BloomThis CEO Giden Lim on the power of flowers and working with a co-founder spouse

Yon Heong Tung
bloomthis_team_florist

Giden Lim comes from a family of entrepreneurs

Pursuing the life of an entrepreneur is a difficult path to tread. Early stage startup founders have to juggle many responsibilities: being an effective salesperson, managing a lean team, raising funds from investors, and ensuring there’s enough in the piggybank at the end of the month to pay employees.

And outside of their business life, these founders also have to juggle their family and social obligations — making sure they are being good partners to their spouses, for one.

Now imagine if those two lives overlapped: What if your spouse or partner is also your co-founder? How would that affect the dynamics the relationship?

Giden Lim, CEO and co-founder of Malaysia-based florist startup BloomThis, is in such a scenario. He founded the company in 2015 with his then-fiancee Penny Choo. In a nutshell, BloomThis offers same-day on-demand flower deliveries and a subscription service that brings artisan flowers straight from the farm.

In an email correspondence with e27, Lim shared candidly on how he has managed to establish a healthy working relationship with his spouse, and why luxury flowers can be a lucrative business.

Here are the edited excerpts:

Before we get into your entrepreneurial pursuits, let’s start with your growing up years. What laid the seeds of your entrepreneur career? Was this the path you envisioned for yourself at the beginning?

I remember when was still schooling, we had to write down our ambition on our report book. I would write “businessman” every year. I was about 10 to 12 years old then and didn’t even understand what “entrepreneur” means!

Growing up, I was inspired by both my parents who are entrepreneurs until today. My mother started her own florist business ever since I was 10 and my dad had built several businesses before. When I was a little older, I helped my mom with marketing campaigns during seasons like Valentine’s and Chinese New Year and I would go to the streets to sell flowers. So the entrepreneurial bug bit me at an early age.

What sparked the idea to go into the flower business? What pain points in the industry do you wish to tackle? How does tech create a better, streamlined solution for the florist business?

I’m in the flower business because my mother is a florist, and I’ve grown up helping around in the flower shop. It’s a brick and mortar retail business like any other small businesses today.

The problem I observed with the flower business is that it is predominantly brick and mortar business with weak technical and limited operational capabilities.

Also Read: Online florist BloomThis raises US$600K to expand into Singapore and Indonesia

It is an industry with very little innovation and the overall flower buying and gifting experience is poor. That is why we wanted to leverage technology to create the perfect experience and make flower gifting a joy for everyone.

Your business focusses on luxurious flowers. Do you think that’s too niche a scope, especially since the flower industry is seasonal (correct me if I’m wrong)? Would you be expanding your offerings or exploring more verticals?

BloomThis is about creating beautiful moments for people, and we simply use flowers as a medium to help people communicate their feelings better. That is why we put a lot of attention to details and focus on creating high-quality products.

We also want people to enjoy the beauty of flowers and so we always try to introduce more unique and luxurious flowers. Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive. We price our products very reasonably and ensure that we give people the highest value.

Seasons are bonuses for our business, but every day, there are people celebrating special moments like birthdays, anniversaries, a newborn, a promotion or simply just because. That is why we think flower gifting is evergreen. We are looking to explore several other verticals but it’s important that we continue to focus on our flower gifting and subscription business.

They say never mix love and work together. So, were there any initial apprehensions when you decided to launch BloomThis with you then-fiancé and now wife? How do you resolve frictions in work and prevent them from getting too personal?

Indeed the saying can be true! Initially, there were many challenges. Both of us care a lot about BloomThis, and we practically work every day, every hour on our startup.

We had very limited resources at the beginning so we practically had to do everything ourselves. Because of this, we never really had much time for each other and most of our conversations would be revolving around work.

I remember I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and wake Penny up to tell her about it! But over time, we learnt that we needed to dedicate time to our relationship. So we tried different strategies from not working on Sundays to no work-talk during bedtime.

Also Read: A Better Florist, a better analyst: Meet Steve Feiner, former Googler and florist extraordinaire

None of them worked, by the way! We’ve managed to find pockets of time where we schedule away for our own personal moments. What’s really important is that we put our relationship above all things and God being the centre of it.

We are actually very privileged to be doing the things we love and to do it with the one we love. We hope that our passion can be translated into BloomThis and be experienced by everyone.

And to add on to that question. Do you running BloomThis with your wife forced you to make concessions in other areas due to workload?

Yes, definitely we need to make sacrifices. If you think you can have it all in life, I believe there’s no such thing. If you want to build a great company, you need to make sacrifices. If you want to excel in anything at all, you have to give up on other areas.

Penny and I have not gone on a holiday for more than two years. We’ve made financial and career sacrifices to start BloomThis. And a lot of time we had to say “no” to our friends for social events so that we can focus on our work. But we love what we do and it’s work-life integration for us!

Describe to me the highest and the lowest moments running BloomThis so far. What are the challenges running BloomThis?

Our best moments are when we see the fruit of our work and that people are being blessed more and more by what we do. The experience of building something from scratch and watch it grow is priceless. The growth that everyone in our team is experiencing is really encouraging us to do more, aim higher and think bigger.

Of course, we face multiple challenges every day. We had screwed up deliveries before during our early days when our operation and processes were not optimised. Sometimes we need to learn things the hard way.

Today we are much more efficient with our technical and operational improvements. Our biggest challenge now is how can we scale quicker and yet maintaining the quality and experience to every customer.

With so many flower delivery startups coming into space now, how do you plan to stay ahead of them?

There are a lot of flower businesses both online and offline. I’m sure they have their relative strengths and weaknesses. We do not put too much focus on what other flower companies are doing.

At BloomThis, we are committed to creating the perfect experience with giving and receiving flowers with technology. Our platform is easy to use with just a few steps to get flowers delivered on the same day.

Also Read: This Singapore-based startup offers same-day delivery services for as low as US$3.50

We also pioneer the flower subscription service where people can deliver a box of luxuriously curated flowers with a tinge of surprise every week. These luxurious flowers come loose so you can actually make your own flower arrangements with them. We like that people can engage with their flowers and personalise their own arrangements.

Besides that, flower hat boxes are a signature design that is perfect when receiving and displaying them in their home or offices. We focus on making the entire process for the sender and recipient a delightful process.

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give new entrepreneurs?

It is important to understand why you do what you do. The journey you are about to take is going to be filled with challenges and uncertainties. There is nothing glamorous about being an entrepreneur.

You’ll need to be prepared to sacrifice and work very hard. But if you have a burning passion for improving the efficiency of something and challenging the status quo, then go all out for it.

Nothing is more rewarding than following your passion. Unless you stop trying, there’s no such thing as failure. Never make it an option!

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Image Credit: BloomThis

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