Small business spotlight on: Don’t Buy Her Flowers
This month we are delighted to shine the spotlight on Steph Douglas, founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers – thoughtful gift packages for anyone needing some TLC. With a range of amazing (I-want-them-all!) packages available, Don’t Buy Her Flowers continues to flourish. I first met Steph at a Chiswick Talks Business event last October and have since enjoyed keeping up with their progress and latest news on social media.
Here, Steph generously shares her start-up experience and top tips for small business success (and as a fellow mum, I feel is refreshingly honest about balancing running a business alongside family life):
Tell us a bit about Don’t Buy Her Flowers
All our packages are about encouraging the recipient to take a bit of time for themselves. From dry shampoo, COOK food vouchers and hand cream to a thermos to keep your tea hot or a fabulous G&T, each package has been put together with the aim of offering something practical or comforting, and all arrive gift-wrapped with a handwritten message.
Packages also have options and add-ons so they can be tailored for the recipient. We started as gifts for new mums, and very quickly our customers wanted to also send our packages for get well, bereavement, birthday – any occasion when they want to let someone know they are loved. We also launched a Man Package recently after customers asked for it.
Our corporate market has grown rapidly, with some companies commissioning bespoke packages and others using our packages at ‘welcome back’ post-maternity leave events. The potential market is so much bigger than we realised, but we’ve also been very careful to grow at a pace we can keep up with because the idea is about making people feel special. We get a lot of reports of people crying when they open their packages and a high percentage of repeat customers, so those are testament that we’re getting it right.
What inspired you to launch Don’t Buy Her Flowers?
I received eight bunches of flowers when I had my first baby and while they were sent by lovely friends and family to say congratulations, it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift for new mums is another thing to care for. I was on the sofa feeling emotional, sore and doing more caring than I’d ever done in my life. As well as not having enough vases, the flowers made me feel completely overwhelmed. When friends had babies after that I’d send a little something for them and some words of encouragement – you’re doing a great job, you will sleep again – and they were so grateful.
I returned to work in Brand and Communications part-time after both my babies but I just didn’t have the same passion for it. I was also thinking ahead to how I’d ever be able to take my kids to school and I just couldn’t see how it was going to work (they were two and three years old when we launched). It kind of all came together and I could not shake the business idea – the more I looked the more I could see there wasn’t anything out there.
I started the blog as a kind of stepping stone to the business, which felt like too big a leap. It went really well and my husband encouraged me to quit my job and go for it. He could see the passion and drive I had for Don’t Buy Her Flowers!
How do you reach/engage with your customers?
My background is in communications so I think this is the area I’ve felt most comfortable. I started a blog before I launched the business and that allowed me to engage with people on a level that wasn’t about selling – it helped me to understand my audience and also confirmed that I could relate to women like me, which has been critical to the whole idea.
We have a great following on Facebook and Instagram and that is where we most engage with customers, along with PR. We also have newsletters, but I try not to bombard people with information unless we’ve got something to say. I’ve just started working with The Tape Agency for PR, which is exciting as I’m keen for some fresh thinking, which they definitely have.
What is your top tip for social media success?
I think working out exactly what your brand is and what you stand for is key, and then everything should flow from that. It’s also a great sense check to stop you getting distracted from what others are doing. I don’t actually plan posts so hopefully it comes across as natural because it is.
What is your biggest success to date?
The constant growth month on month since launch is a massive achievement because it means we’re getting it right, and the feedback we get still feels awesome every single time.
And greatest challenge?
I think holding your nerve in those first months of starting a business is hard. It’s easy to feel knocked by someone, question if you’re doing it right or feel distracted by what a competitor is doing. Having one or two people/a mentor around you that completely buy into your business and the vision is really helpful, so when you have a moment they can help you rally. My confidence has grown along with the business and I have far fewer wobbly moments now!
Looking back, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
No – it has been a massive learning curve and I’ve by no means got it all right, but I wouldn’t change the journey so far.
What are your top tips for small business success?
- When you’re 70% sure of something, go for it. No business has ever started with a finished product or service – once you’re live you can adapt and change depending on what works and what your customer wants, hopefully without spending lots of money on something that you might find out doesn’t work.
- Stay focused. That might mean starting small, and that is no bad thing. Better to spend time proving the concept at that small level and then look at how you blow it up rather than starting with too much and none of it working.
- Work out what success is for you and write it down. It’ll be different for everyone. As well as financial and growth objectives, if success includes being able to take your kids to school, or having holidays, or a daily run for your sanity, remember that. It’s your success.
How do you switch off from work?
Until September last year I ran the business from my house, and it’s only now we have a warehouse I realise quite how invasive it was. I think if you want to build a business, you have to accept that the first couple of years when you’re trying to get off the ground and prove the concept, you have to be willing to work hard and that means at times it takes over – physically and mentally. We have more people involved now so it’s slowly getting easier – they have roles and responsibilities so it doesn’t all sit just with me, which is a great feeling.
Like us, most small businesses grow a business using social media and that is constant. The best way for me to switch off is to put my iPhone in another room. It sounds tragic but it’s the only way to avoid distraction, which means I can focus and get work done. I bought an alarm clock for next to my bed and keep the phone downstairs at night and that has been brilliant for switching off.
Need a special gift for Mother’s Day?
Check out Don’t Buy Her Flowers’ Mother’s Day Gift Guide. All packages are gift wrapped and £1 from every Mother’s Day gift will go to charity Kicks Count. Mother’s Day is on Sunday 26th March. There is an option at the checkout so you can place your order now and select delivery closer to Mother’s Day.