Discover more from Future Commerce
Episode 186
December 11, 2020

Smelling the Roses

This week, Lee Greene from Future Commerce Podcast, Stairway to CEO takes over as she interviews Sunny Chadha, Co-Founder and CEO of Venus ET Fleur, as he shares his personal journey to becoming a CEO. If you like what you hear, subscribe to Stairway to CEO anywhere podcasts are found.

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this episode sponsored by

Founded in 2015 by Sunny Chadha and his wife, Seema, Venus ET Fleur takes a modern approach to floral design. Inspired by beautiful Parisian hat boxes and featuring Eternity Roses, which are real roses that last a year, the brand hit 20 million dollars in revenue in its first three years and has grown to over half a million followers on Instagram. In this episode, Sunny shares with us his entrepreneurial journey from growing up in New Jersey and working for his father's electronic company, to a disappointing Valentine's Day that sparked the idea for his company. Sunny talks with us about how Instagram posts from the Kardashians affected the business, why he believes in vision boards, and what it's like to run a business with your spouse.

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How growing up in New Jersey/New York with an entrepreneurial father laid the groundwork for both he and his brother to become entrepreneurs as well
  • How he learned to be adaptive and find the good in change after his mom became an entrepreneur following a major shift in his home life
  • Why he left college to work with his dad to learn what real life business experience would teach him 
  • How he and his brother learned even more about business through a popular brunch spot and nightclub they started in Manhattan in 2013 and then through a commercial lending business they started with their friend and roommate
  • Why a disappointing Valentine’s Day turned into a pretty awesome business idea that Sunny and Seema quickly started to develop, even in the midst of their very new relationship with each other
  • How they used social media to grow their business, which included some posts from the Kardashians that brought in more traffic than they expected and the brilliant idea Sunny had to navigate that in the moment 
  • What led to the development of the Eternity Rose and why that has become the next big thing in florals
  • Ways they continue to innovate, add product offerings, educate their customers and offer new and beautiful ways to have florals in homes, offices, and really anywhere 
  • What advice Sunny has for keeping the morale strong within the team culture, hiring people you trust, and creating vision boards to keep your eyes fixed on the future of your brand

To Find Out More:


“Through life you go through things like that, and as long as you look at it to sort of bring out the positive, it's always going to teach you something good. There's always going to be something that you take out of it to develop yourself.”

“We were able to do something very, very foreign to us, but it kind of taught us that as long as we work hard at it, we have the right team, the right support, the right hard workers, we can do it.”

“I love getting opinions from people that are close to me, but also the more opinions, the more complicated your decision becomes.”

“I think not getting too much sort of cloudiness in your thoughts and just like still staying true to what you're thinking and what your gut tells you.” 

“That's one of the beautiful things about a business is like if it feels right, do it. You're the one that's going to be doing all the work. So make sure you just sign off on it yourself and just hit the ground running as fast as you can.”

“It was like this feeling of like this is going to be different. This is going to be new. And this is going to be something that is going to be big.”

“Once we were able to inject the perfect version, being our Eternity Rose, into the florals...that lifted that restriction on geography for me. And I was able to continue to try and grow as fast as we could. So that was a big thing.”

“I think development everywhere is what keeps me going. It keeps me really sort of on my toes. Like, what can we keep doing? How can we continue to grow?”

“We started to introduce these new product categories to where we educated customers on where else you can utilize florals within your space.”

“You can plan for demand and you can buy inventory, but you also have to make sure that you have enough people that can package and design and so on. And then also customer service. As we grow, all the sides of the business grow and it's important for people to remember all those other parts of the business as well.”

“I think it's very important for couples out there that are looking to get into business together to make sure from the beginning that you have that alignment and understanding.” 

“You want to move quickly. So a lot of people might just be like, "Hey, we'll figure it out as we go," but then as you go and those things become pain problems, it can also negatively impact the business, but more so even the personal relationship.”

“We need to have that work/personal life balance, which is very, very important for sure. And I always recommend that.”

“I think team building and really understanding who those people are is super important.”

“It's something that I'd say is not just to hope to get to the goal and then look back at the journey. Also embrace it as you go through the journey.”

Phillip: [00:01:33] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:38] And I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:40] He laughs like... I don't think I've done the intro in a very long time.

Brian: [00:01:43] I feel like it's true.

Phillip: [00:01:45] We don't say cutting edge anymore.

Brian: [00:01:46] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:01:47] I was the one who said cutting edge is stupid. Why are we saying that?

Brian: [00:01:51] That's why I snickered.

Phillip: [00:01:53] The leading bleeding edge though of commerce.

Brian: [00:01:56] The leading bleeding edge. Yikes, that's kind of scary.

Phillip: [00:01:59] Yeah, a little bit. Brian, how the heck are you?

Brian: [00:02:04] I'm good. How are you?

Phillip: [00:02:05] You know... I'm okay.

Brian: [00:02:09] You tired? I'm tired.

Phillip: [00:02:09] I'm exhausted, man. It's the end of the year, and we've had kind of an amazing year at Future Commerce despite all the odds. And but we just keep on keeping on and things are great. Next week is a big week for us.

Brian: [00:02:26] That is true.

Phillip: [00:02:27] It's like our last big thing of the year. Next week, Monday, if you're listening to this, it's coming Monday the 14th. We're dropping our final season of the year like our second, no third installment for the year. Right? For Step by Step by Step.

Brian: [00:02:41] Yeah third installment of the year. It's the fourth season of Step by Step.

Phillip: [00:02:46] It's so good.

Brian: [00:02:47] Yeah, I'm stoked.

Phillip: [00:02:49] Yeah.

Brian: [00:02:50] Step by Step, sponsored by Omnisend who is a longtime sponsor of Future Commerce and just great friends of the show. Super excited about what they had to say. And some of those interviews are just off the hook. The people we talked to, I'm just like, how are we talking to these people? They are so cool.

Phillip: [00:03:11] It's very, very cool. Great. You know, what's interesting is the last season of Step by Step had instant brand recognition. This season of Step by Step has, I dare I say, like some of the coolest people I've ever talked to in my life. I mean, just the sheer audacity that some of these people have in creating and running the businesses that they have against all odds. So the fourth season of Step by Step, it's covering how does a DTC brand compete against established brands? Like how do you do that? What do you do? How do you put either capital into motion or put ingenuity to work or make things more automated in your business to succeed in a world that is like constantly dominated by more well capitalized brands who can outspend you every day of the week? And we're going to ask some really smart people and some really interesting up and coming brands how they're doing that. So, yeah, if you want to find out more and if you want to find all the prior seasons of Step by Step, you can find it at We're doing something a little different today, Brian.

Brian: [00:04:25] We are doing something a little bit different. I'm really excited about what we're about to do. Nobody knows what's coming yet. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:04:34] We did this early on. You know, we partnered with Lee Greene, the host of our other podcast on the network. Here we have a network, I guess. I just said that. I guess that's what we have. I don't know.

Brian: [00:04:46] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:04:46] In the Future Commerce family, it's a podcast that if you're not subscribed to, you should be right now. It comes out every Tuesday. It's called Stairway to CEO. Lee Greene is not just a great interviewer, not just a great podcast host who has a really, really interesting approach to getting people to tell their story for founders and really brilliant people, but to  just, like, get down into what makes them tick. But Lee is highly credentialed herself, having grown and founded a business herself.

Brian: [00:05:22] And sold.

