Startup Talks,

Ep1. Penny Choo, BloomThis

28 Nov 2017

Ep 1. Penny Choo, BloomThis

Startup Talks is a segment where startups shares the challenges their business faced and how they have overcome the challenges.

In this first episode, tune in to Penny Choo, founder of BloomThis on how the business face challenges in hiring among others!





BloomThis Startup by Penny Choo

Hi my name is Penny and I am the co-founder of Bloomthis. The 3 challenges that I faced in my business is that; firstly, to get the right talent in your organization. When we first started, we don’t have much resources in terms of allocations of our hirings. So we just grabbed whoever is available, and who is interested to work in the Startup. So we don’t have a filtering system- sometimes we just get everyone, not like across the streets. But like friends of friends to work with us. This sometimes could lead us to the wrong hires. When we first started up, we don’t really have a structure or system of our hiring. So it could result in mis-allocation, and time resources, in terms of grooming the wrong fit. Worse scene is that, the wrong hire could result in creating a very bad culture. We’ve learnt it the hard way. And right now we have a very structured process. First we ran out some tests, before interview to filter out the candidates, to our suitability. And during our interview, we have a very strict format to assist their skills and their motivations to work in the startup. Because, obviously startup is not as fancy as corporate organizations out there. So, we need to find out what is their motivations to work in the Startup.

We’re also invest in a... Sometimes in grooming and planning out the clear progression for the members who have just join us. And we have seen improvements in terms of culture and working environment between colleagues and other partners as well. So uh... This is the thing that we have learnt, and what we have improved on. And I think the other challenges to get the right talent hiring between the strategist or the generalist. When we first started, we don’t really have the budget. So we did not come up with a holistic plan of running an operation of a business. So we just hired a lot of generalist. The issue here is that, a lot of generalists are very good in doing it, but less ability to do critical thinking. As we move on in business, as the business grow, we realized that we do need strategists as well in order to plan and map out the direction of the business.

So right now we are currently doing out internal business in terms of training and grooming of our currently team members, and train them not just to be a doer but to actually do critical thinking. I am myself... There are 2 section of Gen Y and one of it is the Gen Y and the other one is the new millennium Gen Y. I am consider myself Gen Y and I have an easy way compared to our parents but the new millennium have an easier way. I think it is important to understand your motivations because money is certainly not their concerns because parents have already taken care of it- for most of them. And some of them do understand that we too, want to have a career or a company.

So, what I’ve always shares with them as to bloomthis is a mission. We do not want to believe that we just some ordinary florist serving the neighborhood- well, serving is what we enjoy doing. We want to so this in the greater impact. At least, we know where to begin with; which is Southeast Asia. Our tagline is “Creating A Great Moment”. We want to create a beautiful moment for everyone who received from BloomThis. This company started by my husband and I. Of course there’s a a love into it so we hopefully everyone who receive this can be a part of this love, in terms of their relationships and their happiness as well.

So, we’re here to give strong impact lives, you know, strengthening relationships, through flowers. Of course, we want to expand into different verticals, but its a future plans. But for this moment, we use flowers as a channel to reach out people, to prove this floral industry. As this industry is really fragmented, in old age, there’s no innovations, there was no breakthrough for the past 20 to 30 years. It was run by moms and papa in a more traditional way. There’s less improvement creativity in delivery process and in terms of supply process. We’re here to change this whole ecosystem of floral industry.

My second challenge will be working with my husband. Everybody asked me why i put everything into one basket? “what if you fail your business and if you fail your marriage? To be honest, its a bit challenging. I have faith working this out. I’m not saying this without a basis. When we first started, it was a lot of heartache. A lot of arguments, a lot of tears, a lot of sleepless nights, its all because of miscommunication or lack of desire and the aspiration in business because it was different. We’re still husband and wife but we see ourselves as an individual. It was a fine tuning in the relationship to be done, we newly married. And its challenging to be a husband and a wife itself, so what more if we put these elements in the business. The reason of why we started this business is because of love. So if we lose the love in the marriage, of course the business will lose its meaning. We preach about love to team members, and everyone. We want to walk the talk. We have to draw the line between a husband and a wife, and as a co-founders. And we start to integrating that role, draw the line and try not to interfere with the respective role. But we still give opinions and advises, but we leave the decision to the decision maker. In this way, we also demonstrate respect among each other. And for work-life balance, we don’t have that balance, but its more to work-life integration. Because we spend a lot of time with each other, so its more to husband and wife and a co-founders.

