Founders Lane Masthead
FLORAL-SOCIETY-3

DIGITAL DISRUPTION: Renee Douros

Amanda Whitley

She’s one of Canberra’s most prolific young entrepreneurs, now running four separate businesses: The Floral Society, The Sugar Deli, Planted and The Social Club. So what’s the secret to Renee Douros’ success?

You’ve established something of a digital empire—tell us about your businesses! 

I am the founder/owner of three digital, Canberra-based businesses. I launched The Floral Society in October 2015, The Sugar Deli in February 2017 and more recently, Planted. People often ask if I’m a florist, or a baker, or both. Actually, I’m neither! My passion lies in building brands from the ground-up, once established I like to step back and let them do their thing.

When launching The Floral Society back in 2015, we were the only 100% online florist in Canberra. What I wanted to offer was convenience…and gorgeous flowers of course! Floristry is a trade that is stuck in the dark ages and I think we succeeded at really shaking the local industry up with our offerings like floral subscriptions, a pop-up flower truck and our build-your-own-bunch Flower Bar in Kingston.

FLORAL-SOCIETY-16

The Sugar Deli was very much a natural progression on from The Floral Society. The idea came to me when I was heavily pregnant with my daughter and craving sweets like a mad woman. I took the lessons learnt from my experience with The Floral Society and applied them to a digital, dessert delivery platform.

For both businesses, we’ve seen sales grow at a rate of roughly 1000%, each month. This demonstrates the strength of a quality product offering, websites that are built on user-experience as opposed to primarily aesthetics, a strong brand and solid customer support.

My latest venture, PLANTED allows customers to buy stylish indoor plants and have them delivered to their front door. I came up with the idea when customers were repeatedly asking if they could purchase the indoor plants from The Floral Society’s Kingston Flower Bar.

Why did you decide to take a traditional business online?

My background before founding The Floral Society and The Sugar Deli was in publishing. I founded and ran HOORAY! Magazine. At its height, we were selling the magazine in over 20 different countries including the U.S, U.K and Europe.

Slowly, I started to notice a change in the behaviour of our audience. They were hungry for digital content, which isn’t great for a printed product. So, we built a bloody expensive new website and transitioned the brand to being digital-only. Ceasing print of HOORAY! broke my heart but cemented in my mind how important digital really was.

Based on what I learnt from my experience with HOORAY!, I launched two digital-based businesses that are accessible to anyone with a smartphone/laptop and an internet connection. We have customers who order with us from all over Australia and the world, sending gifts to loved ones living in Canberra. The barriers to accessing my businesses are minimal, which makes interacting with our brand very seamless and straightforward.

FLORAL-SOCIETY-15

How did you do this?

For both ventures, I concentrated on building really strong teams from the outset. This happened before work on the brand entity even began.

Because I have founded two businesses that I have no experience/qualifications in, I am heavily reliant on have a talented and reliable team to deliver our product offerings. Once I had established the teams, I began work on branding (which is my favourite part). I work with a really talented local design studio called New Best Friend and together, we make brand and website magic!

Once the brand is established it’s really about getting everything off the ground, developing a consistent approach to digital media and social and ironing out any creases in the business framework. Once you launch, you hit the ground running! I never focus on getting anything perfect before launch. I’d rather put a brand/product out there and gain feedback from our customers, always improving and refining until we strike the right balance.

What kind of research did you have to do/skills did you have to learn?

I had a pretty strong business sensibility when I launched The Floral Society from my experience running HOORAY!. Both ventures came to me quite intuitively.

To be honest, I did very minimal research for both, I made sure that we weren’t in breach of anyone’s intellectual property in terms of business names and branding. Once that box was checked, it came down to designing strong websites that were focused on enhancing experience of the end-user.

Much to my dismay both my floristry and baking skills are pathetic, so I stick to the business side of things!

FLORAL-SOCIETY-21

What has been the response from the public?

In both cases, overwhelming. Both sites are now sitting on servers that huge companies like Telstra use to manage all of their web traffic, that gives you an indication of how many users are accessing our platforms.

Despite our success, I’m firm believer in never resting. If you allow yourself to think you’ve ‘made it’, you become complacent in business. I am always thinking about how we can stand out and improve our offering.

What have been some of the greatest challenges?

Juggling a number of very busy businesses and raising an 18-month-old I’d say, has been the trickiest part of the whole thing. I can handle website crashes, stock never showing up and machinery break-downs with my eyes closed but raising a sassy toddler? That sh*t brings me to my knees.

Do you think more traditional businesses are going to need to move online? Why/why not?

Yes and no. I love a traditional bricks and mortar store and I believe a physical presence can be a really vital part of a brand’s overall offering. Like with The Floral Society, we have two stores that act as our customer touchpoints. Customers can interact with our brand in a tangible sense, and no fancy website will ever replace being able to see, touch and smell a flower in-person.

But not having a strong digital presence is business suicide these days, especially in our digital-centric world. The obvious selling point for being digital-only is very minimal overheads and limited barriers to entry but sometimes, having both a physical and digital presence can help to build a really solid brand offering. It’s all really dependent on the brand, the offering and the needs of customers.

Want a peek at Renee’s latest venture? Meet The Social Club.

Photography: Tim Bean Photography

user

Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

Media Bootcamp November Leaderboard