What’s love got to do with it? For Marion Wambui, love has everything to do with her thriving career as a florist based in Nairobi.
It all started in 2018, on Valentine’s Day. Her then fiancé had caught the love bug and ordered a bouquet to be delivered at Wambui’s office. Unfortunately, there was a glitch in delivery and it ruined the surprise.
“At 5pm, he called me as I was preparing to leave the office. He had to tell me about the flowers he had ordered and how they were running late. He request me to wait up. They were finally delivered at around 6pm.”
Despite the delay, Wambui was so excited to get the flowers. She carried them to their evening date and showed them off to her fiancé.
“He was shocked that the flowers were really withered and weren't even close to what he had ordered online. To make matters worse, the flowers didn’t come with the add-ons he had paid for; chocolates , a bottle of wine and a flower vase.”
This being the first time for Wambui to receive flowers, she had been too excited to notice they were withered. In fact she didn’t know the difference between good or bad flowers. Her fiancé’s reaction made her curious and she began researching on flowers.
“I was amazed to discover that the art of gifting was an entire industry that thrived both locally and internationally. I looked at what was available near me and that became my first contact with the florist business.”
Wambui’s growing interest in flowers prompted her to gather a lot of information on the floral business, floral care and various types of flowers. She was very fascinated.
At the time she was working as a Community Manager at a Nairobi based Company.
“Armed with plenty of information, I began toying with the idea of starting the business and even gave it a name- Beautiful Bouquets and I officially started a page on Facebook.”
The fiancé was now her husband and his romantic gesture on that Valentine’s Day of 2018 inspired Wambui to take the next step in growing Beautiful Bouquets—she enrolled for a florist course at the Accol Floral Design Training centre.
“I was now equipped to do the business but I didn't have a lot of experience. I made friends with a florist who has been in the business for a very long time and that's when I started making bouquets and taking orders.”
Wambui started with a capital of Sh50,000 that covered part of her training fee and also purchasing supplies such as wrapping paper, ribbons and other stationary.
“So I didn't quit my job immediately because the business hadn’t picked. I operated it as a side-business and sold the flowers online. This went on for about two years.”
For many businesses, the Covid-19 disruption had a negative impact but for Wambui, this period saw a rise in orders and she was able to do more for the business as she was working from home.
“The business did so well that I decided to put up a physical shop in Nairobi CBD. The first month was tough and I wondered if I had bitten more than I could chew. I had assumed customers would flood the shop as a reflection of our rising orders online but this was not the case. We had very few walk-ins those first few months.”
On the flipside, the space gave her a place to work from, which was convenient and she stuck by it and had to chip in to her pocket to pay rent.
“I’m glad I stood by it,” she adds.
It took the business almost a year to start making profits because she chose to plough back the profits made during the first months of setting up the physical store.
From her observation, Wambui notes that most of her clients are women.
“I think gifting is a love language amongst many women and they gift each other flowers very often.”
One of the thinks Wambui enjoys most about her job as a florist is coming up with unique and attractive flower arrangements.
“Besides selling the flowers, I also help my clients know more about them. I feel glad when a client is able to differentiate between, say, a Carnation and Alstromeria. I feel like the business is gradually making people fall in love with flowers.”
On average, Wambui receives between 400 and 600 orders in a month with a significant spike during special occasions such as Valentines’ Day, Mother’s Day and the Christmas season.
“Another lesson from my 2018 bouquet experience has been to keep in mind a personal touch as requested by the customers. Sometimes, when talking to the client you can pick something special and customise the bouquet accordingly.”
When it comes to pricing, Wambui was keen to shatter the misconception that flowers are expensive. Her bouquets go for as low as Sh1,000.
“I really wanted to have affordable products because for a long time there was this notion of flowers are only for the elite. For us, we have something for everyone. Some of our arrangements are on the higher end in terms of price and even the simpler, more affordable bouquets are also very pretty .”
One of the challenges of running such a business includes getting consistency in quality because flowers are seasonal.
“It is very hard to get a good permanent employee. Most florists and assistants want to engage on basis of events as opposed to a 9-5 job. Weddings and other events happen all over and they don’t like being tied down to one place.”
Currently, Wambui has five employees but when she has a big order, she engages day workers from her former florist school. The business mainly deals with supplying flowers in a bouquet form and arranging the according to the décor needs of the client.
“My future plan is to have more avenues of selling our products. We recently got into a partnership with Bolt Food and I'm looking forward to more engagements with other such apps to increase my customer base.”