Summer blooms may be starting to wilt, but things are always floral at the Bloomy Days office. I met founder Franziska von Hardenberg there, not long after the company had moved into its new digs.
From the flower-laden bike in the carpark, to the greenhouse meeting rooms, to the floral motif on the coffee cups – this company clearly lives and breathes its product.
Sitting at the kitchen table in the ground floor offices – a real luxury in Berlin, a city that’s very fond of its stairs – we sat down to chat about how to know you’ve got the right company idea, what’s important in a team, and why female founders don’t need special treatment.
How did you decide to found Bloomy Days?
I had the idea in spring 2011 […] everybody I told about the idea was like ‘yes, you have to do this, you really have to do this. It’s so great’! And I thought ‘ok, maybe I have to find the one person who thinks it’s not a good idea’, but… basically that didn’t happen so I thought okay, I have to do this now.
So then I quit my job in the autumn.
How do you feel about its success so far?
One of the most important problems of being an entrepreneur is that you always think it’s not good enough. But I think that’s necessary, because it pushes you and helps you to keep on going forward.
Competitors are starting to spring up. How do you approach that?
We know we’re better, we know we’re fresher, we know we’re on the right track. We only have to get the reach, just scale and marketing now. I think we’re agile enough, we’re driven enough to be always faster than the others. I’m not afraid of competition. I think it would be even good to have some more because the market is so brand new that it would help to shape the it. People will always look for the one with the highest credibility.
What’s important to you when you’re employing your team?
I don’t really care about CVs. I always look for personalities, and I want to know if the person is smart, if they’re driven, and if it’s a team fit. […] I really want to get to know the people and I think that building up a team from all over the world with really different personalities is something that we’re quite good at. Because I did this a lot before Bloomy Days, and I knew that this was one of my strengths. When I see people, when I talk to people I can feel in a really short time how the person is, how they’re going to behave and stuff like that.
Do you think team dynamics grow differently with women at the helm?
Absolutely. I think it’s different, but there are also huge differences between female managing directors and female founders. So I think there are differences, but that the largest differences are between leadership types.
Do you think it’s a different experience to be a female founder?
For a woman, I think it’s always great because you always have great chances to stand out and be recognised. So it’s really funny, in Mitte [Berlin city centre] when I walk around and go to bars, people are coming to me and telling me, ‘oh my god, you’re the Bloomy Days founder, that’s so cool!’.
I think you would never have that situation when you’re a male founder, because they’re probably not going to recognise you, and they may not tell because it’s so normal [to be a male founder].
I think it’s quite cool because I experience a lot of positive feedback and a lot of women write to me to tell me they think it’s cool.
Was there any resistance when you were pitching to investors because you were, in many ways, pitching quite a ‘feminine’ business?
Actually, that was never an issue, because I’m not very feminine in my behaviour – not that I behave like a man! I’m not the flower-power girly girl who goes in and says ‘can you please give me money for my flower shop’.
Do you think there are any difference in the approach female founders take versus male founders?
I don’t think that women need special networks and women need special treatment, because I think we’re just like normal people – sometimes I feel like I’m [treated as a minority], and I’m only female so I’m not a fan of always putting women into this special role.
Actually I think there were not many women who had the chance, or maybe the courage to found a company because it’s also not easy if you want to plan a family, or if you want to have kids.
I founded Bloomy Days when I was 27, that was my dream, I always wanted to found a company when I was 27. For myself, I decided to have some work experience first so I worked for 5 years and then I founded Bloomy Days.
So I think that’s women’s approach. They’re not so open to founding a company directly after university, but they want to gain experience. They want to learn and then found. So first, we have 5-10 years where we need to train the women.
They’re more, I wouldn’t say risk-averse, but they want to be more safe. That was something super-important for me because I said, when I have an idea and I found a company, I’m not sure if it’s going to work out so it’s probably better when I know what I can go back to.
I think it’s also good to have worked as an employee because then you know what pisses you off in your boss!
Do you have any advice for people who would like to found their own company?
I think there are 4 things you really need to have. It’s courage, you need to be driven, you need to be passionate about the topic. Don’t do something thinking ‘oh, I’m going to be a millionaire by 30’, because it’s not going to happen. You have to spend 80, 90, 100 hours with this product, so if you don’t like it, don’t do it. You have to love your product and you have to be disciplined.
What’s your biggest goal for Bloomy Days?
My vision is to change buying behaviour and for Bloomy Days itself – we always say we don’t want to be a startup, we want to build a company. We’re not working on a short-term basis. We want to build a company that is going to last, 20, 30, 50 years.
My biggest dream is to have a warehouse that belongs to ourselves, with a huge logo on it. I really want to have these huge warehouses.
And I’d always drive by. I would love that!
Thanks so much to Franzi for taking the time to talk about Bloomy Days. If you need some flowers in your life, check out their website.