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How I Created An Online Flower Business

Rachel Steinford
Rachel Steinford

Amy McCord Jones have grown a successful eCommerce company a bit unexpectedly. After earning a degree in Forensic/Biochem, she took various jobs, as one does, throughout her twenties, and around the age of 26, in 2007, she started a wedding planning and floral business, teaching herself how to create floral arrangements.  

In 2014, she got bored with the wedding-weekend grind so she created an eCommerce site called Flower Moxie. Originally, it was intended to be a small, side-hustle for extra income, but it has now grown to net over a million in sales.

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual process of Flower Moxie?

It was more like thrashing in an ocean, swimming up to a raft that appears out of nowhere, and finding that effing Life of Pi tiger aboard! Get out of my lifeline, freak!

DIY Bride

The idea of Flower Moxie came to me while I was having an existential crisis sitting in traffic.

I felt a bit bored and stuck in my life and career. I was tired from wedding planning errands AND feeling sheepish that, if I were to use my own floral services, I wouldn’t be able to afford squat. I was also exhausted from busting my hump most weekends for the last 8 years and needed a Plan B.

DIY Flowers

Home delivery kits of any kind weren’t really a thing yet, so when the idea of DIY flowers hit, I felt I had come up with the most novel idea! But I was in for a rough ride. Having trained and mentored new floral designers, I knew that building a centerpiece or a bouquet wasn’t the hard part. It was figuring out floral recipes, which flowers should be used for what, and sourcing the blooms.

Inventing a category and creating a supply chain was nerve wracking, but I was excited for the first time in years!

How did you get your first three customers?

I about fell out of my chair when order #1 rolled into my inbox.

Me: “A girl always remembers her first customer OH GOD IT IS FROM MY MOTHER.”

The next two orders were rando brides that found my busted-ass site and purchased from me anyway. I was like a freaking Labrador, knocking them over with service and enthusiasm until they were like, “Umm, we’re fine, please stop calling.”

At that point I set up a $3 per day pay-per-click campaign on Facebook for a few months. Business took off after only four weeks. I wish I could say I’m just that amazing at marketing, but I think the uniqueness of my model (and the endearing scrappiness of my site) helped people make the leap. Plus, my services were super affordable. People could rationalize an emotional decision based on the low price.

To date, I’ve spent less than $1K on advertising and all growth has been organic. Suck it, Zuckerberg.

How did you validate the idea?

I spent a lot of time eating pizza rolls while Googling the crap out of “diy wedding flowers.” I’m sure the analytics people were like, who is this flower ho in Oklahoma? I was blown away that I couldn’t find another company who made packages, recipes, tutorials, and sourced florist-grade blooms.

Flower Moxie design

There were already bulk floral sites out there, but they were just hawking boxes of flowers without any instructions. I figured it was a 50/50 chance that I was sitting on a killer idea, and the lack of competition gave me the courage I needed to move forward.

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

I knew the important stuff like how sad couples feel when they can’t afford something they want, or aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. (Cue Pretty Woman boutique moment!) I had to learn everything else: eCommerce, managing employees, running advertising, developing support materials, etc.

Have you raised any money? How much?

It never crossed my mind.  I took about $5k out of my savings to build the site and hire a photographer/videographer. I put everything together at my kitchen table and made piss-poor tutorials in my living room with my roommate laughing at me.

What regulatory approvals did you have to go through?

Luckily, selling flowers isn’t a super regulated process. The main thing was seeing if professional floral wholesalers would even sell to me, given they traditionally sell direct to florists. But with more and more florists buying direct from the farm, wholesalers are like YES PLEASE ANYONE BUY OUR WARES. Some really great companies gave me a shot because they needed the revenue I could bring to the table by selling online.

Who is your target demographic?

Almost 95% of my customer base are brides between the ages of 23-35. So, the time in your life when you have all the ideas and none of the money. :)

What is the funniest/most strange customer request you’ve had?

A mother of the bride asked if she could pay me to drive to Missouri to help her and her daughter with the flowers. I laughed and asked why they didn’t just opt for a florist. They REALLY wanted to DIY, but just needed a safety net. Because it was my first year in business, we compromised and I Facetimed them. It was actually a super helpful experience to see what excited them and what frustrated them.

How did you fund the idea initially?

I took $5K from my savings and blasted “Jesus Take The Wheel.” Investors are wonderful, but I feel weird asking other people to sponsor me and my unproven idea. Especially when I’m not curing cancer over here. Also, it never occurred to me that Flower Moxie would be anything but a side hustle to fund much-needed vacations during my off-season. (I was booked out as a wedding planner/florist for 2 years.) That lack of pressure was such a gift, because I never made business decisions based on emotion. I also never got lazy because it was all MY money.

Any tips for finding first employees?

I’d say, don’t hire a friend who made a killing at her last job. ;-) I kid, because that’s exactly what I did.  I lucked out with Tiffany, a great pal who left her oil company job to help me build the business.

Even though her starting pay was dismal, I about shat a brick every time I had to write her check.

