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Don’t buy her flowers this Mother’s Day: the online gift shop interview, part two

“Running your own business is a bit like motherhood: you can’t really understand it until you do it,” says gift-shop ‘mumpreneur’ Steph Douglas.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers occupies a niche in a gift market where flowers are many people’s go-to present . We spoke to founder and ‘mumpreneur’ Steph Douglas this Valentine’s Day about the growth of her business and there was enough great advice for a second instalment of the interview.

Although flowers are lovely to receive, they are the most common gift a new mum receives, says Steph, who received eight bunches when she had her first baby alone: “I just remember feeling quite overwhelmed,” she recalls.

“It’s amazing but it’s a complete roller-coaster. I think that however prepared you are, it comes as quite a shock.

“I just remember thinking ‘I haven’t got anywhere to put these’ and it’s another thing you have to care for when you’re feeling pretty spent.”

Before starting an online gift shop two years ago the mother-of-two conducted some research and discovered that 96% of new mums are bought flowers and most get three or four bunches (some even got as many as 20).

It isn’t that Steph doesn’t like flowers; she just believes there could be better gifts. So when her friends had babies she started putting together little care packages containing things like chocolate and magazines with a personal message like “you’re doing great, I’m proud of you or it’s going to be OK”.

After going back to work part-time Steph realised that she didn’t enjoy juggling family life and a career and it just so happened that this feeling coincided with her business idea: “All the stars aligned! I started a blog about sisterhood and motherhood and that went really well, which gave me the confidence and final push to quit my job and start Don’t Buy Her Flowers.”

Customers

The gift boxes were inspired by how Steph felt and what she needed most after giving birth. The original premise was to cater to new mothers, so quite often it’s other women buying the gifts.

She also gets quite a few companies buying gifts for staff and their fall-back present is often flowers.

However, as the brand grows customers are increasingly buying boxes for other occasions such as birthdays, get-well-soon presents and anniversaries.

Steph started her blog Sisterhood (and all that) because “being a mum is tough”. Dedicated to “honesty and laughing – or crying – at the ridiculous things life throws at mothers”, it has built a devoted following and fuelled sales at Don’t Buy Her Flowers.

 

 

On being a mumpreneur

Although Steph works evenings and weekends, she does enjoy the flexibility to adjust her working hours to suit family needs. “I’m my own boss. It’s taken quite a lot of getting used to because at the beginning you end up putting in more hours, but you can ease up on yourself because you’re own timekeeper.”

However, she urges anyone thinking of doing the same to make sure they are in the right place mentally and circumstances-wise before they start their entrepreneurial adventure.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this when my babies were tiny because I don’t think I had the headspace and the energy, so I think it’s important to give yourself a break as well.”

For Mother’s Day she introduced a new package, which included: gin and tonics, scarves, chocolates and hand cream. It proved so popular that they started selling it all-year round and rebranded it as ‘The Any Occasion Package’.

“It went nuts” when they first launched the Mother’s Day package, recalls Steph. “My phone was just pinging with orders. I was thinking ‘how I am going to pack them, how am I going to keep up?’”

There have been other spikes in demand, often driven by the power of social media and a famously active online community of mothers:

“A blogger called The Unmumsy Mum shared a package on her Facebook page and that crashed the website. I think we had 6,000 hits in a couple of hours.”

Challenges and support

"I think running your own business is a bit like motherhood in that you can’t really understand it until you do it"

Before she started her business Steph didn’t tell many friends or family members because she wanted to clarify her vision first: “It felt like such a massive leap and when you talk to too many people they all have different opinions and then it’s really hard not to get clouded by it.”

One particular challenge was the call-to-action nature of the name: Don’t Buy Her Flowers.

“Some florists don’t like it, which I was really naive about. I had no idea that was going to be the reaction at the time.

“When I launched, a florist must have seen it and put it on a florist forum because I suddenly had all these emails and people commenting on my blog page and Facebook page.”

Steph says her partner’s support helped her overcome the negative publicity. He told her not to worry, reassuring her that a bit of competition is a good thing and she certainly wasn’t putting them all out of business.

Community spirit

Steph’s business sits within two highly supportive communities: the small business fraternity and one that she describes as “a kind of sisterhood”.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with how lovely people are,” she says. “You hear a lot about women wars and mum wars and actually people are so supportive and that makes you want to do the same thing back. So everyone’s kind of sharing each other’s thing.”

Interested in buying a gift shop ? Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before buying a gift shop



Melanie Luff

About the author

Melanie Luff is an in-house journalist and writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com as well as other industry publications.

@Be_TheBoss

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