Bloombox Co is a farm-to-front door flower delivery brand that teams up with local growers and family run businesses to bring seasonal, Australian grown flowers to homes in Melbourne and Sydney.
With the Australian floral industry heavily reliant on imported flowers, Bloombox Co has differentiated itself in the market by offering home experiences with only local, ethically grown flowers with a low environmental impact.
When COVID-19 began to impact Australia, Bloombox Co experienced a drop in its number of subscribing customers, the bread-and-butter of their business model. It became clear to founder, Philomena Kwok that there were some drastic business shifts ahead.
“Once COVID-19 hit, we needed to start thinking outside the box”, Philomena recalls.
“Initially, (our) sales dropped off a cliff because some of our customers were affected by job losses, while others were anticipating the downturn and needed to tighten their belts”.
Bloombox Co also identified the impact the pandemic was having on Australian flower growers, who suddenly experienced a surplus of flowers, both locally grown and imported, due to the sudden drop in demand.
“With a huge segment of the floral industry taken out by the shutdown with no weddings, events, corporate or hospitality venues in operation, we began to see local growers heartbreakingly dump masses of flowers. Then they quickly went from oversupply to short supply, as the import of flowers halted.”
“We started reaching out to growers to figure out what we could do to salvage the situation and make sure there was an industry for us to return to once the crisis was over.”
Facing an unknown future for both her industry and her business wasn’t without its share of white-knuckle moments for Philomena, but she knew she had to back her ambition if she was to succeed.
“As a new Mum, I was personally full of trepidation about the whole situation,” she says. “But from a business perspective I felt open, excited and determined to try new things.”
This is when Bloombox Co launched “Farm to Front Door”, an online initiative that allows customers to order freshly picked flowers from local farms and have them delivered directly to their door in around 24 hours. The idea caught on quickly with customers, much to Philomena’s relief.
"The reception was pretty phrnomenal" she recalls. “When we launched “Farm to Front Door” we saw lots of new subscribers come on board as a way to brighten their homes at a time when they began spending most of their time there.”
While losing some of their long-term subscribers was an initial blow, the uptake in subscriptions for their new offering became a thriving new business opportunity for Bloombox Co. In fact, a version of “Farm to Front Door’” was something Bloombox Co had wanted to offer for years.
“We have always strived to battle the influx of imported flowers, given their heavy environmental impact, and to better support our local industry. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis has opened doors for us, with people more willing to try new things and take a leap of faith.”
“Bloombox Co’s values have always been to celebrate creativity, our home environments and to support local growers. These are values that have really resonated during this strange time.”
“We felt like there was a tonne of support,” Philomena says, looking back on what has been an unprecedented few months. “Not only from our local community, who were keen to support us by buying locally grown flowers, but also from the wider flower industry, who really banded together to figure out a way through this crisis.”
“Prior to COVID-19 our sole focus was on our DIY-style flower subscription - similar to a meal kit but with fresh Australian grown flowers, but we now also have our “Farm to Front Door” platform that will live on – and a stronger sense of community because of it.”
Philomena Kwok’s top tips for SMEs:
Crisis vs. competition. In a crisis, don’t focus on your competition and make it “you against the world”. Especially in a crisis! We’re all in it together and a rising tide lifts all boats.
Make lemonade. It’s a classic case of: When life gives you lemons, make the best damn lemonade you can!
Accept change. Once you realise things won’t ever be the same again, it frees you up to think differently about how you’d really like to see things working. You’re no longer tied to the way things have always been done.
Remain true to your values. Remaining true to your values is a good guiding light when everything is thrown out the window. For us, that meant looking at new ways we could work with our local growers and focusing on bringing meaningful flower experiences into our customers’ lives.
Be transparent. You should be transparent with your customers - especially when things don’t go to plan (like needing to reschedule a delivery). In a time of crisis, I think everyone understands that we’re all just rolling with the punches.