Tiffany stayed strong, and together we kept improving and problem-solving. (She has gotten all the raises as the business has grown!)

My #1 hiring advice is to look past previous experience and education and hire based on whether you’d be able to survive the zombie apocalypse with a candidate. Someone who has an MBA is useless to me if they can’t have hard conversations, be resourceful, or endure boob sweat during a shoot. Hire for character, positivity, and enthusiasm– everything else can be learned.

Did you run any companies prior?

My sister and I had a wedding planning and floral business together for years.  It was a small, local business in Oklahoma City and I’m really proud of what we accomplished even though it was on a smaller scale. I can’t say it prepared me for Ecommerce, but it definitely taught me how to deal with brides and their mothers.

What motivated you to start your own business?

Although I didn’t start out wanting to be a business owner, I realized in my twenties that I didn’t like someone else controlling a big part of my future. In the corporate world, you have to play the game to move ahead. You can throw all your effort into a career and still get laid off on a dime, and I always felt stunted creatively and that I wasn’t reaching my full potential. I found that creating an idea and making money off of that idea was intoxicating.

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

Excited, curious, encouraging and, just like me ,unaware that Flower Moxie would become something. One of my best friends, Alisha, was a super helpful gut-check . She would ask me a lot of tough, logical questions yet would never nay-say. And that’s my motivation sweetspot.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

When things go tits up, I just think of my team. These beautiful, strange, life-giving people have made massive career changes to work at Flower Moxie. They choose to spend most of their lives calming brides, scolding FedEx, laughing at flowers that look like lady bits... I love them, and I would do anything for them. That gets you through the tough stuff!

Amy McCord Jones

Working solo makes it too easy to shut things down or look the other way. When you have wonderful people counting on you, you choose to keep growing through the pain.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

Do not go big. Do not go home. Just dip your nips in the water! So many people spend gobs of time and money perfecting a model that people may not even want. Don’t be afraid to put something janky out there to get feedback, then put your money into refinement. I realize some business models simply can’t be a slow-growth situation, however.

What has driven the most sales?

Definitely word of mouth and YouTube tutorials.  We are just starting to advertise, so all of our growth has been organic.

What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?

Greatest question ever?! My first thought was MONEY but that’s BS, as I have a fatty savings. What’s stopping me is me. I am my own glass ceiling! 3x the growth will take more risk, more time, more sanity... I still struggle with delegation and am learning how to build departments. Another huge factor weighing on me is COVID, as it greatly impacts weddings and events so I’m playing it a bit safe at the moment.  How did Apple go from a garage to a cult brand? What weed did Jobs smoke to relinquish (some) control? Brb off to find a life coach.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

Knowing that every good idea we have today will be old news tomorrow.

Flower Moxie Ideas

We keep moving, we try not to get too precious when competitors steal our material, our photos, our copy, and we focus on one question: “What do our customers need?”

Flower Moxie Designs 2

No other company can match our comprehensiveness OR pull off our tone. Doesn’t stop them from trying, bless their hearts.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?

I really depend on Zapier to move data! While Shopify is an amazing eCommerce platform, it doesn’t offer an OMS/CRM functionality so you have to move your information around to handle order management, financials, and trend tracking.  We also love Shogun, which is a Shopify app that allows us to design pages without a CSS coder.  Being on a shoestring budget, it’s not ideal to hire a designer everytime you need to tweak a page.

What are your favourite books?

I love E-myth and The Pumpkin Plan!

What are your favourite podcasts

How I Built This and Barbara Coraran’s Business Unusual

What are the next products you’re working on?

  1. A concept that expands outside of weddings into special everyday moments.
  2. Teaching florals at a women’s prison.

I want Flower Moxie to have greater resonance in people’s lives and to make a social impact. When I was an Oklahoma Commissioner of the Status of Women, I learned that Oklahoma has the nation’s highest level of incarcerated women. This saddens me deeply, as most of these women are non-violent offenders who have children in foster care. I want them to know they matter and are not forgotten.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

I want Flower Moxie to be a floral brand people can grow with. Maybe they find us to DIY their wedding flowers,

Flower Moxie Wedding

but they continue to bring us into their lives with parties, art nights, showers, and special occasion florals.

What is current revenue? If you don’t mind sharing

I always get spicy armpits over this question because it feels like a braggy number for Facebook and a pathetic number for Forbes.  I’ll just say that the old adage is true, the first million was the hardest.  

Would you ever sell?

Only if it was a Jack-Dawson-Seeing-Rose-For-The-First-Time moment. I’ve had several offers over the years, but none has felt right. I love my job, my team, and what my company stands for. I love not having a corporate job! I do have days where I shake my fist at my business model for being so volatile. And there are times I don’t want the weight of entrepreneurship on my shoulders. But until someone makes Flower Moxie feel like they are going to paint her like their French girls, she’s all mine. (I’m sure the Titanic analogy is super attractive to investors...)

Company Name: Flower Moxie
Founder: Amy McCord Jones

Interview

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