Growing an online business

Kelly Baker-Jamieson, the entrepreneur behind Edible Blooms

How Edible Blooms bypassed bricks and mortar to capture a unique market.

By Tessa Biddles

Kelly Baker-Jamieson, the entrepreneur behind the “edible bouquet” company Edible Blooms, lives by the motto, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take”. The quote, famously said by ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky, neatly captures Baker-Jamieson’s drive to turn quirky business ideas into thriving online retail businesses.

Baker-Jamieson launched her main business, Edible Blooms, eight years ago in Brisbane, Australia at a time when online retail businesses were rare.

“In hindsight this was a huge advantage,” says Baker-Jamieson.

“Like many small business owners who finance their own start-ups, I was working 30-plus hours a week as a consultant for a law firm, while also starting a new business. I was pressed for time, so I was an early adopter of cloud-based business systems that allowed me to work on the go and keep moving forward.”

Edible Blooms is similar to a florist, except recipients can eat the bouquets when they arrive. The business offers an array of gourmet chocolate bouquets and edible arrangements of fresh fruit that it predominantly sells online.

Looking at the financials for the business in the early days, Baker-Jamieson found it made sense to locate the bricks and mortar components of the business near suppliers on the city fringes, rather than taking out much more expensive leases in central business districts, and focus on drawing customers online.

Just like bouquets, only edible

Just like bouquets, only edible

“From day one, I made sure that I had a fully transaction-able website that made the business look bigger and more established than a small start-up. I experimented with digital marketing strategies to attract customers online,” explains Baker-Jamieson.

Over the past eight years the online retail market in Australia has grown rapidly, becoming a more cluttered space, and making it harder for new entrants to claim a share of the space.

According to Baker-Jamieson, this makes it important to have a credible business plan for the online retail market as well as a bricks and mortar one. A new business also needs a strong and consistent voice to cut through the noise, she says.

“In my experience, the three keys to success in establishing an online business are quality, consistency and credibility,” says Baker-Jamieson.

“It’s really important that these components form the base of the business – whatever it may be – and are reflected in all aspects of online marketing and social media.

“It’s vital that customers have confidence in your product and your service, and peace of mind when transacting online,” she says.

According to Baker-Jamieson, successfully negotiating the online retail market has some advantages over other business models.

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“Consumer confidence has been really low in recent years. I’ve personally found that the business model underpinning Edible Blooms has been very durable in this environment,” says Baker-Jamieson.

She explains that Edible Blooms felt the effects of the overall retail slowdown much later than traditional bricks and mortar retailers. Rather than see a decline in the number of customers, average spend went down. This led Baker-Jamieson to re-position her range of Edible Blooms to allow for more frequent but lower value transactions; her business was thus able to enjoy revenue increases even in a subdued retail environment. 

Baker-Jamieson also used the down time to expand and employed a full-time digital marketing specialist, which she says has been one of the best decisions she has made.

“As small business owners, we are already wearing so many hats that it doesn’t make sense to continually try and do everything ourselves,” she says.

“Having a dedicated online marketing specialist has really helped and I’d advise other businesses to do the same.

“With an online business you can see where your customers are coming from and tailor your marketing accordingly.

“EDMs [electronic direct mail] are a great way to build up a solid customer database. We are open to giving new ideas a go and placing measuring capabilities to see how successful they are. We have got to the stage where almost 60 per cent of our business now comes from repeat customers.” 

Last year Baker-Jamieson teamed with her husband Andrew to start a second business, Green Thumb Gifts, which follows the same business model as Edible Blooms.

The bricks and mortar component of the business is run from her family farm in Hindmarsh Valley, South Australia, and customers can use the Green Thumb Gifts website to choose from a range of living plants and garden gifts.

“Green Thumb Gifts was hugely popular over Mother’s Day and tends to be a popular year round choice for sympathy gifts and people big on gardening. This tends to draw a slightly older demographic, which is important because you don’t want to take customers away from your other business,” says Baker-Jamieson.

Baker-Jamieson has worked hard to be successful with both businesses, and explains that this has often involved working well into the night.

“Work-life balance doesn’t exist – although that’s not necessarily a bad thing!” she says candidly.

“As both a mother and a business owner, I find a blending approach, where my personal and business ‘to do’ lists merge into one, works best. I’m always consciously prioritising my time according to what’s important and what needs to be done to keep moving forward in all aspects of my life.”

The Edible Blooms Adelaide team

The Edible Blooms Adelaide team

5 key steps to setting up an online retail business

•    Have a distinct product or service that suits an online delivery channel
•    Embed quality, consistency and credibility in all parts of the business
•    Have a strong business plan and clear voice across all digital marketing activities
•    Have an active approach to problem solving and giving new ideas a go
•    Actively managing cash flow – forecast this weekly in fast growth phase

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