Phillip: [00:05:24] And sold. Raised capital and sold and made a successful exit out of her business. And so just a great tech founder herself. And she had a a great interview this last week. And we thought it would be really, really interesting to bring it over to the Future Commerce side. So we're going to bring that here today. Sunny Chadha is the Co-Founder and CEO of Venus ET Fleur. And if you are on Instagram at all, and you were on Instagram around Mother's Day or around Valentine's Day in the last two years, you've probably seen this brand. They provide beautiful flowers in a hatbox, sort of a Parisian hatbox, that lasts for up to a year. And just an incredible founder's story. And these Eternity Roses are just, they're to hit.

Brian: [00:06:16] Beautiful. They're beautiful.

Phillip: [00:06:16] The brand scaled to twenty million dollars in Parisian hatbox Eternity Roses inside of three years. And they have a half million followers on Instagram. Dare I say they're touching success right now, and Sunny is a great interview. So that's what's going to happen in just a few seconds time. We're going to switch over and you're going to hear the interview that Lee did on Episode 31 of Stairway to CEO. And if you want more Stairway to CEO, go subscribe wherever podcasts are found. You can also find it at Parting thoughts, Brian.

Brian: [00:06:52] I'm just excited for this interview. I love listening to Lee Greene talk. She is just a delight to listen to. And like you said, she just brings a wealth of knowledge that I just love hearing her speak. And she's great.

Phillip: [00:07:07] There's a talent in interviewing and getting people to open up to you that she possesses that I do not. It's going to be great. All right. So without any further ado, this is Stairway to CEO, Episode 31, with Sunny Chadha, the Co-Founder and CEO of Venus ET Fleur.

Lee: [00:00:46] Welcome to Episode 31 of The Stairway to CEO podcast. I'm your host, Lee Greene, and today we've got a great show for you, an interview with Sunny Chadha, the Co-Founder and CEO of Venus ET Fleur. Founded in 2015 by Sunny and his wife, Seema, Venus ET Fleur takes a modern approach to floral design. Inspired by beautiful Parisian hat boxes and featuring Eternity Roses, which are real roses that last a year, the brand hit 20 million dollars in revenue in its first three years and has grown to over half a million followers on Instagram. In this episode, Sunny shares with us his entrepreneurial journey from growing up in New Jersey and working for his father's electronic company, to a disappointing Valentine's Day that sparked the idea for his company. Sunny talks with us about how Instagram posts from the Kardashians affected the business, why he believes in vision boards, and what it's like to run a business with your spouse. Tune in to hear all of this and more if you like what you hear and don't forget to subscribe to the show and leave us an awesome review. We hope you enjoy.

Lee: [00:02:01] Sunny, thanks so much for being on the show today. I'm super excited to hear your story. Yeah, thanks so much.

Sunny: [00:02:08] Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Lee: [00:02:11] So where are you from originally?

Sunny: [00:02:14] So originally born and raised in New Jersey. The East Coast, my whole life up until pretty much two and a half, three years ago when Venus ET Fleur decided to open a new facility out here in LA. But prior to that was just an East Coast guy. So New Jersey, New York my entire life.

Lee: [00:02:31] Where in New Jersey?

Sunny: [00:02:33] Princeton. So I was born just outside of Princeton, went to school there, and then moved over to Manhattan just after high school.

Lee: [00:02:41] Very cool. I'm from Delaware. So East Coast represent living in LA now. So what was childhood like?

Sunny: [00:02:49] Childhood for us was just all around, just sort of working with parents. So my dad's an entrepreneur himself, moved over to the states from India and and founded a business in the late 70s. And so for him, it was really just about how there's so much that goes into starting the business. You have to know all aspects of it. So for us, when we were really young, it was funny, our friends during summer breaks would try and plan these trips and so on or summer camps. And for us it was like you have to jump straight into work and ride into Manhattan every day with our dad. So but it was really fun. I get to really see what went into, for him, how he was really working day to day, what his day looked like. For us during the school year, it was always waking up at the same time as him. He would head out to work and he'd come back really late at night. So we didn't really understand how this day went until we actually were part of it in summertimes. And so it was really cool for us. My brother and I are both entrepreneurs, and it was fascinating. I think that's kind of one of the really big reasons that contributed to why both of us are small business owners today.

Lee: [00:03:59] That's awesome. And so what kind of company did your dad run?

Sunny: [00:04:02] So he had an electronics company. When he came over from India he realized that none of his electronics were working. And so he quickly founded a company where they were taking care of the adapters for traveling for plug adapters and voltage converters and things like that. And then he sort of fell into a different part of the business where he realized that friends and family and people that were abroad were always trying to figure out ways to get United States size appliances, so the larger refrigerators or washers and dryers that weren't available internationally. So he became a distributor for these brands, GE, Sub-Zero, and all these manufacturers to where they would produce international voltages, but on US specs. And he was able to sell them to customers that were either moving abroad or wanted that size. So it was very cool because it was such a different approach than the traditional electronics companies out there, an appliance companies. So it was cool to see how he was able to sort of crack that consumer, if you will, and figure out how to reach them. So it was kind of like his way to market to them, but not the way that we market today. I think that kind of opened up ideas for us too as we got a lot of experience working with him.

Lee: [00:05:12] That's really cool. So is that just you and your brother or do you have other siblings?

Sunny: [00:05:15] It's my brother, myself and an older sister. She's not in the small business world. She's a doctor. So a completely different path than us.

Lee: [00:05:23] So are you the youngest or in the middle?

Sunny: [00:05:25] I'm the middle child.

Lee: [00:05:27] All right. And so these summers with your dad and your brother kind of working with the business, what were some of the insights that you had during those summers with the company? And what were you doing and what did you see? What were some of the pros and cons that you saw, I guess, early on about starting a company?

Sunny: [00:05:42] Yes. So my dad, he would bring us in. And early on it was more so about just like sort of shadowing him and just seeing how his day went, all the different touch points that he had every day with people that worked for him, with vendors, with everything. And so it really just opened up our eyes to how large of an operation of business is. We always thought, oh, there's a shop that we see photos of and he's standing there and they sell. Someone walks in, they buy something and they're out. And then once we were working with him we really understood how everything works in a business. And so early on, it was a lot of the shadowing. And as we matured with them, there was more so a focus. For me, it was on the operations side. So it was a lot of vendor management, understanding how to plan for certain purchases, when product would come in, cash management as well. You don't want too much inventory and not being able to move it to anybody. And with electronics, as everyone knows, it's such a fast moving industry where technology for a TV today is this brand new thing and in six months it's old. So there was a lot of management of inventory that I was involved in early on. My brother was more so on the technical side. So we had a division of the business where we did the installations. And so he did a lot of planning around relationship building with businesses that would sort of we would contract and they would end up doing installations for us, for consumers and stuff. And I think for him, that's why he's so into the business development side of even Venus ET Fleur. Because he kind of was was injected into that early on and he found himself being so good at it.

Lee: [00:07:18] That's awesome. So that sounds like a fun family thing to do in the summer. But what else happened in childhood? Did you play sports or were you really just kind of working on your lemonade stand at age five or what?

Sunny: [00:07:31] Yeah, so I played baseball. My brother, not so much. And so it was just a lot of like the normal after school hang with friends, neighborhood hockey on the street and playing man hunt at night. So for us it was just a lot of that. I think what was funny is since my dad was in the electronics world, we always had access to video games first. So we were always that house that everyone would come over to during snowstorms, and we'd have a few different rooms in the house. So there were TVs and an Xbox and we would just play all night long. And so with friends we talk about back in those days, like how funny it was as kids to just sort of find out that school was closed for a couple of days and all hang out together, and it was so fun. So childhood memories were amazing. We traveled a lot so we would visit family in India. My mom's Indian, but she's third generation in Hong Kong. So it was really cool to travel out to Hong Kong and just see sort of the culture difference and so on. But yeah, childhood is a lot about sort of taking it all in in the neighborhood with friends during the year and then a little bit of travel plus work during summers.

