* * *
"'Ask the Small Business Professor' is a must read for small business owners looking for free expert business advice. Using a Q&A format, Bruce Freeman covers important small business topics weekly by bringing in recognized experts on subjects including accounting, legal issues, trademarks marketing and sales. Don't miss it!"
"I've been working with patients for almost 10 years as a Chiropractic Physician. I'm always looking for new ways to increase awareness of the valuable clinical services provided at my centers. Bruce Freeman has given me insightful ideas to assist in my marketing efforts. I rely on his 'Ask the Small Business Professor' column to keep me abreast of new trends and developments in the field. I couldn't ask for a more knowledgeable and capable advisor as my companies move forward into providing nationwide healthcare for patients."
"I find the column inspiring and helpful to me in running my own small business."
"The Small Business Professor is a site that should be bookmarked by every entrepreneur. In today's business environment, it is difficult to gather information and obtain answers to the myriad of questions that face business owners. Bruce Freeman's 'Ask the Small Business Professor' column is an excellent resource that provides guidance, up-to-the-minute information, mentoring, and more."
"Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is a most valued and enthusiastic guest contributor to the business segment of our radio show dealing with the challenges facing today's entrepreneurs. His practical and insightful advice has served to enhance our ability, as broadcasters, to help business owners move ahead in their various fields of endeavor. ....Thank you, Bruce."
Gina Maschek, and her partner Josh Grossman, have developed a unique flower arranging business just outside of Boston; Beyond Blossoms is headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Maschek, originally from Stuttgart, Germany, was introduced to gardening and flower arranging by her parents who were avid gardeners. In 2000, she immigrated to the US for her husband’s job and decided to apply to the highest rated entrepreneurial business school, The F.W. Olin School of Business at Babson College where she graduated with MBA in 2003.
Josh Grossman grew up in New York City, an entrepreneur at heart. He attended Cornell and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1996. He worked for Enterprise Rent–a -Car for 3 years as a branch manager before attending Babson along with Maschek. They met in an entrepreneurship class and wrote a business plan to sell bouquets of flowers to business reception areas in the downtown Boston area. After consulting on several school related projects, they decided they worked well together and would like to try making their business plan a reality. Both enrolled in a school for floral design and industry.
They decided to bootstrap the business – each making a $4000 investment to get started. They worked out of their garages, making the arrangements on Sundays and delivering on Mondays. They used a digital camera to photograph the lobby listings in each building and then cold-called the businesses in buildings geographically using the phone book as a resource. Soon they had a few customers clustered around certain buildings and the business was up and running, but what were they to do for the rest of the week?
Maschek and Grossman realized that most home-owners would want deliveries of flowers on Thursday or Friday so the flowers would be fresh for the weekend, with another delivery the following week. This would provide them with work for the rest of the week. They realized their business model would be limited geographically unless they could develop a box in which the flowers could be safely and efficiently delivered.
Their unique floral concept was to create bouquets in the European style focusing on one primary flower variety enhanced by matching filler flowers and greenery. Home-owners would receive a vase with their first delivery and all that the customer would be required to do was add water and plant food to the vase and insert the bunch of already-arranged flowers. Fortunately, a box manufacturer was able to create just the right box and Fed Ex made sure the deliveries made it to the homes on time.
Soon, Maschek and Grossman found that it was very tough to get customers to commit to long term contracts – the bouquets were very expensive as they were buying daily from the flower market like most local florists and had to pass the cost along to the customers. So they began researching online flower market and realized that they needed to change their focus from weekly or monthly deliveries to on-demand delivery. In the summer of 2004, Beyond Blossoms updated their business plan once again and changed to an online florist’s model and began working to create an extensive e-commerce website.
Beyond Blossoms needed two things to expand, additional capital and a connection to a flower wholesaler so they could lower the cost of delivering the freshest bouquets possible. Fortunately their friends and family, along with an angel investor and strategic partner who was a large a wholesaler of flowers, were able to help them meet both needs. Beyond Blossoms now purchases its flowers directly from the growers, arranges and hand-ties each elegant bouquet and ships direct to the customer. They plan to open a distribution center in San Diego soon with additional centers planned for Atlanta and Chicago early next year.
Currently the partners work 12 hours a day, 5 days a week with 10 part- time employees who work on arrangements. Both partners work on operations, business development and web site development, but Grossman concentrates more on marketing and Maschek on product development. Near holidays, everyone works on arrangements.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
Beyond Blossoms constantly adapts their business plan based on the market conditions they face. They keep up a living document that they actually change in writing as their business model changes. They recently wrote a new section which focuses on searching for investors. With each revision of the plan, they make use of what they’ve learned and are able see and incorporate new opportunities and change with the needs of the market. The ability to nimbly change on the fly is the hallmark of a successful small business.
- Case History: Beyond Blossoms www.beyondblossoms.com
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Use an ever-changing business plan as a road map to success.
- Could This Work For Me? Keeping your business plan updated forces you to think strategically and make changes to keep up with the market. It also lets other employees understand your business direction so that all can work together efficiently.
They met in an entrepreneurship class and wrote a business plan to sell bouquets of flowers to business reception areas in the downtown Boston area.