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No Time to Smell the Flowers

I'm the co-CEO of Beyond Blossoms, an online flower retailer based in Wilmington, Mass. We sell low-price, farm-fresh bouquets and send them to customers across the U.S. My partner, Josh Grossman, and I co-founded the company in 2003. The idea was born when we needed to write a business plan for an entrepreneurship class as part of our MBA studies at Franklin W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in Massachusetts. Without a tech background, we were looking for a consumer product that just about anyone could enjoy. Like Josh always says, "You don't have to convince anybody to like flowers."

Beyond Blossoms at first first operated only on a local level, supplying businesses in the greater Boston area with weekly flower arrangements. When we realized how much geographic constraints would limit our ability to grow, we developed a box in which we could ship our flowers with FedEx (FDX) rather than hand-deliver them. Since we could now ship anywhere in the country, we changed direction, going from a local studio florist to a national Internet retailer. We raised money from a strategic partner and began shipping farm-fresh flowers in 2004.

I thought I knew what was coming my way when Josh and I shook hands and started Beyond Blossoms. Truth is, I didn't at all. Entrepreneurship in its early stages is all about business development and the day-to-day jobs that need to get done, such as cold-calling companies to find new customers, running to the copy shop to print promotional material, buying supplies, and, in our case, arranging bouquets.

BRINGING UP BABY. Much of our daily work didn't turn up immediate results, and not drawing a salary for an extended period didn't make the uncertainty any easier to handle. However, founding a business is like seeing your baby grow. Taking one step at a time, the company matures from an idea to a tangible business that generates actual revenue and serves real customers. This makes me feel proud, and even though it causes me all kinds of headaches and worries, I wouldn't want to live without it.

Here's how I spend a typical day tending to my baby:

7:30 a.m. -- I'm sitting at my desk at home, checking e-mail. We have part-time customer-service personnel, but Josh and I both still check our customer-service mailbox on a regular basis.

Next, I look through my personal mailbox, answering e-mail and reading today's digest from the Web site Daily Candy, my one guilty pleasure in the morning - along with a second cup of coffee, of course.

8:00 a.m. -- I check our Web-analytics reports. How many orders for the day? How many people are online? We just implemented a software package a few weeks ago to help us greatly improve sales conversions. Josh is adding online links to our Web site to help search engines promote us.

8:30 a.m. -- Site maintenance: I upload text changes to the site via FTP. Since we don't want to rely on outside programmers to upload small changes, I studied HTML programming basics. We constantly make improvements to our Web site, including the addition of new content such as our "flower picture contest," where our customers can submit their favorite photo of flowers and possibly win a free bouquet.

9:15 a.m. -- Once a month we send out e-mails to our customers, informing them of current sales and new features on the site. My newly acquired HTML skills help me produce these promotional e-mails.

Josh always keeps abreast of news on search-engine optimization as well as online marketing. At this time of the day, he forwards me many e-mails with the latest information for us to discuss later.

10:15 a.m. -- We're in the process of raising our second round of financing. Besides contacting our own network of angel investors as well as other wealthy individuals, we also submit our executive summary to select VCs in the area. Part of my daily morning routine is to send out e-mails and make calls to find investors. By the way, if you should know anybody....

11:00 a.m. -- We have a meeting with our box supplier. We're developing a new shipping box. After going through several iterations we find the optimal box, which will ensure that our flowers arrive safely but keep shipping costs at a minimum.

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