Lee: [00:08:52] And what was one of the hardest things for you growing up?

Sunny: [00:08:56] I think so my parents ended up realizing that they wanted to sort of separate from each other. And so for us, it was weird because we're used to that. But at the same time, I think it kind of developed us to really understanding how things change through life. But we were able to still maintain such great relationships with our parents and just really see the qualities. My mom, she was home with us all the time. And when my parents were together and then after kind of found out how this entrepreneurial side of her kicked in. She loves cooking. So she would start doing meal preps or catering events and things like that. So it was really cool just to see how life changes at times and how people can adapt to how those changes go. So that was something that I think really, really taught us a lot about responsibilities. Also my brother is younger than I am, and so I had to sort of take him under my wing in the sense of like, obviously there's side effects to shifts in family and stuff like that. And so for him, it was a lot of just like taking them in, making sure he was good and so on. But [00:10:05] through life you go through things like that and it really just, as long as you look at it to sort of bring out the positive, it's always going to teach you something good. There's always going to be something that you take out of it to develop yourself. [00:10:15]

Lee: [00:10:15] That's an excellent perspective to have. And you're right, I believe the same thing. So that's awesome. You took your brother under your wing and, you saw your mom transition, which is pretty cool. So when you were in high school going off to college, where did you go to school and what was college like?

Sunny: [00:10:35] Yeah, so working with my dad sort of towards the end of high school, it started to become this, "Hey, you want a car? I'll get you a car. But just know that after school you're driving up to Manhattan, and you're working for a couple hours." So even though it wasn't summer break, there was a lot of work during the weekdays in Manhattan. So I just fell in love with business. And so when college started to come around, I went to community college just outside of West Windsor, New Jersey. I was there for about a semester. And then I just realized I just have such a passion for business. I really like what I'm doing now. I'm learning so much. And I was like, let me step aside from school for just a little bit and kind of develop in sort of the business world and just see what that's about. Being in school my entire life, obviously, it was just different for me just to be able to sort of do that. I also wanted to sort of live on my own and not be under my dad's full time supervision, if you will, in the sense of I want to see what is it like working and having to responsibly manage your finances and everything. And so for me, it was a step that I wanted to take at the time. And I think even looking back at it now, I'm very glad that I did.

Lee: [00:11:54] That's awesome. So are you working for your dad during that time or did you work for someone else? It sounds like you went for someone else.

Sunny: [00:12:00] No, I was working my dad, but it was far more formal at this time. So it was a strict paycheck. It was if things weren't happening, there were repercussions to it. There wasn't any more of, hey, dad, let me get your credit card to go fill up gas. It was it was really all just I was treated like an employee. I really had to grow in that understanding of what it is like to really have a boss over you instead of sort of having a father and mentor. It was a cool transition. But as I'm sure people out there who have heard family business stories before, there's a lot of challenges too. You're 17, 18 years old. You're trying to understand why your dad has gone from this nice guy that if you ask in the right ways, you can get what you want to a person who's just very strict and stern on you, and maintaining a work and personal relationship is very difficult at that age. But it teaches you a lot. And I think even now when I look back at it and I laugh and joke with my dad about it sometimes. He's like, "You know how tough you were when you were 17, 18? You would always complain and get angry when I would tell you to do certain things." He's like, "But look at, look at now. Look at how you developed with all those things." It really molds you into who you are. And so I laugh at it now. But back then, looking at it, I used to get so frustrated. I'd be like, "You were nice a couple of months ago. What's going on now?"

Lee: [00:13:27] Right. I lost all my power. What happened?

Sunny: [00:13:31] I know. I know. And then my brother's sitting there. If he still angles it in the right way and asks, he gets what he wants. And I'm like, whoa, what's going on, man? And I'd have to go to my brother like, "Dude, like ask dad for something, so I can get it."

Lee: [00:13:46] Right. Work through the brother.

Sunny: [00:13:48] Yeah.

Lee: [00:13:49] That's funny. Yeah. So interesting. Challenges working with family. That's definitely a topic we'll have to hit on in a little bit but. So how long did you do that? And then where did you go from there?

Sunny: [00:14:02] Yes I was with my dad for a few years, probably about three or four years. And while all my friends were in college, I visited them and towards like the middle to end of everyone's time in college, study abroad became a thing. And so my dad, who specialized in international plug adapters and things like that, I kind of thought about it and I'm like, hey, look, let me try and figure out a different angle here. My dad's partnering with HR at these companies, moving companies and so on for his business. Let me try and talk to some of the schools out there that my friends go to school at and just try to angle it as "You have these study abroad programs and the kids who travel abroad, their parents probably aren't thinking about the plug adapter needs and stuff. Their cell phones and laptops are working. They also don't want them to plug in a hairdryer into a socket and have it burn out. So let me educate them a little." So I put together... I went on to Fiber and I put together a quick flier on sort of what the approach was, sort of what the benefits of utilizing our company was, and I sent it off to a couple of universities and they bid at it. So that's kind of when I knew there was something there. And I was able to partner with a few universities out there who recommended our company to the study abroad programs, the students along with their parents as well, when they would have the information packet that would go out. So it was really cool being able to sort of start something different than my dad, branch out if you will, and kind of be like, hey, I own that. I was able to do something different. So it was cool. I was with them for about three or four years. And then my brother had an opportunity in Manhattan with a friend that he had met to open a restaurant and nightclub in the summer of 2013. So it was just going to be a pop up. We were at the time were very scrappy and really we're just trying to figure out what we can do. Originally the thought was go into some kind of a beer garden style outdoor thing. And quickly we turned it into a very popular outdoor brunch spot and nightclub. And so it was really cool because we had no experience in the nightlife space. We had no experience managing that many people. But we were able to quickly just sort of learn and work with the right people, really be hands on, very scrappy. And we funded everything ourselves, just being super... We built like this barter system, which is funny. So we had palm trees in Manhattan, which no one else. And so we called a farm down in Florida. And we're like, "Yes, like we need these palm trees, but we don't have money for it. But if you come up to New York, you can have dinner and drinks at our place whenever you want." And one of the farms out there was like, "Okay, cool, let's do it." And so we ended up bringing palm trees up and building out planters with friends and stuff, so it was very cool [00:16:57]. We were able to do something very, very foreign to us, but it kind of taught us that as long as we work hard at it, we have the right team, the right support, the right hard workers, we can do it. [00:17:08] So it was a fun little thing for about three months over a summer.

Lee: [00:17:14] What was it called?

Sunny: [00:17:16] It was called Mako. Mako New York. So it was a little pop up and it was a fun time.

Lee: [00:17:22] Where was it located in New York?

Sunny: [00:17:25] It was adjacent to the Midtown ferry terminal. So it was on 39th and 12th.

Lee: [00:17:29] Interesting.

Sunny: [00:17:31] Yeah.

Lee: [00:17:32] Cool.

