From a High-Flying Finance Career to Floristry: How Courtney Ray Made the Jump

From the daily grind to Daily Blooms.

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An unexpected bunch of flowers can mean the world to someone. For Daily Blooms founder Courtney Ray, the chance to leave her number-crunching corporate job to start her own business based on that principle meant much the same for her too.

Leaving her investor relations analyst role behind, the Melbourne-based entrepreneur dove into the flower flinging business in 2014 despite having no professional experience with blooms, save for a couple of potted herbs on her balcony.

“Yes, I am definitely the least qualified!” she admits of herself within the Daily Blooms team. “I am really lucky that all of our florists in Melbourne and Sydney have Certificate III qualifications.”

Of course, with a demanding previous career in commerce (60 hour weeks, for example), there was plenty of business experience to draw on. For Courtney, it’s this mix of these different strengths in her team that’s created a balanced and positive outcome for her company.

“I now spend a considerable amount of time doing marketing, managing finances, meeting with growers… the fact that I have qualified florists means they can take ownership of the flowers and I can spend time on other aspects of the business.”

Here’s how she turned a passion into a professional that now delivers to 641 suburbs across Sydney and Melbourne.

 

Tell us about the job you had in the corporate world before Daily Blooms.
Growing up, I was enormously ambitious and was certain that I wanted to be a high flyer in finance. I did a double degree in Commerce and Laws at University and then completed my CA (Chartered Accountant Certificate). I went straight from university to KPMG in their transaction services team and then transferred to a mergers and acquisitions role at a mining services company.  Everything was going in the right direction, except for the fact that the high-flying career I wanted was not what I expected it to be.  I spent all day (and many nights) sitting in front of an excel spreadsheet.  I analysed financial information for companies and put together reports.

What was it about working in corporate didn’t feel right for you?
Although the job was challenging and interesting, I just knew that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.  I had always been creative and my job was very analytical. After doing it for so long, I just knew that I wasn’t the kind of person that could sit in front of a computer and look at numbers all day long.

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What gave you the final push to plunge into your own thing?
I was in New York on my honeymoon and I did not want to go back to work.  The feeling of not wanting to return to work after the holiday was a much stronger feeling than the typical return to work blues after a fabulous holiday. Whilst we were away we started to think of different things I could do and we came up with the concept of Daily Blooms.

How much experience did you have in floristry and running a business before you started?
As a way to break up my analytical job, I started to study for my certificate II in floristry of an evening.  It was a great way to get my creative fix and break up the monotony of number crunching.  But in terms of running a small business, I had absolutely no experience.

How did the concept of your business come about?
My husband and I developed the concept about three years ago on our honeymoon in New York.  We both had financial backgrounds so we knew the traditional floristry model was outdated and didn’t make financial sense. With high perishable inventory costs as well as high street rents and staff, we knew there had to be a better way to turn my passion into a business. So we came up with the idea of one bunch per day – that way we eliminated the need to carry a vast array of perishable flowers which meant we could sell our blooms at a lower cost point. We also knew that the business needed to be quick and easy for customers who are time poor.

How do you practically manage staff that are more qualified than you?
Building a great team environment and creating a culture that is hard-working but fun has been really important to me. I have tried to create a fairly flat structure within the business so that everyone feels responsible to get the job done. The team of florists have no problem asking me to sweep the floors and vice versa I can ask any of them to hold my three month-old baby if I need to type an email or go to a meeting (which clearly isn’t part of the job description). We all work as a team to get our flowers out the door.

What are some non-negotiables that you think lead to a profitable business?
Energy and passion. In the three years since Daily Blooms has started I have had two babies so there have been times when I’ve been tired beyond belief and wanted to give up.  I think being passionate about flowers and my business has meant that even when things get hard or I am tired I still fundamentally love what I do and want the business to be successful. I think with any business, if you don’t have passion and energy for what you are doing, then it is reflected in the work you do.

What made you want to hire more experienced people than yourself?
I want Daily Blooms to be the best florist it can possibly be. By hiring the best people I can, I am hoping that the bouquets we create are always beautiful and our service is exceptional.

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