So we try to focus on joy and happiness, when we have a meeting, or when we on business trip. After we meeting, we sometimes just have a chat somewhere to recap, to talk about things and stuffs. And on personal as well. I think we enjoy working together. We still have arguments, there’s still have conflicts. If you ask me either i want to work with my husband or choose my husband as my co-founder, i would still choose it. Although I’m not encourage people to do it, because its really, really tough, unless you know what you are doing. You have a clear vision, you have consensus that you wouldn’t break this marriage, this relationship eventhough the business is not going well, as long as you have this commitment with each other. And respect for your partners.

We have a rule that, we don’t talk about work discussion as soon as we step into the house. So anyone of us want to start a discussion, we have to ask each other, “Hey can I talk about this thing?” - regarding work, and if either one of us don’t have mood to talk about it, not agreeing to talk about it, we will talk about it on the following day. We need to respect that. In the beginning, we don’t know about this. We used to just talk and say whatever we want to say at any time, at any day. This is really not healthy- we learnt this the hard way. “Hey let’s respect our own space”. We need our own spaces to wind down, calm down and think things through.

And my third challenges, is scaling this business to another level. We started this business since 2015, and it has been 2 and a half year; thanks to the Startup teams, the ventures, the teammates, the supporters and our customers. We can’t do this alone. And we noticed that there are a lot of independent florists, especially in social media. So the barrier entry to this floral business is really low. If you want to learn flower arrangement, for maybe 2 months, you can start your flower business in no time. But this business is operationally challenging. Its easy for independent florist to do 10 bouquet of flowers in a day. But what if you have to maintain the quality if you have to do 1000 bouquet of flowers in a day? Would you be able to give better services, products, customer services? Another challenges is how to scale the business? How to bring the business into another geographical area? How to bring it over there? And not just that- how to maintain the freshness and high standard of the product?

Because our product is perishable, or fresh flowers. They can die in one day if you don’t take care of it. So we use shelves to expand the lifespan of the perishable products. And how to deliver it to the doorstep with full smiles and customer’s satisfaction? Because that’s what we hold onto, “Creating the Great Moment”. So, in order to solve this issue, we established a very clear SOP on how to manage or to deal with the perishable products once we received from our hub. We have a step by step procedures on how to trim it and how to keep it in the water, what kind of temperature we should store it, and what kind of environment we need to give to the fresh flowers in order to upkeep their freshness. And we also have a SOP on how to increase delivery routing because the traffic definitely is our concern in KL and how to we reduce our costs on our material. And the main power, how we can utilize them better, to reduce the cost so that we can translate the cost saving to a very high quality but is in valuable product. So this message delivered to our customers.

Lastly is how to increase productivity with technology. I think leveraging on the technology, is one of the unique selling point that we have. So our team have a very strong emphasis on how to utilize our technology on our business. We believe in technology, productivity and efficiency can be increased tremendously. One of the ways is that we have utilize technology in terms of routing our deliveries from the delivery partner to the end users. We use third party delivery to send our product, how can we integrate our internal system to external one to reach the destination- in a very good condition. Our team did really well establishing this procedures.

Hi! I’m Penny Choo and I am the co-founder of Bloomthis. Bloomthis is an e-commerce that delivers fresh flowers, on demands and via subscribers. We’ve started our business in April 2015 and we’re currently available in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bharu, Penang as well as Singapore.

Bloomthis. “Creating Moment” and I’m a Startup.

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