Sunny: [00:17:33] So it was a good time for sure. After that, one of our friends that my brother and I were living with, he was starting up a small business, commercial lending business. And so really what it was is working with people that needed to finance commercial equipment like tractors and trailers, some people that were looking to fund a hotel or a restaurant. And so I started working on that with him and really developing the company and again, taught us something so different because I had never worked on something like that before. It was very new to me, but we were just getting very, we were diving very deep into sort of what it takes to build a business like that, who are the people you can partner with, and so on. And so we're able to build that. And probably about five months later is when I met my now wife and Co-Founder of Venus ET Fleur and our journey started.

Lee: [00:19:16] So what was the name of that commercial equipment financing company that you're referring to?

Sunny: [00:19:21] Yes, it was called Alpha Finance.

Lee: [00:19:24] Alpha Finance. All right. And so did you leave after five months or?

Sunny: [00:19:28] Yeah, it wasn't really that I left after five months. I told my buddy I was like, "Hey man, I got this crazy idea, but I to agree to go with it. And it was the concept for Venus ET Fleur. And he was like, "Alright man, do what you got to do." And so I still very much was helping him with it and really built out people that were able to come in and sort of transition over to the workload that I had so that there was no lag in that business and it continue to move forward. But he's one of my best friends. And so we speak every single day. So there was never really a lag in any of the business operations. It was just this little stretch away of every single day you're with your friends and you're in this business and now it's like I step away, and I'm focusing on this other business now. And so you don't see them every day. But it was so much fun.

Lee: [00:20:12] So how did you come up with the concept, an idea for your company?

Sunny: [00:20:16] So for Venus ET Fleur, I met my wife Seema in December of 2014 and so we started dating just after. And so Valentine's Day came around and we were in two different cities. I had gone online, done a lot of research for floral delivery, spoken to the person there, really told them what I wanted. And on Valentine's Day, she ended up getting a delivery late in the day. So she wasn't quite sure if I was even going to send anything. And so she got the delivery, but it just wasn't what I had purchased. It was very, very different than what I had purchased. It wanted this grand bouquet with a bunch of roses to be very abundant. And here comes a delivery of roses that were sort of bent over and already wilting. And she appreciated the gesture. But we were so early in our... I don't think we were really, like, dating dating at that time. It was more so just like we were talking and just so into each other. And I was like, "Hey, look, like I really spent a lot of time and effort into planning this delivery. I can show you I not this cheap guy that just like went online and just hit buy and that's it and left alone. And she really appreciated it. She was laughing and we started talking about it. So what's really cool is she has a very similar story to me where she started working with her family in their family business really early on. And so with her strength and sort of at the time with her family was in the design and packaging side of their business. So we started talking about Venus. And at that time, it wasn't even Venus ET Fleur. It was just sort of this bad delivery. So many people must be facing the exact same thing for Valentine's Day. But then there's other holidays. There's Mother's Day, birthdays and anniversaries and so on. So we begin conceptualizing sort of what would be Venus ET Fleur. And so it was amazing because we started talking about it after Valentine's Day, so literally February 15, and by middle to end of March, we had already had samples that were rolling in of sort of prototypes of the look and style of this box.

Lee: [00:22:23] That's awesome. So a disappointing kind of Valentine's Day turns into a pretty awesome business idea.

Sunny: [00:22:30] Yeah, it was. We recognized it. We were just like, hey, there's such a void in this space because a lot of our research led to like what you're seeing is now what you get. People are going online and looking at these floral sites that are promising this beautiful, abundant delivery. But then what you end up getting is so different. And so it just takes away from the experience. And it may not be so much of the look, but instead of the message. The person that's purchasing it for you, what were they conveying. They wanted you to receive something abundant. It's something that they had curated. Why wasn't that delivered? So that's really what took us to really conceptualizing and starting this brand.

Lee: [00:23:10] And so how did you come up with the name?

Sunny: [00:23:13] So Seema has always been very attracted to goddess Venus. She had the birth of Venus painting above her bed ever since she was a kid. Venus is all about beauty, romance, the finer things in life, and so I do not take credit in the name. That was all her creative brain. And so she came up with the name Venus ET Fleur. So sort of Venus and roses, or the love of roses, the love of florals, if you will. And so I love the name. It sounded amazing to me, but little do I know about the branding side of things. She was really on it. And I'm just like, "Ok, cool. We got the name. Let's start running faster with this now. Let's get this on boxes. Let's get sort of the entire supply chain locked in." So it was very fun.

Lee: [00:23:57] So did you ever have, like, any hesitation, is it really what I should do, get into business with this girl that I just met? Or did you get married and then start the business? How did you navigate that?

Sunny: [00:24:10] Yeah, it was so crazy because friends and family were just like, "Dude, you are crazy." And on her side, it's funny because they were like, "You are crazy." We weren't even in the same country. She's from Canada, and I'm from New York. So completely different areas. But it just felt real and it felt like the right thing to do. And we had only been... We met for a short time, met in December. By middle of February we're talking about a business idea. We're getting samples by end of March. She ended up moving out here in June. So everything just moved so quick. But it just all felt so right. We're so similar. We have the same views, the same like in style and everything. It just really clicked. And so the business side of it, we're both just so driven. It was such a new relationship for both personal and business. We were just like trying to continue to keep that spark running. And we're just like, hey, what about this side of the business? Or something came up where she had an idea and I would support it. It's just like that smile that's like, oh, wow, I guess I'm supporting this vision. Like, let's just keep running with it. [00:25:19] And if it wasn't the right thing, well, then you find out together and you work together on fixing whatever that problem was. [00:25:26] So it was just great. It was crazy times for sure. But I wouldn't have done it any other way. And I'm so thankful that that's the way that everything turned out for us.

Lee: [00:25:37] So interesting you say that. Work together on fixing it and getting through the problem, working through the problems together. I think that's really interesting because I think a lot of people will be like, what do I do if shit hits the fan? And now I've got this girl that I'm in business with now and I got to, like, break up. Do I break up or break up the business? It becomes very complicated, but it sounds like you guys both have the right attitude and getting into this where you're like, we're going to just make this work.

Sunny: [00:26:04] Yeah, no, we're just on board the whole way. And for us, it was just a lot of like it felt right. We didn't want too many experts thoughts to just sort of like impact our decisions today. We were just like, hey, look like this feels good, let's keep running, let's stay positive. There wasn't thoughts of like what happens if this breaks up? Every now and then friends would be like, "Hey man, you guys are in a new relationship. What happens, though, if you guys break up?" I'm like, we're not thinking of that. If that ever happens, we talk about it then. But right now, we're both just running fast and this feels right, so we're going to do it.

Lee: [00:26:41] Good for you. That's awesome to hear. And I like that maybe it sounds like you avoided external thoughts from other people quite a bit. Like maybe you kept it under wraps until it was at a certain point. Is that accurate?

Sunny: [00:26:52] Yeah, for sure. So we weren't really telling too many people about the idea. [00:26:57] I love getting opinions from people that are close to me, but also the more opinions, the more complicated your decision becomes. [00:27:04] So it was a lot of like the two of us to bounce ideas off each other. My brother has always been my best friend, just going through, like, thoughts and ideas with him too. Like, what are your thoughts with this and that? With one of my best friends who I started the other company, Alpha Finance, with... Asking him ideas and stuff. His his dad has been a great advisor, mentor to us too. So asking him ideas and thoughts. So I really just kept it limited on who we were sort of telling the idea about and then disclosed it sort of just this summer was starting off and just telling people like, "Hey, guys do me a favor like this business, a new venture idea for us." And people are just like, "OK, I like the page, but like are you crazy? You guys just started this business together and they just started dating?"

Lee: [00:27:54] That's exactly why I didn't tell you earlier.

