Category Archives: Start up

Announcing AmazeBox. What's in yours?

AmazeBox Box Designs

Hello. A quick post to say I’m delighted to announce our new website (http://www.amazebox.co.uk) which has been in public beta for a few weeks now. We’ve been thinking about this for some time but haven’t had the time to build it or release it. Well, now we have. We hope you like it.

More info below but if you want to rush off and order one, use promocode helloamazebox to get 25% off your first order.

What is an AmazeBox?

Example AmazeBoxAn AmazeBox is a customisable occasion-specific gift box including a fresh flower, two treats and a greetings card that fits through your letter box, from just £9.99 (including delivery). The box arrives, you enjoy your treats (chocolates and moisturising cream are proving to be the most popular so far) and then you put the fresh flower, which comes in a little water vial protected by a cellophane wrap and a presentation tray, in its themed pop up stand (which also holds the greetings card) and display them on your desk or wherever you like. The flower will then open over the following days.

There are well over a million possible treat / flower / card design / box design combinations, plus you can make it completely unique with two photo options and a video message option coming shortly, and there are various other upgradeable options (the fully loaded version will cost £19.99 and have six upgraded options). The AmazeBox idea is also patented which means 1. I’m now officially an inventor and 2. that pesky competitors can’t copy the idea. Hooray.

You can see a more detailed description of the AmazeBox and what’s in it here and a more comprehensive AmazeBox FAQs here.

What’s the point of AmazeBox?

We think that there is a gap in the market. We love flowers and do our best to be the best at sourcing them and delivering them…but they’re not always appropriate and / or they may be an expensive option for a quick thank you or a hello. A personalised greetings card, whilst awesome, may not be enough. We think that AmazeBox fills the gap between personalised greetings cards and fresh flowers with an outstanding and innovative experience, at a great price.

AmazeBox Box PhotosWe’ve tried to pack the AmazeBox with fun (there are some frivolous treats categories such as “naughty” and “drinks”) and some really great design work from our design guru Charlotte. Each AmazeBox arrives in a clear shrink wrap, the box design completely visible, meaning that when the recipient goes to check their mail they’ll find a brightly coloured box (potentially with their photo on the outside of the box itself) in amongst all the bills and they should be delighted (I certainly was and I knew my box was coming).

We also have lots of ideas for how to make AmazeBox better and relevant to more people. But the core of it will remain a fresh flower, delivered, with a stand and treats, starting from under ten pounds. No one else offers that. If you have any ideas, please email idea (at) amazebox.co.uk.

This isn’t an Oscar speech so I won’t bang on but must say thanks to all the team for their hardwork getting this live. It’s been quite a fun but lengthy project at a busy time of year for a flower business. Glad it’s out there and looks great. We hope you enjoy it.

Will

Chief Priority Juggler and INVENTOR

Slightly salesy PS: you can earn free boxes by taking part in the AmazeBox referral scheme once you’ve placed your first order. It will be coming to Arena soon too. Help us help you and all that.

Slightly informative PS: The fine people at Management Today did a write up of the project too, which can be read by getting clicky with your mouse here.

Celebrating Our Fifth Birthday and A Look At Our Past Birthdays

This post is in fact a little overdue as our Birthday was back in July so please excuse the tardiness (what can I say, it was a big party :). Its also been a while since I last wrote a post so seeing both are overdue I thought I would pen this particular post.

Somehow the years have slipped by, summers and winters have come and gone and we have quietly got older and dare I say it, wiser. We celebrated our fifth birthday in July and whilst this may be just a fraction of ones lifetime it is noteworthy as it is a long time in business. Truth is, celebrating our birthday in July is a bit formal as that is based around the paper work of setting up a business and moving into our new warehouse. For me the fun began on the 19th September 2006 when the florists moved in and we made our first sale (so perhaps this post isn’t late, just perfectly timed!). Seeing your hard work come together like that is genuinely priceless.

There have been many exciting times at Arena Flowers, with each year showing growth and innovation in numerous areas of the business. I am lucky enough to have been at Arena from the start and so have watched as we have built upon our foundations and grown up. As a parent I can say this as watching a business evolve is not unlike watching your kids get older, you take pride in each new development and want to tell your family and friends why yours is better than the rest. Will, our MD, may not be a dad (yet) but as the father of our business he will be the first one to talk your ear off about how amazing Arena Flowers is. :)

Much like the pencil marks in my kitchen that show my kids’ growth, I thought I would use this post to highlight some of those moments that have helped grow Arena into the business it is today.

Year One, March 2006 > June 2007

For me the first year starts a little earlier, back in March of 2006, when Will, Steve and I met in my local pub to talk about a website they wanted to build. The plan was to sell flowers, online! That first meeting quickly formed a plan and from there a first draft of a website, this grew and grew until it was something that Will felt confident he could show investors. A short while later, in July, we found ourselves in a board room in Pall Mall signing the incorporation document.

Like any new business our first year was all about setting up. We had set ourselves a significant benchmark, to be the best online florist out there and that required attention to detail in all areas from floristry, customer service, delivery and even our photography. We set about kitting out our new warehouse with a bespoke built fridge for all our flowers, hand made benches for the florists and the necessary phone system and computers.

