Next to his dog Kennedy, flowers are Billy’s big passion. It took a few decades to weave this passion into his professional life, but in 2013, after loving an introductory course in floral design, he turned flowers into a career. His mission was to bring color, fragrance and beauty into people's homes through uniquely handcrafted wreaths and flower arrangements. In other words, spreading happiness.
Where did the idea for Club Botanic come from?
I always knew I wanted my own business but I didn’t know what kind. I’ve had many ideas over the years. Plants, flowers and gardening have always been a passion of mine from a boy. When I left corporate America in 2013 I took a floral design class for fun. Indeed it was so much fun that I began researching the industry to find a niche. The floral ecommerce space was outdated, non-innovative and altogether dim when it came to interesting designs, ease of ordering and most importantly quality assurance. I decided to create a way for people to order, send and receive alluring flowers and fresh wreaths, ensuring product quality and customer satisfaction.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days start early. I’m wide eyed and bushy tailed by 5 am. Kennedy (my pooch) and I hit the flower market. Kennedy enjoys dog treats from local farmers and vendors while I shop for orders to be fulfilled that day. When I return to Club Botanic’s design studio my staff begin processing the flowers and making arrangements. I make my day productive by writing lists and delegating tasks. We’re a small operation so I wear many hats.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It starts with a vision, perhaps, something I saw at the flower market, an image on Pinterest or a in magazine, or and idea I came up with while jogging the previous day. I’ll research the mechanics required for the design and explore ways to scale it. This is essential. There are many fantastic designs, but if they are not scalable then they are not sellable :-) Scaling includes all of the operational aspects such as material sourcing, production time, labor, distribution logistics and more. It can take days or weeks to develop a new product. Once it has been developed there is pricing, photography, product descriptions, SEO and marketing to consider. After it moves through this chain it appears for sale online.
What’s one trend that excites you?
DIY kits. Club Botanic offered an Easter Tree Kit last spring and it was a huge success. This holiday season we’ll be offering a DIY Wreath Kit. It’s a great way for parents and grandparents engage with children and grandchildren.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I listen. I listen to customers feedback in order to make our products and service better along with increasing our product line. Even blunt and negative criticism has value, sometimes the most value. I don’t only listen to customers; I listen to staff on how to improve operations and ways to enhance their job satisfaction. This in turn boosts their job performance and productivity. Everyone wins!
What advice would you give your younger self?
My former professional life was working at a Fortune 500 company with generous benefits including vacation. I would tell my younger self to take as many paid vacations as possible and explore the world! Once you start your own business, vacations are few and far in between...at least for the first several years. I’m still in the first several years part.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I have never believed that things happen in life for a reason. However, I do believe with the right attitude you can make the most of any situation. There are lessons to be learnt, areas to grow and future glories to be had.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend allowing time for yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s easy to work 24/7 as an entrepreneur, but over time you will become less satisfied. I carve out several times a week to jog or cycle outdoors. The fresh air in my face and time to myself allows me to reflect, giving me the physical and mental exercise needed to live a balanced and healthy life. Also, walking the dog or spending time with loved ones, such as cooking a dinner together or going for a coffee, gives me the emotional practice needed to live a satisfying and fulfilled life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
In addition to our website (created via Shopify) I decided to create an Etsy shop. This gave Club Botanic a larger footprint in terms of traffic and sales. Etsy has valuable reporting which has allowed me to better discern search terms and referral sources. I have used the data from Etsy reporting to enhance listings by incorporating the appropriate keywords into product titles and descriptions. This has generated a lot traffic for our Etsy shop as well as our ecommerce store. It’s SEO at its finest!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I learnt early-on to get paid before starting custom orders. When I was new there was one instance where I mocked up a custom design for someone. She approved the mockup but never proceeded to order. When I inquired she said she no longer needed it. The custom design included products that I don’t usually carry, therefore, I had to buy the specialized materials. Since she did not place an order it became a waste of my time and resources.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice)
In the world of digital dating, perhaps, a dating app that connects people based upon their favorite flower :-)
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
This is an easy question. I recently bought a wreath making machine. It has had a tremendous impact on productivity, allowing us to double our output.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Shopify! Without it I wouldn’t have an ecommerce store. Shopify is really amazing. It allows you to customize your storefront, accept payments, print shipping labels, correspond with customers, and they have valuable reporting.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. Sometimes a business can feel like a slot machine that’s not hitting the jackpot. Profit First explains a system that allows small businesses to retain their profits and operate within its means. I’ve implemented some of the strategies the book recommended and have recognized value in them.
What is your favorite quote?
Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them. Orison Sweet Marden