Han & Vez, what's your backstory?
Han: We spent about 15 years of our working lives in the advertising industry before launching LVLY. I grew up in the UK, and my dream was always to start a business and build a brand. Verity grew up in Melbourne and also had a desire to do her own thing one day.
Our paths crossed working at a digital agency in Sydney called Visual Jazz. We were both living away from home, missing friends and family. We saw a gap in the market to send affordable flowers and gifts that weren’t the traditional red rose and fluffy white bear cliché.
The dream was to create a brand people would love and a business that would reset the goalposts for excellent e-commerce. All whilst doing a bit of good in the world and making people happy.
Tell us what your company does?
Han: We’re an online flower and gift delivery service that provides same-day delivery, 7 days a week across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Plus, we do next day delivery Australia wide.
Ultimately, we exist to make people’s day! LVLY is all about spreading a bit more joy in the world and helping keep loved ones connected in moments of love, support and celebration. We have a strong social and environmental conscience. We’re led by three core business principles - LVLY to people, LVLY to Australia and LVLY to our planet.
How did you come up with the idea?
Han: We had the name before we had anything else! LVLY existed as a brand idea before we knew what product or service would underpin it. In fact, I’d pitched the brand ‘LVLY’ as an idea to someone else. I’d bought the URL, created the tone of voice guidelines and had a visual identity in mind. Thankfully the person I was pitching to didn’t buy it!
Their loss was eventually our gain! When Verity and I spotted the opportunity to disrupt the flower industry, the name LVLY was such an obvious and effortless choice.
We’ve stayed true to our purpose and vision to make people’s day, and having such a strong brand identity from day one has really helped us stand out from the crowd.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
Han: It’s a pretty classic story of test, fail, learn, pivot, repeat. We always had a product blueprint. We knew we were fundamentally a flower business. However, we’ve always understood that our product is as much about the delivery proposition, customer service and tech.
It’s only when you care deeply about being the best in the world at all of these things that you’ll build a great e-commerce business. We always had the vision to expand from flowers into gifting. Building out a portfolio of LVLY branded products was a milestone we ticked off quite early.
Supporting local is something we’ve focused on and stayed true to throughout the journey. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see our suppliers thrive and scale alongside our business which has grown so rapidly. To see that impact is a pretty huge feel-good factor.
How have you grown the business?
Han: We’ve started every year with clear goals and a set of strategic growth initiatives designed to help hit those goals. We tackle growth from all angles. Geographical expansion, improving market share, new product development, new service offerings, conversion rate optimisation, customer retention… the list goes on.
You name it, we’ve got a goal against it, and we’re measuring our performance every step of the way. We’ve pushed aggressively into the same-day delivery space. We’ve re-set the bar for ourselves again and again.
Our current offering is ‘order by 5pm for same-day delivery, 7 days a week’ - it’s marketing leading, and we’re really proud of that. Put simply, our growth strategy is to be the best in the industry. We’re relentless in our drive to win.
What’s your biggest selling product?
Han: Flowers, flowers and flowers. But in particular, flowers delivered FAST.
We've seen strong growth in our gifting range, but our business's core remains flowers at this stage.
We've innovated our packaging and personalisation options. We're increasingly seeing more customers opt for personalised and customised flower and gift bundles.
We've also launched LVLY services, including wedding flowers and corporate gifting and whilst still early days, we've seen tremendous uptake of these new products.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
Vez: There have been so many, honestly, and each one has really helped us level up as a business.
There is one that remains front of mind. It was Valentine’s day in 2020. It’s a huge calendar event in any flower and gift business and an opportunity to deliver on high volumes, gain new customers and scale up operationally for some big outcomes.
We had done lots of prep, analysing numbers and trends from the previous year. Ultimately, we got lots of small things wrong and ended up having to sell out before 8am on Valentine’s Day. Whilst this may seem like a good problem to have when you’re trying to build and scale your business, it feels like a massive failure - leaving so much opportunity on the table.
Around the same time, our landlord drastically increased our rent. Australia was reeling from the bushfires, and retail was soft - it was a perfect storm that left us with about 6 weeks worth of cash in the business.
Fast forward nearly two years, and we’re a completely different business. It just goes to show how it’s possible to bounce back from a big failure if you are persistent and hungry to succeed.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
Han: I read more business than fiction which is great for getting inspired but not so great for switching the brain off at night!
I love the classics like Good to Great, Outliers, Start with Why… all full of valuable lessons and insights. I particularly enjoyed reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. It’s irreverent, cheeky and highly relatable.
You don’t need a business book to get inspired. I recently read 11 life lessons from Nelson Mandela, and you’d be hard pushed to find a more inspiring story of leadership.
Vez: I’ve got two that I’ve been enjoying lately: ‘Lemonade’, which is all about people’s most challenging times and how they overcame them (turning lemons into lemonade). It’s inspiring to hear how resilient people can be, an excellent reminder to never give up.
Han: Despite everything that’s out there, I still think some of the best digital content I’ve ever come across is Ted Talks. The calibre of advice and leadership is just outstanding. I never fail to get fired up and impassioned when I watch talks like ‘The Power of Vulnerability' by Brene Brown or ‘The Three Secrets of Resilient People’ by Lucy Hone.
What quotes do you live by?
"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to swim. I'm a detail-oriented person who used to be labelled a 'perfectionist', but the last 7 years have really changed how I think about things. You can't stop problems from arising. They always will. It's inevitable. But you can change how you react to them. The more you embrace problem-solving, the more you go with the flow, the easier the problems will feel to solve."
"I have a few. 'Do what scares you' is the one I come back to, time and time again. 'No guts, no glory' is another one. I'm a big believer that happiness and success lie just outside of your comfort zone - but you've got to have the courage to put yourself out there! People have often told me I'm fearless, which is a big misconception. I just have a willingness to do things despite being afraid."
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
Vez: This one is hard to get right. It requires consistent attention and energy to keep on top of. I personally find wellness in balance - good sleep, some exercise, good food, seeing a kinesiologist regularly, laughing with my besties and time with my kids and hubby.
A little bit of lots of things. It’s so easy for one of these things to slip, but you just have to be patient and kind to yourself and gradually try to get it back on track.
In a few words what does it mean to be the founder of a business?
"Exhilarating, impactful and the hardest thing I’ve ever done."
Han: "It’s a chance to help change the world. What an opportunity!"
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
1. Start with a clear purpose.
2. Make sure you're solving a problem that you're passionate about.
3. Surround yourself with smart, honest and positive people.
4. Have a healthy dose of competitiveness because if you're not determined to win, you won't.
Remember that there's no such thing as an overnight success story. Building a successful business will be way harder than you thought but infinitely more rewarding than you ever dreamed possible.
Vez: 'Progress over perfection' is a sentence we use a lot within our team. Momentum is vital for any small business. Your team needs to understand this mentality.
We've worked really hard to create a culture where everyone feels like they can just have a go, make mistakes and keep moving forward.
It's too easy to get stuck in the cycle of paralysis by analysis and never make decisions.
Emotional agility skills can really prepare you to just keep progressing, making mistakes, pivoting and encouraging others in your team to do the same. You'd be amazed at how much positive momentum you can build with a mindset like this.
Where can people find out more about your business?
We’ve also been interviewed for a few podcasts recently - Lady Brains, Queen of Confidence, Add to Cart, Tell Us Your Story, The Female Founders Network and, most recently, Mamamia’s Lady StartUp Stories in an episode coming out soon.