Will quickly found his feet as MD and was soon immersed in paper work, buying a fleet of vans for our London deliveries and negotiating with suppliers. Steve, who had a background in the flower industry, got to work with the florists getting our ranges together (whilst also working on our SEO and Adwords). With the website up and running (we had finished building it in August 2006) I started work on a long to-do list to add more features to the site with our developer Zach. Having a background in photography and design I also set up a studio upstairs in our warehouse so we could take our own product shots. Jackie was kept very busy building the customer service team which quickly grew to match the increase in orders we were getting. Mariusz our head of distribution, was tasked with managing our London drivers, organising their orders each day and then managing the next day delivery orders. Everyone had their own department to manage and it quickly became evident that there was much to do!

Our first bit of development for the year (enter Henry, developer number 2) was an integration with Parcelforce so that our customers would get instant notifications of the orders being delivered. We also built our own SMS tool to extend this feature. Cool hey! This was followed by adding cross sell to the checkout, so you could add chocolates and balloons etc to your order and our Upload Photo tool which lets you upload a digital photo for us to print out and include with your message card. We had fun building our first Facebook app, Flowers&Fun which lets you send our flowers virtually to your friends on Facebook. As you can see from the links to past posts we also launched our blog. Not a bad start.

Year Two, July 2007 > July 2008

12 months later and with a successful Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day under our belts we felt ready to start building on to the business. We added our International Flower delivery section, allowing our customer to send flowers all over the world. Our chocolate sales impressed our supplier Prestat so much that they asked us to build them their own chocolate website and manage their CS. We also took our first step into Europe, setting up a warehouse and business in Holland and launching ArenaBloemen.nl (which meant a lot of translations and adding Euros to our code base). Hot on the heels of the launch of our Dutch website we set our sights on Germany and armed with our new translations database we set about building ArenaBlumen.de and launched it in April 2008. I had fun branding our vans and my son Luke was born and Will stepped in as Godfather :) A good year all round.

Year Three, July 2008 > July 2009

This year marked our entry into B2B partnerships with our first white label website for Cancer Research UK. We also launched our Arena for Business service which allows approved businesses to order flowers on our website and add them to an invoice rather than getting their credit card out. In July 2008 we were invited to the IMRG online green awards and were delighted to win an OLGA. Enjoying our European expansion we launched our French website ArenaFleurs.fr . With four international websites operational we started building up our bi-lingual marketing team, employing a bright young team each one fluent in their native German, Dutch and French languages, as well as English. Keeping the development ball rolling we released our Calendar Reminder feature allowing our customers to add important dates to their account and we then remind them in time to send flowers next time the Birthday or Anniversary comes around.

Year Four, July 2009 > July 2010

At the end of July 2009 we launched our Dutch language Belgian website ArenaBloemen.be which was followed by the French language Belgian website ArenaFleurs.be. This marked our fourth country in mainland Europe and the realisation that we needed more boots on the ground in Holland. Steve took up the not insignificant task of moving to Holland and learning the language! His dedication to the task at hand and love of the country was confirmed when he married Elsa (who he had met when she joined us to help set up the Dutch website). Meanwhile we completed our API designed to allow larger partners to send us orders through a seamless XML service that manages prices, stock control and delivery dates to name a few. This milestone began some exciting conversations with some very interesting brands, all hush hush as I am sure you can appreciate :) In the later part of 2009 Pascale joined us to head up our marketing team and grow our European roll out. Perhaps the most significant addition to the Arena engine for the year came when Steve set to work planning a new stock control and buying database. Destined to revolutionalise our purchasing and warehouse management in the UK and in Europe the project rapidly expanded and we employed extra developers to help us build this crucial tool. In February 2010 we launched our Twitter app, FlowersFun.co.uk which instantly took off. Winning the Smarta 100 award was a nice way to conclude a very exciting year!

Year Five, July 2010 > July 2011

Seeing the business grow over the past years has caused us all to have to focus on our own specialist tasks. Gone are the days of multitasking, so much so that we hired a Group Financial Controller, Adnan, to manage our group finances < lucky him :) The snow in the winter of 2010 was eye watering to the extent that we are now integrated with 3 full time couriers. Despite this we had a successful Christmas and that was followed by a very slick Valentine’s Day And Mother’s Day. With Steve’s mega database live and monitoring our every step we had complete visibility of all our teams both here and abroad, a system that allowed us to fulfill over five times the number of orders that we delivered over our very first Valentine’s Day. With a larger management team we outgrew our offices in the warehouse and marketing, product and web development and admin moved to shiny new offices opposite BBC Television Centre. Once installed I set to work redesigning our website and in May we released the new design on our UK website and the rest followed shortly after. We also redesigned our product page to better display the photography our new product development team have worked so hard on. Finally, our international focus has caught the attention of the eCommerce Awards for Excellence 2011 and we have been nominated for the International e-Retail Award. The nomination alone is worthy of raising a glass, or two :)

Phew, that wasn’t supposed to be a long post, I guess we had been busier than I though and believe me I left a lot out! As I said at the beginning, five years is a long time in business and knowing we have done all this is testament to the hard work put in by each and every person (past and present) at Arena. To plagiarise Mr Newton we have only come this far today as we stand on the shoulders of giants. Here’s to the next five years.

