Kelly Baker Jamieson was 28 years old when she had a business idea but few of the necessary skills to get it started. Her plan to create bouquets out of chocolates and fruit, rather than flowers, became Edible Blooms and made $1 million in sales in its first full financial year of operation.
Eleven years on, Baker Jamieson runs the business with her sister Abbey, delivering more than 1000 bouquets a day throughout Australia and New Zealand during peak holidays, such as Valentine’s and Mothers’ Day.
She has also expanded into Green Thumb Gifts, a plant delivery company she founded with her husband Andrew Jamieson, and a hamper business specialising in gourmet food and wine.
Currently the face of Telstra business products, the former Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year for SA said an understanding of technology and knowing when to pay for the right skills had been key to running the business, which is dependent on efficient e-commerce.
InDaily caught up with Baker Jamieson before she jetted off to Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island for an exclusive leadership retreat.
“I feel so lucky and a little bit nervous, really,” she said about spending five days on the island with some great entrepreneurial minds.
“This is one of those bucket-list things and I’m pretty sure it will only happen once.”
How did you get started with Edible Blooms? You were in your 20s and started up a company with a very novel concept?
Yes, I was 28 and in hindsight I think being young with no mortgage or children to consider made it easier to jump feet first into a new business concept – floral like bouquets that you can eat! I believe a healthy dose of naiveté is an asset for budding entrepreneurs because you don’t stop and think about the risks and barriers, you focus on what needs to be done and how to make it happen.
Did you have experience as a florist or in food design, or in some area relevant to making food bouquets?
No, none. I remember completing a business plan template and the traditional SWOT analysis. My weaknesses were no background in floristry or food preparation (as well as finance) so I ‘swotted’ learning on this by paying for one-on-one tuition with the owner of the Brisbane Floristry School and completing a MYOB training course. I also spent hours poring over the Brisbane City Council food safety requirements and bringing myself up to speed with local government regulations.
So did you actually begin filling orders by making food bouquets yourself – and then teach others?
I made everything in the beginning. It was totally hands on. I even did all the deliveries, driving around with a street directory on my lap. There was very limited cash but the company had to have commercial premises from day one because we were working in food preparation. We couldn’t afford city premises where the customers were, so I found premises near the fruit market in Brisbane – it was definitely not a location convenient to customers, and that’s when it became very apparent that online was the way to go.
Sometimes lack of money means you have to think carefully about decisions you make – you have to be more creative. Necessity can be a really good thing.
So, how did you finance the startup?
I self-funded the opening with my savings and sweat! My sister joined me soon after to help open the Adelaide store (more sweat!) and we quickly learnt to carefully monitor our cash flow to continue funding our growth. We have boot strapped our growth and along the way have been able to acquire commercial property to spread our risk.
Paint a picture of the first 12 months. Did you live and breathe it as most entrepreneurs attest?
It is still quite a blur. I have never worked as hard as I did in the first two years of starting the business. We paid our team members more than we paid ourselves in this time. Sometimes it felt like a tough, uphill battle that took a lot of resilience to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but we got through it and we are thankful for that experience. It makes us appreciate our amazing team and the tech-driven business that we have today.
What have been the biggest challenges?
As much as our team is our greatest joy, building a great team has been our biggest learning experience. We learnt early on that strong core business values help us to create the right attitude and work environment to attract and retain the very best team.
Early in our business growth, each step of our internal processes had to be managed hands on by Abbey and me. In 2008 when we moved our business to cloud-based systems we had an enormous shift in the way our business operated. Systems in our business were run by our technology platform and checks and balances were in place to ensure a consistent customer experience. The dashboard KPI’s that we had visible to both us and our national team meant we could work on our business growth and spend less time in it each day. It made us love technology and new apps and tools that can help us to grow. Our Neto online store is the cornerstone of our cloud systems today.
And a question I ask all business people, how is it starting a business in South Australia? Is the state open to new business?
I love South Australia and am proud to call it home. It’s a great place to start a business and I am particularly partial to the lifestyle that it offers. With my husband and children we live on a farm at Port Elliot and have the convenience of a one-hour commute to the airport and the office. I spend two or three days each week in the office and the remainder of my time in my home office, which has a nice view of the ocean and the occasional Black Angus roaming around the farm.
Running a business entirely online means a huge reliance on technology? Talk me through how you manage that?
I cannot imagine our business without great technology.
We were really early adopters of cloud – actually we were one of the earliest Australian customers to move onto the platform and it just changed everything. That’s why I can work remotely.
Cloud-based systems mean that I have less risk to manage in-house (we don’t even have our own server) and we have the very latest cutting-edge solutions. Conveniently, our core technology systems are all part of the Telstra technology suite. From our online store with Neto to Shoeboxed that scan all incoming invoices from our multiple store locations straight into Xero to the Deputy App that manages all of our staff rosters. The key is that technology systems need to talk to one another; it’s essential to save double handling of information within the organisation.
Technology provides us with clear dashboards on our business performance, which let us to make the best decisions quickly and easily. Being nimble is the key for businesses of all sizes, and the solutions we use make this possible.
How many people do you employ in South Australia? Nationally?
In South Australia our team is 15 and our total team across Australia and NZ is around 50 people. We co-ordinate all customer service, operations and marketing here in Adelaide as our head office. We outsource our book keeping, HR and IT systems maintenance and these key suppliers have all worked with us pretty much since we first started.
What are the hiring intentions going forward; are there expansion plans afoot?
Systemising our processes is a high priority for us. We anticipate our key hires will be in South Australia moving forward, particularly in our gift concierge team (customer care), marketing and sales.
What is next? Is there another business idea buzzing around in your mind?
Marketing automation is our key focus right now and we are very excited about the potential for our business growth. Again this is harnessing technology solutions and harnessing the capability for agile growth.
We are really taking advantage of new software in the marketplace right now; it’s a growing area and opportunity for business. Long term it will enable us to know how often our customers want to be communicated with. It will be much personalised – we want to avoid people being oversaturated with information.
One thing I note from talking to a lot of entrepreneurial people, versus say traditional corporates or government, is the importance of a ‘culture’ in the workplace; does Edible Blooms have a unique or specific culture.
Yes, our business culture is centered on our core company values, which are to be Fun, Fresh and Authentic. Continual learning on how we can improve our company culture by harnessing our values and integrating through everything we do is key.
How important is social media in your marketing plan for a gift-based business?
Our brand has a really strong word of mouth following – it tends to be a viral brand. That’s where social media can be great but we have to harness it.
Social media is becoming so much a part of everyone’s life now and I think in business you have to be engaged in it – but there has to be a strategy around it. I work a lot, like many people do, and when I get home I like to have personal time. I don’t want social media to take over – that’s something I’m very conscious of personally and for the business.
What advice would you give your 28-year-old self if you had a great business idea today, and wanted to make it happen?
Pace it out! Make a realistic plan step by step and just keep ticking things off.
What is the most unusual Edible Blooms request you recall?
We have pretty much had them all and I have to share that my team loves quirky requests. It keeps our days really interesting. From marriage proposal bouquets to a funeral casket, our team – mostly trained florists – has created it all.
So people ate the funeral casket?
Yep, they did. The woman was planning her own funeral and she wanted something fun and asked us to create the funeral casket flowers out of chocolate, so we did. That’s probably the most out-there request.
Where do you spend your workday? Are you in the warehouse? Do you make blooms?
I spend half my week in my home office and this is when I really get a lot of work done. The other half of my week is spent with my team and in meetings. I don’t spend a lot of time making or in the warehouse but I love it when I do!
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