We met up with Shavanna Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bloompop, earlier this fall in a coffee shop in the middle of bustling downtown Washington, D.C. Having grown up in the area, Shavanna knew the in’s and out’s of the metropolitan streets and kindly helped point lost passerbys in the right direction. It’s no wonder that she now runs an online marketplace that connects consumers with the best local florists across the country (think ‘Etsy for flowers’) – she is a natural community builder. Apart from providing beautiful flowers and an incredibly easy and enjoyable browsing and purchasing experience, Bloompop’s true success is in helping small businesses and consumers build a stronger community network.
Shavanna graciously shares her career trajectory, how she stays organized, and why she ultimately decided to come back to D.C. after having lived in so many great cities. This entrepreneur is making the world a better place one bouquet at a time, and we’re so excited to share her interview and introduce the face behind the flowers.
Name: Shavanna Miller
Occupation: Co-Founder/CEO, Bloompop
Education: The German School of Washington D.C.,B.S. in Environmental Science and Film Studies from Columbia University, London School of Economics and Political Science
Follow Shavanna: Facebook | Twitter |LinkedIn
Follow Bloompop: Bloompop | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Shavanna Miller: One thing I’ve tried to do is always say yes to opportunities. Whenever I’ve had to make a decision on something that could be important – whether its deciding to take a new job, making a leap into entrepreneurship, taking on additional work for a committee, or even helping someone else out – I’ve never regretted taking those opportunities – even if not everything pans out. There are a few times I’ve regretted not taking them for some reason or another, and that kind of regret is much worse. So my definition of Seizing Your Youth would be to act rationally about the opportunities you might take, but to ultimately take those opportunities, especially early on.
CJ: You studied film and environmental science at Columbia University – How did you decide what to study?
SM: Those were two topics I really loved on a personal level. For a while I thought that I was going to be working in film so a lot of my internships in school were related to that. I worked at a production company and an agency for actors. Those experiences were very fun and I still have many friends working in that industry. But somewhere along the lines I realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The environmental side of things was a personal interest that I’ve always had. When I was growing up I raised and bred aquarium fish. My parent’s basement was filled with aquariums; I think I had 30 aquariums or so when I left for college. That was a lot of fun and it was how I learned about basic genetics, water quality, etc. I probably started that in the fifth grade and it’s something I hope to get back to when I have the space again.
CJ: What did you do after you finished studying at the London School of Economics and Political science?
SM: When I finished graduate school I went back to New York. I started my career at Meetup, which was a great introduction to both the startup and tech worlds. It was smaller then than it is now, so I really had a chance to interact with every department. Eventually I left Meetup to go to Rosetta Stone in Washington, D.C., which was a fantastic experience as well and is also a great company. I was promoted there to ultimately be the head of web sales for the US consumer side of the business. I was responsible for a huge part of the company’s global annual sales – definitely a big, exciting thing to have on your shoulders. I had an amazing team there and we did everything from social marketing, to managing email and paid search platforms, to working with affiliates, you name it – basically anything related to digital sales. I managed a team of seven people who each had their own specializations. We were a very young, fun team and I loved the company.
CJ: What tools do you use daily to keep yourself organized?
SM: My sister is also an entrepreneur – she’s the CEO and co-founder of Kabinet based in New York – and the two of us have an ongoing debate about how we manage our time, and what tools we use. There are so many tools out there you can use, and I feel like you can have as many apps as there are people since everyone manages things differently. I’ve tried a million of them, but honestly I always end up coming back to a notepad and pen. I keep trying to figure out how to modernize this classic method with technology. I heard about a partnership between Moleskin and Livescribe recently which sounds like it could be exactly right for me. And of course I also use google calendar for meetings so it can sync to my phone, but for actual tasks I always come back to paper and pen To-Do lists. Old school.
CJ: What made you decide to come back to D.C. where you grew up after living in a couple of different cities?
SM: I actually came back to D.C. because of the Rosetta Stone opportunity. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job here, but it came up and it was an exciting opportunity. So it was almost a coincidence that I grew up here, but it’s great being around my parents again and being back in this city.
CJ: Where did you get the inspiration for Bloompop?
SM: I’m someone who has always personally loved flowers, and what I discovered as I looked into this space was that it’s a really outdated industry in more aspects than I’d initially realized. I knew that the experience for consumers was really terrible, but it was shocking to discover how detrimental it is to the florists themselves. Local florists will often work with a mega-network like 1800flowers etc, but they don’t get to create any of their own designs, have no creativity in the process, and to add insult to injury often barely make money off of those orders. I’ve actually spoken with many who literally lose money on filling orders for the big flower behemoths. It was an industry ripe for disruption. I decided to take my experience in digital sales and tech, combine it with my love for flowers, and tackle this outdated industry with better quality products, better tools for both florists and consumers, and modern tech and marketing experiences.
CJ: What has been the greatest success since having started Bloompop?
SM: Definitely putting my team together. Matt, my co-founder and CTO, for example, is brilliant and also somebody who is such a perfect cultural fit with the company. The two of us get along amazingly and I’m finding that that’s incredibly important. We all spend so much time together, so being able to find the right people – on both a personal and professional level – has been one of my biggest successes. It was a very deliberate thing in finding them and building our team; it wasn’t something I took lightly.
CJ: Can you please tell me a bit about your past experience with The Craft Factory?
SM: I’ve always been into DIY projects. Craft factory was something I started when I was back at Meetup. It was a group that came together every month and worked on a project together. I think that DIY is a stress reliever for me because at Bloompop so much of my day-to-day is digital – from web sales and marketing to product work – it’s very much sitting front of a laptop. DIY is a nice way to do something with your hands.
CJ: You also have an Etsy shop called HudsonScout – can you please tell us more about that?
SM: I’ve been an Etsy seller for several years now – it’s great because it has really helped in my understanding of the supply side of an online marketplace. Which obviously comes in handy now with Bloompop. My shop on etsy sells first birthday candles. I actually started HudsonScout by selling candles in every number, but what I eventually saw was that nearly 95% of orders were for First Birthday candles. So now that’s really what the whole focus is.
CJ: Although you’re a young company, has Bloompop hired interns before?
SM: We had two interns last summer but none currently. I feel like hiring interns at such a small company can have a huge impact – it’s a combination of figuring out what they can be doing that really has an impact and also providing them with a valuable experience. We want interns who will be excited about Bloompop and become serious contributing members of the team.
CJ: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
SM: Become friends with professors at CU’s business school.
Image: Courtesy of Bloompop