Good times!

Top Tips For Online Start Ups In Marketing, International Expansion And Survival

Will Wynne - Arena Flowers

Will has been busy as a regular contributor to econsultancy’s blog as well as others, so we thought we’d share some of his posts here too.

Having a growing online business can be filled with thousands of individual decisions, each of which in sum can lead to the shape of your business.  We thought we’d summarise some of them here as a guide for anyone making similar decisions.  Enjoy.

Tips for boot strapped startups (try saying that after two pints)

In his post, Six top tips for bootstrapped startups, Will shares his advice about what to expect when starting a new company without piles of VC backing behind you.

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Top Tips For Accessing Government Funding For A New Business / Start Up

We often get asked by friends and former colleagues who are thinking about setting up their own business for our top tips on fund-raising for start ups. We’re no experts so, rather than give exhaustive detail of what we’ve learnt here, we thought we’d share three avenues of government funding that we’ve found interesting and which potential/existing entrepreneurs might not be aware of. If you apply for any of them, good luck. We hope you’re successful and get to pose for one of those classic big cheque pics like we did. Here’s me and superstar Howard Beaumont of the Park Royal Partnership with our giganto-cheque:

Let’s start our list with the source of funding that yielded that happy mugshot:
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Flower Delivery…Amsterdam? ArenaBloemen.nl Is Go!

ArenaBloemen.nl Team

Sam mentioned a new arrival for his family last week, and this week it’s the turn of the Arena family to welcome its own new member: our Dutch language site, ArenaBloemen.nl!

Our team spends a huge amount of time and effort securing deals direct with the best growers so that we can ensure great prices, superb quality, ethical sourcing and freshness second to none. Excellence in flowers is the core of what we offer our customers. As part of that mission, we have a facility in Noordwijkerhout (NWH), west of Amsterdam, to receive flowers and to make some of them up into bouquets before they come over to the UK. Our Dutch team is led by Ronald, with Marion, Merel, Ellie and Mariska performing floristry magic crafting the bouquets and with Lyn assisting Ronald with everything else. Clearly, Ronald and Lyn weren’t pretty enough to make the group photo!

Given we already have the NWH facility, it was a natural next step for us to launch a Dutch language site, fulfilling from NWH and sending to the whole of the Netherlands and the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. We’re fairly certain that the quality of the product and the ease of use of the site that we built in the UK will also appeal to customers beyond our little island. Through the Send Flowers To Holland page on our UK site, we’re already sending a number of orders to the Netherlands every day. Now that we have our Dutch business out there, we can obviously guarantee the full “Arena experience” for our Dutch orders placed from the UK. For translation fans, our UK strap line “An experience delivered” becomes “Wij bezorgen emotie” in Dutch!

Bloemen Bloemist Bezorgen Bloem Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Nederland, Belgie

The project hasn’t been without challenges! Zach, our amazing developer (who built the whole Arena site and all the back end systems that our customers never see), and Sam, our head of design (who makes everything look pretty and shiny (amongst other things)), had to rebuild the whole way the website works so that it could be translated easily and do clever things like handle different VAT rates and different depots and different currencies. PayPal already allows us to accept Euros, but the Dutch also use a payment system called “Ideal” for a lot of their online payments, so we’ve had to integrate that too (it’s not live on the site just yet – we’re still testing it). Squirting orders placed on the Netherlands flowers page on the UK site into the fulfilment order table for the NWH depot is not easy either (that’s still in the testing phase on our development site) .

We’ve also had to spend a lot of time researching the language, with Ronald and his team, and with Elsa, another native Dutch speaker, to ensure that we are set up well for the search engines and online marketing. Adarsh and Stan, who run Arena’s marketing, have, for example, been spending a lot of time working out which keyword combinations we want to be top for in Google NL’s search. Bloemen bestellen in Amsterdam, Nederlandse Bloemist and Bloemen bezorgen anyone?! And of course, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to the right type of products for this market as, naturally, there are some differences in national tastes.

Zach actually lives in New York, 6 hours behind Holland, but this presents far fewer problems than one might imagine. The pictures below shows the moment last week when, with Steve and I sitting outside our hotel connected to the web via wireless broadband and with Zach in his apartment in Brooklyn talking to us via Skype, we put the site, hosted in Wembley, London, live. It’s amazing how small the world is, when you’ve got a latpop and broadband at your fingertips!

Brooklyn, NY calling Noordwykerhout, NL

And finally, the point of it all. Our first orders. Here’s Ronald with our first five orders for delivery in the Netherlands. Not a huge number to begin with but then this was a soft launch. We’re shooting for 50 a day within three months. Time will tell!

PS It wasn’t all work and no play. While over in the orange country, we also got to sample a quite extraordinary Dutch musical phenomenon called “The Toppers” (in Amsterdam’s Arena Stadium no less!) plus we went on a 200km moped ride around the canals and roads of the famous green country outside Amsterdam. Beautiful and lush…and very very flat!