on a mission to help people to see the everyday joy and beauty in flowers," says Juan Palacio, founder and CEO of BloomsyBox. "Flowers aren't just for special occasions, but something that we can enjoy all year round. A bouquet of flowers can bring so much happiness and brighten someone's day."
The global market for cut flowers in 2020 was approximately $30.7 billion, and it's projected to grow to $43.8 billion by 2027. Many industries have been impacted by the pandemic, and the floral industry has been no exception.
Judie Hoopai, co-owner of Higdon Florist, says that everything, including the supply of real flowers, has been affected. "It's because it takes about a year, year-and-a-half for the planting season to produce the quality and look that our suppliers are looking for, and when Covid first hit, farmers were unable to go out in their fields and plant," Hoopa says.
Although BloomsyBox has experienced supply chain challenges and flower shortages with farms going out of business, the company still persevered. As many small-to-medium flower shops closed, Palacio and his team filled a gap in the market and helped customers create the habit of shopping online for flowers. "We experienced record growth in 2020," Palacio says. "People were sending love and comfort through floral deliveries because they couldn't be together in person."
Palacio is right — my mother loves her BloomsyBox subscription. It was an easy gift for me to give her, and she loves that she receives a bouquet to her door each month. Subscription options include Farm Favorites, Bloomsy Roses and Pet-Safe Blooms. "I believe the trend of purchasing flowers online will continue in our post-pandemic world," Palacio says. "The advantages of buying flowers online aren't going to disappear even as retail flower shops continue to open."
As Palacio continues to build his flower empire, here are three lessons he's learned along the way:
Stick to what you know
Palacio is a self-proclaimed "accidental entrepreneur." He went from building a soccer news site, to launching a pool cleaning service, to creating a group hotel reservation search engine. As he started new endeavors, he always asked himself if he knew about the industry before jumping in — and how much he was willing to learn along the way. "Stick to what you know and what you can build expertise around," he says. "I learned from my failures to stick to my areas of expertise; it saves you a lot of time and money."
Palacio grew up in Colombia, which is the No. 2 flower grower in the world. "I knew all about flowers. I grew up with them all around me," he says. "I knew at the end of the day, everyone would always welcome a bouquet of flowers into their home." He also saw the market opportunity, because e-commerce floral companies have typically focused heavily on gifting occasions such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, anniversaries and birthdays. "These big companies also expect consumers to be floral experts and choose between dozens of overpriced options. We want consumers to build an appreciation and love of flowers."
Remember what your earliest mentors taught you
Palacio's father passed away two months before he was born. From the very beginning of life, his journey was defined by his father's absence. He was fortunate to be very close to his grandparents, who were part of the community that raised him. Palacio was particularly close to his grandfather, who was a coffee grower and distributor in Colombia.
"At the age of 10 years old, I can remember spending days with my grandfather at his coffee farms," Palacio recalls. "Those early years of watching and learning from my grandfather really instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for business." Palacio remembers how his grandfather conducted business, being very hands-on with the product, the farm workers and all of the little details. His grandfather treated everyone with dignity and kindness, making them feel like they were building the company together.
Build sustainability into your model
Although many businesses try to retrofit sustainability, Palacio and his team have built sustainability into the heart of BloomsyBox. "Many people think the farm-to-table trend is only for food," Palacio says. It's just as applicable to flowers. Our flowers are arranged right on the farm where they are grown, cut two to four days before they're shipped to your doorstep." His team partners with more than 40 family-owned farms that are making incredible contributions to the floral industry, from revolutionizing the ways flowers are cared for after harvest, to creating new flower varieties the world has never seen before.
Palacio's love for flowers has also led him to deeply care about how they are grown and who grows them. BloomsyBox only partners with Rainforest Alliance-certified farms. This means no toxic chemicals are involved in fertilization, and the farm workers are treated fairly. "Because we work directly with the farms, they are able to enjoy far better profit margins, leading to better working conditions for their employees and more opportunity to grow," Palacio says. "That's my vision with BloomsyBox, to create economic opportunities for as many people as possible and give back to my home country of Colombia."
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