Sunny: [00:27:56] Exactly.

Lee: [00:27:57] {laughter} You know, [00:27:59] I actually really believe that million dollar ideas are probably destroyed every day by other people's opinions, and that if Founders or aspiring entrepreneurs could keep a lot of their kind of secrets to themselves of the ideas they have a little bit closer to the chest than they might be able to take it a little bit farther.  [00:28:17]No one wants to have their baby judged before it's born, right?

Sunny: [00:28:22] A hundred percent. Totally agree with that. [00:28:24] I think not getting too much sort of cloudiness in your thoughts and just like still staying true to what you're thinking and what your gut tells you. That's one of the beautiful things about a business is like if it feels right, do it. You're the one that's going to be doing all the work. So make sure you just sign off on it yourself and just hit the ground running as fast as you can. [00:28:46]

Lee: [00:28:46] So I feel like you guys probably got married as fast as you started a business together. Is that true?

Sunny: [00:28:52] {laughter} So we ended up getting married in 2018. And so we it was crazy. We had our ceremony and everything just around December. So it was Christmas time. We ended up going to New Year's and then we came back to New Jersey. We got married in Miami. And so we ended up coming back to New Jersey and really just jumping straight into Valentine's Day prep, so it was crazy times for sure, but it was amazing just being able to sort of celebrate with friends and everything and then just jump right into our holiday season.

Lee: [00:29:28] That's awesome. So starting a business is pretty tough. What were some of the first things you had to do? And I know you didn't take any investor money at all. You've bootstrap this yourself. So how did you guys financially kind of get things running early on? And I think that's one of the biggest hurdles for a lot of Founders, is like, "Oh, I need money. Hey, investors, where are you?" Instead of realizing maybe I need to spend my own money on this.

Sunny: [00:29:53] Yeah, for sure. You know, for us, it was just fully self-funded from us. We were putting together sort of everything we had. We had an apartment in Manhattan that we were working out of. We asked my dad if we could use some of his warehouse storage for product. So we were really scrambling. And sort of as we started the business, we also wanted to really learn everything about it. I didn't want to hire, the both of us, didn't want to hire people too quickly. Because, one, we wanted to try and save as much of the cash we could to continue to inject into the business, but two I wanted to learn from everything. So the cool thing was that early on Seema would actually put together all of the arrangements. So we'd go into the floral market together. We would purchase all the florals and come back to the apartment. We set it all up. While she's setting it up inside of Google Maps to try to plan our deliveries. We ended up purchasing a hybrid car just so I can do all the deliveries. So I would actually go down and start my journey every day to doing deliveries all the way down to Baltimore and then coming back up through Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, through New Jersey and then up through New York, all five boroughs wherever the deliveries were, and I then up into Connecticut. So I would start my delivery route around 7/7:30 in the morning and I'd probably finish and get back around 8:00 pm. But along the way, I would tell Seema, I'd say, "Hey, look, these the cities I'm driving through. Google the top ten luxury florals, floral shops that were there, and I'm just going to cold call them and try to pitch them this idea," because early on we didn't have the Eternity Roses. It was traditional long stem roses that had water pick tubes that were attached to the bottom. And so after a couple of days, the roses would die. And that was the product at the time. And so my whole thought was, hey, if I can try and get sort of a network of people that I believe can produce up to our standards, we can partner with them, provide them with the raw materials, and then they would just have to get florals and put it together. So it's funny because I would drive down to Philadelphia or Baltimore and on my way I would call the shops like, "Hey, my name is Sunny, I have a company called Venus ET Fleur. There are florals that are boxed in to arrangements and delivered. I'd love to send you more information on it. I think you love it and would love to do some kind of revenue share with you." And before I can even get that far, it was just like "click." They don't want to even hear.

Lee: [00:32:17] Really? Why is that? Why do you think that was?

Sunny: [00:32:20] You know, I think people just didn't understand. They didn't understand why I was calling. The business was so young. So there wasn't any PR or social media around it that I can really sort of say, hey, take a look at this. It was really just a new concept at the time that was starting to transition to reality. And so I think when I would call a couple of them, they were just sort of like, "Oh, no, I don't want to hear this," or whatever and just hang up. Some of the other people that would actually answer. I would talk to were like, "Let me talk to my boss about this idea," or whatever. I was luckily able to meet with a few people and actually start to branch out on the idea of having fresh florals fulfilled in different cities. But after a little bit of time, we realized that the control aspect starts to be taken away. It's very hard for you to be able to control quality if you're not actually running data decks.

Lee: [00:33:06] What happened from there? So you are doing deliveries yourself for a while. You probably got to the point... At what point did you realize it was working? Like when did you say, you know, OK, throwing in the towel is no longer an option. This is actually really working. Look at this. What was your kind of like measurement of success?

Sunny: [00:33:24] Yeah. For us, we really started to go hard with the social media marketing. And so Seema, who really understands social media, she would just start to put posts up, utilize hashtags and utilize locations and send direct messages to influencers out there. Just saying that we love their style and their page. We'd love to partner with them if possible and send them some product. And so early on had people that loved the look and style of it and we're willing to accept the delivery in exchange for a post or whatever it was. And so that really started to get the ball rolling for us. There was a lot of awareness. There was people that were like, "Hey, I love this influencer is doing and would love to support sort of what they enjoy posting," and so on. So that started to work really well for us and we just continued to utilize that as we grew. We ended up speaking to a couple people out in LA. We were getting the influencers working out here, and then after a little bit of time, we were able to sort of get in front of the Kardashians. And for us, that was something that was a goal, right? They were setting trends and they were the people that everyone was looking up to for the new style and fashion and products and so on. And for us, we were able to fortunately have them post on their Instagrams. And even though it wasn't a tag for the brand, it was visible. And so people were searching. It was funny because I would be on our Shopify just looking at Shopify, Google Analytics, and some real time business. And people say, oh my God, there's a hundred people on our site. Oh my God, there's five hundred people on the site. Oh my God, there's three thousand people on the site. And I'm just like... The phone started ringing. At that time, we only had a cell phone and that was one line. We were taking calls on it and it was just like, it was ringing, and I would answer the phone. And then a second later, you hear a beep and it'd be another call coming in. And I put it on hold and then I would hear another beep. And unfortunately, back in the day when that would happen, it would drop the first person that called because you can only have two people on hold. So it's just like, oh, my God, like, what do we do? And [00:35:31] it was crazy. But we really utilized social media to really grow the business. [00:35:36] We were fortunate enough to have a lot of supporters of the brand, celebrities, but also people that were really open to trying the concept and seeing the style and so on. So we continued to grow the business. Just prior to the celebrities, like the Kardashians and so on, posting the brand, it was really important to me to try and see how can I try and prolong the days that these florals would last. Because they were traditional long stem roses. So we ended up flying out to Ecuador. We scraped up enough money to fly out, Seema and I. We met with our farm that we were already importing roses with and they were working on their approach to conserve roses. And so they presented the idea to us and we were looking at the product and together we were able to perfect what is now the Eternity Rose. And so they're real roses that last for a year or longer. They're cut at their most peak and perfect state. They undergo a proprietary process where the getting dehydrated and a wax based formula is applied to them. But they also go from a dying process where there's color absorbed to the rose. So every single arrangement, let's just say you had a bouquet of red roses, they would all look almost identical. But at the end of the day, they are real roses. And so we were able to also have some of their scent was still present, some more than others. And so we were able to take that. And when we came home, [00:36:59] it was like this feeling of like this is going to be different. This is going to be new. And this is going to be something that is going to be big. [00:37:06] And so immediately I started really working with Seema, and we just excited the team where it was like, OK, let's figure out how to package this product perfectly. We can't box up in a in a regular shipping box these florals that were connected to water tubes because when they end up getting dropped upside down at UPS or whatever, or there's a delay in delivery, the roses are just going to die. Right? And then they end up, the look when the customer opens up the box is just so bad.

