O2 Smarta 100 Alumni Interview: Arena Flowers

We caught up with Will Wynne, co-founder of 2010 winner Arena Flowers to find out about how Arena Flowers has grown, their new product ideas and their thoughts on what is important for companies who are entering the awards.

Will, how did it feel to be named in the O2 Smarta 100?

Will: Chuffed. Always nice to have our team's hard work recognised.

When you applied for the awards did you think you would win?

Will: No. You never know. There were and still are lots of interesting new companies around in the UK at the moment. Not something you'd expect in the biggest financial meltdown in history but there you go.

Did you receive any publicity in the period after it that helped your business? Were you recognized by your peers or trade magazines?

Will: Too far back to remember to be honest! We generally get quite a lot of nice coverage and having the Smarta Award on our list of achievement was handy.

Did winning the award help you gain new business or funding? Did you gain new connections thanks to being named in the awards?

Will: Fortunately we don't need new funding and at the time we had as much business as we could deal with. We've spent the last three years building up a world class product development and flower sourcing, production and delivery operation, a task that is now nearing completion.

What success has your company achieved in the time following your being named in the O2 Smarta 100? Do you have any specific achievements you’d like us to share with readers online?

Will:Well, we've now delivered well over a million bouquets of flowers in our short life and are still growing strongly.

Our flowers, either under our own brand or under a number of white label deals we operate, are consistently finishing top in comp shopping reviews, which is very pleasing.

And we've developed a new, patented product called the AmazeBox, that we think fills the gap between a greetings card and a full bunch of flowers; for under a tenner you get a card, a themed gift box, a fresh flower and two other gifts (chocolate, sweets, health & beauty products etc). Check it out at www.AmazeBox.co.uk.

What plans do you have for the future?

Will: We intend to continue building the excellence of our operation whilst pushing harder on our B2C and B2B sales channels to drive volume through the business. We have all the tech built (API, white label, international etc), we have the facility (automation where relevant, multiple fridges, vase life testing, all the required QA processes) and, importantly, we have the product (we have deals with growers in the UK, The Netherlands, Kenya and elsewhere that guarantee quality of the stems we use). So now we want to focus on just doing more! 

And we want to give AmazeBox a big push soon too as we've not really put our weight behind that yet.

What advice would you give to companies who are unsure if they should enter the awards?

Will: Go for it. It gets your name out there and adds credibility to your story.

Finally – if you were judging the awards, what would you specifically look for in a company?

Will: People always talk about the big idea but in our experience, execution is key. Of course you have to have a niche or a target market you're going after but then I would want to see that management have thought about the detail of how they're going to actually deliver the plan with the funding that they have. Silly things like are financial controls in place to ensure bad news is discovered (and remedied) quickly are, in my opinion, some of the most important things in a young business; we took far too long to learn this lesson, which slowed our progress by several years.

And, of course, you have to have some luck. But you can't really quantify that; just work hard and hope some of it comes along!

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