Oana Lamba, owner and floral designer at Olla Floral Art, took an old hobby and materialized it into a successful business, Now, she intends to increase the company’s turnover by three times, to EUR 150,000 in 2016.
How did you enter the Romanian business scene and why?
I have always been passionate about flowers and decorating and I think I inherited this talent from my grandmother, a handicraft teacher. I have a Master’s degree from ASE, the School of International Economics Relations and Affairs and, until 2010, I worked as a financial auditor for a multinational company. I took my maternity leave, intending to come back to my job as soon as possible in order not to miss the next audit season. I was really passionate about my work and my career. However, as it sometimes happens, life has a way of changing your plans and showing new sides of the story. As it turned out, the birth of my son changed my priorities and me. I only wanted to spend time with him and my family, so I postponed my coming back to the office until he was two years old.
I started to work with flowers both for fun and by need with the occasion of the christening a friends’ daughter. I wanted to create a christening candle with snowdrops and, despite strenuous efforts, I couldn’t find any flower shop that could do it. That was the moment when I decided to do it by myself. I worked for hours and it received fabulous success on that occasion. After that, initially the orders came from friends, for family events. I was always attracted by floral sculptures and therefore I decided to create a hat, a bear, a tortoise, a caterpillar, a buggy or a dolphin. At that time, working with flowers was still just a hobby. However, when I gave birth to my second child, I realized that I no longer wanted to go back to work. Then I started to think seriously about how I could transform my hobby for flowers into a business. Therefore, I resigned from my job and started my own business, Olla Floral Art.
The first year of business was very challenging. Despite starting with a lot of passion, impetus and projects, it was also a huge amount of work. My first studio was in the kitchen and then I moved it in the garage. Now I have a dedicated space for the business.
What was the most difficult moment for your business and how did you manage to surmount it?
The hardest thing was to be the orchestra-woman, the person good at everything: PR, creation, marketing, cost analysis, profitability, management, and, above all, still be there for my children. It was also hard to reach the breakeven. We didn’t focus on the money as our main target, but on our customers and their real needs, and that was a strategy that paid off. At present, we have an online shop and an updated website and, in the future, we intend to extend the Olla brand to several shops.
If you were to start another business, what would you do differently?
When starting a business there is a need to build it properly, so we focused on the team. You need professionals that come with specific knowledge in the field and that have the same energy as you. I started my business with wonderful people, but there was a need for training in order for them to gain experience in this field of activity.
What are the main challenges you face in your business now and how do you solve them?
Because of the perishable specific of flowers, the biggest challenge in this field is to provision yourself according to the needs. Otherwise, you risk ordering a large quantity of flowers and not being able to sell it. In order to be safe, we work only by demand, so that when we buy flowers from The Netherlands, we know the orders we can count on exactly.
How fierce is the completion in your field of activity and what differentiates you from the crowd?
In the flowers’ business, the competition is fierce. Our main focus is on the customer experience, services we offer and the interaction with them. Moreover, we try to create new useful products that can be used even after the flowers fade. We don’t make promises to our customers that we know we can’t keep, but we guarantee them everything we promised. Strategically, we don’t intend to enter in a price battle as we focus on having creative and personalized products and fresh flowers on delivery.
What are your plans?
We intend to develop the online store Olla, a chain of flower shops and to grow our team as well as starting a rebranding process that will shape the image of the company.
Olla Floral Art
2015 turnover: EUR 50,000
2016 estimated turnover: EUR 150,000
Number of employees: 5
Initial investment: EUR 1,000
Estimated total investment so far: EUR 15,000