Lee: [00:37:37] Right.

Sunny: [00:37:38] And this is back to that first experience. It's all about the experience. And so the moment that we were able to inject our Eternity Roses into the product, where the look and the style and everything was identical to what we call our signature look, that is really what allowed our growth to sort of rocket. We were able to perfect our packaging and our relationships with vendors like UPS at the time were so strong where we were really keeping an eye on that transportation base, the time in transit, anything for customs, like making sure it was expedited, so there was no delay and so on. And that's really allowed us to to grow the company very quickly and be able to ship product globally to everybody.

Lee: [00:38:21] That's super interesting. And so when did you have these Eternity Roses kind of completed and ready to go? Because you started the company in, what, 2014?

Sunny: [00:38:30] Yeah, so it was in early 2015 when we started the company. We met with the father who had already pretty much finalized the rose, but with a few tweaks to it that we met with them on. We had product available to us in November of 2015, and so we went to market immediately.

Lee: [00:38:49] Oh wow. OK, cool. So that was pretty quickly. So you guys kind of knew, I mean where did the idea come from that instead of just having regular flowers, hmm wouldn't it be great to have flowers that lasted a lot longer? I mean, what was really that mind shift from let's be just a better floral company versus an entirely different kind of innovative brand?

Sunny: [00:39:11] Yeah,  [00:39:12]I hate being sort of stuck geographically. I really want to grow. I love to be able to grow a brand to where there is no restriction. [00:39:22] And so for us, the biggest restriction was we couldn't ship the florals to consumers. So quickly I built our Shopify site early on and there was no restrictions that I was able to build in on if someone was buying with a zip code outside of our handle of relocation to not allow them to purchase or whatever it was. And so the people that were purchasing in Ohio and Oklahoma and Texas and all around the world, and I would have to jump on the phone like, hey, unfortunately we don't service those areas yet. And I was canceling orders, which just sucked because I was like, there's people that want the product. They want this. So we were just really every single day it was such a strong focus of mine to be able to protect the shipping process. But [00:40:07] once we were able to inject the perfect version, being our Eternity Rose, into the florals, it allowed them to be... They don't require water. They don't require any maintenance. And so the florals were literally just perfectly put together by our design team in-house and able to be shipped to customers perfectly. And so that lifted that restriction on geography for me. And I was able to continue to try and grow as fast as we could. So that was a big thing. [00:40:36] We offered our signature, which were the traditional long stemmed fresh roses, along with our Eternity Roses to consumers. So there's two versions available on our site. But what we ended up finding out around Christmas time was as the sales were picking up and we were starting to sell out of product and we put it up on our social media like we're selling out, so buy quickly, people were going on just buying some of the product that may have been sort of cheaper, the entry point products, which were the signature roses, but there wasn't enough education to say that signature florals are the long stemmed fresh roses and Eternity Florals are ones that last year. They just kind of had this idea from influencers and celebrities and PR of like, "Oh, Venus ET Fleur is the company that has the roses that last forever," if you will.

Lee: [00:41:25] Yes.

Sunny: [00:41:25] And so that was a big challenge for us, was our identity. And so someone that's really close to us and an adviser to us was like, "Guys, you have something that's very great here. It's very different. If you offer both, it's going to continue to confuse people. And so there's a lot of management, right? You don't have the funds to invest in your tech to be able to sort of educate customers on what they can and cannot get." So at that time, it was like, all right, let's make this decision and let's rip this product out of here. And we're only going to be offering the Eternity Rose. And it was so risky for us, but we were like, well, it feels right. Let's do it. And so that's what ended up happening. And we just continue to invest all of our time and energy into the growth of Venus ET Fleur offering Eternity Roses to the world.

Lee: [00:42:12] So that's awesome. And the product is so beautiful. The branding is beautiful. I'm just wondering, how the hell do these flowers live for a year without water. Really?

Sunny: [00:42:23] {laughter} Yeah. No, they're all freshly grown. It's amazing because they actually are grown as red roses originally. They undergo a treatment where they absorb a dye that's nontoxic to change the color to whatever we want. So we have a wide variety of colors available, and we do have the ability of sort of creating custom colors as well, which we've done a little bit, which is really cool. Because if a brand has a particular colorway, we have the ability of matching.

Lee: [00:42:50] That's awesome.

Sunny: [00:42:51] It's cool. But yeah, the roses undergo a treatment which doesn't require them to have any water. There's no maintenance. You have to keep it in the room temperature environment. Avoid high humidities, and the product will last for a year or longer even.

Lee: [00:43:30] That's incredible. Yeah, like I said, it's really beautiful. You have 445K followers on Instagram. I mean... So well first off, let's go back to the Kim Kardashian thing, because I'm really curious. You went from like hundreds of visitors on the website to thousands. And I'm wondering how much converted like, can you put a revenue number to that one post from the Kardashians? I'm assuming it's Kim?

Sunny: [00:43:57] So it was actually it was crazy because it was Khloe. It was Kourtney. It was Kris. And then Kim posted to a story.

Lee: [00:44:05] Oh my gosh.

Sunny: [00:44:07] Yeah. They all posted the same day. I wish I could share revenue and I would love to, but there wasn't revenue generated from it. Which was the worst part.

Lee: [00:44:15] What?

Sunny: [00:44:15] So they posted on Valentine's Day when we had already sold out of product.

Lee: [00:44:20] Stop. So you didn't even have any product to sell when that happened?

Sunny: [00:44:24] We had nothing to sell. And so we were just like, we were going crazy because it was so early. Right? So it was 2016. We were still so young. We hadn't developed a robust supply chain team. We didn't have a warehouse.

Lee: [00:44:37] I think I would have cried. I think I want to cried. To be honest, I'd be so upset. I would be like, oh my God, the one day we get all of this traffic and we could have scored big and we couldn't even get a chance. I mean that's like devastating.

Sunny: [00:44:48] It was crazy because it was Valentine's Day. We had a small store in Manhattan that we had a few product available, and people were lining up. We were the third story where it was stairs only. No elevators. People out of all the way down the stairs and just asking for any product. So we were dealing with face to face retail, which we didn't really have. It was an office, but people had gotten the office address and just shown up. Do you have this?

Lee: [00:45:17] Oh my gosh.

Sunny: [00:45:18] Yeah it was crazy. And so there was there was that happening. There was customer service that we were on top of. So people asking when their delivery would happen. We didn't have all these these tracking softwares, as we do today, to bring clarity to what stage the process is the order. And so there is so much that we were handling. My brother was out on deliveries. Seema and I were in our office and we were just going through so much stuff, just dealing with it all. And the Kardashians post and when they posted my brother's girlfriend at the time was like, "Oh my gosh," and she screamed. And we're like, what happened? And she was like, "Kourtney just posted." And we're like, "No way." And we all got goosebumps. We ran over, looked at the Insta and saw it. And I was like, "Oh my God." Seema's crying. I'm laughing like, this is crazy. And then the phones start blowing up. But I'm like, "All right, guys, let's take this moment in later on. But for right now, we got to focus and deal with it." And so Instagram is getting hit with so many direct messages about order placement or availability. I'm on the phone calls and still dealing with customer service. Like there's so much to deal with. But it was such an amazing, amazing memory. And, yes, it's sucked that we couldn't convert with the potential sales of the day. But I think what we did was we were able to sort of put on our thinking caps of if we don't have product now what can we do? And so we kind of created a hype, if you will, where customers called and asked about the product, and we said, unfortunately they were too late to be able to place an order, and we've already sold out. But I literally was on the website creating a newsletter page and I was like, well, "What you can do is that to a You can sign up, and that's where we release all the information on when product can be ordered again. And I would see the people that were calling and the numbers of the newsletter subscriptions going up. So I knew it was working, but anything was better than nothing at the time. And so while, yes, we couldn't convert on the day, I think that there was so many people that became loyal to the brand that day on following us, subscribing to us, and so on. The moment that we got product in a few days after Valentine's Day, we put out this newsletter and social media of "We're now back in stock while supplies last," it just got up so quickly again. So it was definitely a factor of the support that we got from the Kardashians and from all the influencers that were posting around around Valentine's Day time here.

Lee: [00:47:44] That's amazing and very smart to be capturing at least what you could during the moment with the newsletter sign up. So, I mean, every brand out there, I think that's like a dream scenario, right? That's some massive influencer is going to post randomly about your product and boom, this kind of traffic is drawn to your website. How did that happen? Did you guys send them these flowers? Did you pay someone? Like how did it get in their hands and why did they post? Do you have any idea?

Sunny: [00:48:14] Yes. So we were doing a lot of work with influencers. At the time Jen Paxton from the Way was starting a company. She was doing a lot of these these sort of like tutorials, if you will, and support and so on for how she takes her approach to hair design and all that. And so we knew she was working with a lot of the big celebrities out in LA. It wasn't a market that we had really tapped into. And we partnered with her. Sent her some product. Partnered with her on an event that she was doing out here and the Kardashians went to that event. And I think they saw the product there. And so one of the assistants actually reached out and was talking to us about how they love the product and so on. We mentioned that we'd love to send it to them for Valentine's Day, which is coming up. There was no paid placement, which is so crazy for us. And that's why we didn't really... We were like, hey, this is amazing that they love the product and so on. But we didn't have any idea or feeling that they would post. And so I think that's the whole surreal moment really was for us, was that they did post and it was just one of a few of them. And I think the support that we had from them that day and even moving forward, we've maintained a great relationship with them. They've been super supportive. It's just been amazing for us to be able to have that kind of support from people that are just so influential. It's like you're really supporting the dream of an entrepreneur. And it's like that feeling that you're just like, oh, my God. Like people are supporting me. They're supporting this business idea. And it's like a dream, really that just comes true.

Lee: [00:49:47] Yeah, that's awesome. So, you know, being a Founder involves an incredible amount of persistence. What's your why? What keeps you going? Do you have like a routine every morning? What keeps you positive and going each day?

Sunny: [00:50:04] Yeah. You know, we've grown the company to where we continue to invest into the departments. And I think that what keeps me going is seeing just sort of all of what we want in terms of the outcome of reach, of the brand, of the product, of the categories that we're expanding into and really evolving from this company of box flowers evolving into a lifestyle brand where we now offer candles and other florals that last for a year or longer, apart from just roses. So [00:50:35] I think development everywhere is what keeps me going. It keeps me really sort of on my toes. Like, what can we keep doing? How can we continue to grow? It's such a good feeling and it's an exciting feeling for me. [00:50:49] So I think that keeps me going. Our team is super great as well. And so we've got people that are just so dedicated that every day are giving it one hundred percent, two hundred percent. And people that have been with us, as I mentioned, from the very beginning, and have grown. Maybe they didn't have the skill set to grow into other parts of the business, but they've been able to have someone come in above them and really learn from that person. So that's really what keeps us going. From a routine perspective, for me, I still really oversee the supply chain operations side along with marketing. And so for me, it's a lot of touch base with the teams, making sure that things are lined up, especially for us right now. We're not only in a pandemic, we're also planning for our holiday seasons that are coming up. And so for us, it's a lot of just making sure everything is perfectly set up or as perfect as we can be. Maintaining safety in our facilities is a top priority for us as well, having to shift to social distancing and so on and all the new procedures to stay on top of that and checking in with our marketing teams as well. That's something for me that that I spend a lot of time doing as well. So it's just a lot of moving pieces as for where my day is today and what my function is today. But I couldn't do it without the support of everyone in the company. Both my Co-Founder, Seema, with my brother Nick and with all the amazing people that we have on board.

Lee: [00:52:21] That's amazing. And I'm curious about your pricing strategy, because you guys are very much positioned as a luxury product. I mean, your products are three hundred dollars. Four hundred dollars. That's really a lot of money for flowers. Obviously, these are different. They're Eternity Flowers, the last a lot longer, their beautiful, etc.. But how did you come up with these price points and were you ever wondering, will anyone ever buy flowers for this much money? Or did you kind of slowly increase the cost of these flowers? Or like how did it work?

Sunny: [00:52:57] Sure. So for us with the Eternity Florals, there's obviously a higher price behind them than the traditional long stem florals. There's a lot that goes into it as well. So not only from the process side, but also logistics, inbound... For us, we have a whole team of designers in-house. And so the way that everything works is if you go to our site and design a product and you end up creating it, our designers in-house will actually create that exactly to your specifications. Things undergo QC two to three times. They get wrapped and packed into packaging that is going to guarantee it's safe for transport. So for us, our damage rates are extremely, extremely low and we pride ourselves on that because we do offer day specific delivery. You're going to be celebrating a specific day, right? If someone's going to purchase something for their wife on their anniversary, they want it on that day. They don't want a package to arrive on that day that comes damaged. And they're like, oh, cool. I spent time on getting this part of the day, but it came broken. Hey, Venus, can you send me a replacement? It ruins the experience and it's like, I don't want it anymore, right? Because it ruined it. So for us it's a lot of back end that goes into making sure that we have strong relationships with the vendors. We're making sure that our teams are on top of getting that day specific delivery. We're making sure that things arrive perfectly in transit to the consumer. From a  pricing standpoint, obviously, a lot that goes into that is going to have the cost of sort of what I was just mentioning go into what it is, but also the product itself. So a lot of the materials that go into it, the vessels that we use and so on, are also quite expensive. Like, for example, our ceramic vessels are all handcrafted. So creating things like that obviously takes a lot of time and with time there's cost. So for us, that's a lot of where the cost comes from. And then for the product itself, it's obviously a luxurious product. We try to position it that way. And I think that because of the product lasting for such a long time, the price does sound kind of hefty in the beginning. But when people purchase things like our mini, for example, a single rose, that's thirty nine dollars, forty four dollars for four different colors, they're able to experience the product experience, sort of what the brand is and that it does last for a long time and then they convert into some of the larger products for us. I do think that people also realize that, if you were to purchase a dozen roses for somebody every single week or every other week, the cost is actually more than purchasing an arrangement from Venus ET Fleur. So I think when people see that, they also start to realize, like there is no maintenance, there is no water, but it's also beautifully packaged. So that maintenance aspect and element is out of the equation. And so that's where a lot of it comes from. But also, the larger the arrangement gets, the more obviously expensive they get. There's more time that goes into it. There's a lot more logistics that go into some of our larger products that have to undergo different currier shipping methods where there's a lot more attention to them so there's no damage and so on. So a lot of that goes into the pricing structure.

Lee: [00:56:11] That's really interesting. I was wondering about that because, you know, with flowers that die, you got to buy some more. Right? And it's like you get some for one holiday. They're going to definitely be dead by the time it's like birthday or the next thing. And it's constantly like a new reason to get some more flowers. Without that reason, and I guess there's plenty of space in your home to be having multiple types of flowers. But I guess in my opinion, I'm like, there's one spot where we have flowers on the kitchen table. If that spot is taken, then we might not replace them for a really long time. So I'm just wondering, how has retention kind of been with your business if the flowers last so long?

Sunny: [00:56:50] Sure. Early on for us, we were like, oh, man, what's going to happen? If so long are people are going to buy? And quickly we learned that the retention rate is high. And so people that actually get the product, they experience it, they want to purchase and send the product to other people as well. So someone that was a recipient in the first experience with Venus ET Fleur turns into a customer of ours and purchases for others. We've also spent a lot of time in product development. And so while people understand us and us as like the boxed florals and so on, we've also introduced other products like our Le Clair Collection. So they're acrylic boxes that house florals, but they actually have a drawer in them. And so we've educated customers on those types of products actually are being placed in bedside tables or in makeup areas or on office tables where they have a functional drawer in them, so you can actually store products in there. It's funny because Seema and I, we would lose our Apple TV remote every other day. And so we have one on our coffee table, and that's where the Apple TV lives. So it's just funny because [00:57:59] we started to introduce these new product categories to where we educated customers on where else you can utilize florals within your space. [00:58:07]

Lee: [00:58:09] Yeah, I noticed actually you have like much smaller sets that maybe you can put in your bathroom with the nice little candle and there's really cool ways that you guys have developed and kind of incorporating florals in the house in other ways that you can't really when you just buy normal flowers. That's pretty awesome. What's something you wish you would have known before you started your business?

Sunny: [00:58:29] What I would wish I knew? So I think probably how all the aspects of the business are intertwined. I think for us, being an eCom brand, the hope is, oh, I want to crush it with sales. But what you don't think about is how do you handle it on the operation side? How do you handle it from the staff planning? [00:58:48] You can plan for demand and you can buy inventory, but you also have to make sure that you have enough people that can package and design and so on. And then also customer service. [00:58:58] If you don't have all of the right tracking platforms, as we do today, customer's going to want to know what product is. So how are you going to inform them and keep them up to date on exactly where their product is? So there's a customer service. So [00:59:13] as we grow all the side of the business grow and it's important for people to remember all those other parts of the business as well. [00:59:21] I think also probably one of the biggest things for us is Valentine's falls for us in February, obviously. And so in the East Coast, that tends to be the part of the year where winter starts taking a toll with snow. And so in 2017, we ended up having a snowstorm that hit the week of Valentine's Day. And it threw everything off for us because we had all these packages that were in our warehouse that were going on to customers where we literally had to go back and relabel every single package because it had to have a faster shipping service because if it had gone out by ground, it wouldn't be delivered on the 14th. It would have delivered after. So we had to change all of that and upgrade the service, which obviously had a cost and so on. And so for us after that, we actually have a weather tracking initiative as part of all of our peak times. Where now that we have a facility in LA, we have one in New York, and we have one in London, the domestic ones are where we really focus on during Valentine's Day, if there is weather up north, let's just say northeast in the Boston area, and it's coming down to New Jersey, New Jersey may be impacted and get product out. So let's shift some more of that load to California where there's increased shipping speed because there's going to be a cost. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure that we service the customers so that they get their packages versus getting them late. And so for us, some of those things were really hard lessons because there were a lot of missed sales, a lot of refunded sales as well in 2017. So we learned from those mistakes. We learned from those experiences and turned them into positives now.

Lee: [01:01:07] So what advice do you have for any couples out there that might be looking to start a business together? Do you recommend it? What are the pros and cons? And what works? What doesn't?

Sunny: [01:01:15] Yeah, I think business really drew Seema and I together even stronger, even faster. I think I said earlier, I don't think I would have done it any other way. And I'm blessed that it turned out as did. There's obviously going to be a lot of challenges. For us, we both are driven at the same sort of level, if you will. We're both hungry and we have a lot of desire for the business, but we're very different in our day to day. So while I handle operations, supply chain, marketing from the acquisition side and retention side, Seema handles social media. So she's growing the social pages. She handles the creative teams. She also oversees the PD team. So there are very different parts of the business. And it was very clear from the beginning. It was like, "Hey, look, whatever you say in the PD world or the social world or the brand world goes. I'm going to support it. One hundred percent." Right? Unless it's something extremely crazy. It's like, hey, you on that side, you go on with it. And the same for me on what I oversee. And I think that was very clear from the beginning. And so there was never like this issue of us butting heads or anything like that. It was more so trust. It was like, if you tell me that you're confident behind it, I support you 100 percent. And no matter what happens, I signed off on it. So [01:02:33] I think it's very important for couples out there that are looking to get into business together to make sure from the beginning that you have that alignment and understanding. You want to move quickly. So a lot of people might just be like, "Hey, we'll figure it out as we go," but then as you go and those things become pain problems, it can also negatively impact the business, but more so even the personal relationship. So it's very, very important to have those sort of ground rules, if you will, lined out in the beginning.  [01:03:01]

Lee: [01:03:01] Ground rules. You mean to kind of have balance between work and personal? Because if you're working together every day, it's so hard. It's got to be so hard to not take that home and talk about work all the time. Right? And so then the romance maybe falls to the wayside or like other things can go at risk because of the constant conversation or things that are going on with business that you may enjoy, but obviously, there's other things that in a personal relationship are needed. So how do you find that balance?

Sunny: [01:03:31] Yeah, you know, because even I have such a similar upbringing, we saw how family business, when you're working with the family, also comes back to the house. So when you're at home on a Sunday, you find yourself not watching a football game. You find yourself talking about business with everybody. So for us, it was very clear in the beginning it was like, look, if there is something that's pressing that comes up OK, we handle it, but otherwise we have our personal time away from business. And so that was very clear in the beginning for both of us. It was something that both of us really wanted and highlighted as [01:04:04] we need to have that work/personal life balance, which is very, very important for sure. And I always recommend that. [01:04:12] I think it's super important to make sure that there is that balance there, because if not things don't feel the same. It's not it doesn't feel good anymore, so we want to make sure there's definitely a balance there.

Lee: [01:04:22] Absolutely. So how big is your team now?

Sunny: [01:04:26] So right now we have a team, about 70 people full time. And then we during our peak time scale up to somewhere around two hundred once we hit our holiday seasons with our warehouse staff.

Lee: [01:04:39] Amazing. And what's the biggest thing you've learned about becoming a leader, kind of growing from Founder to CEO and managing and running a business with that many people?

Sunny: [01:04:51] Yeah, I think staying very in line and in contact with staff is super important. I think once you grow a business and it's getting larger and larger, you find yourself not having touch with people like, in our business, the designers. Seeing them every day when I'm in our warehouse, our facilities to not seeing them because I'm spending most of my days with the marketing teams and the PD teams or whatever it is. I think for us that's something that I understood. And I was like, I need to continue to have that relationship with all of our staff. So I think it's very important to make sure that there's contact with everybody. I also think that trust as you grow a company is very important. You know, that [01:05:34] for a business like ours, it's our baby, it's our pride and joy, we love it, but you know that you can't handle every single part of the business as you grow. There's only so much you can do in a day. So you really have to make sure that you're hiring people that you trust that have the right vision, that believe in the same things that you do, that you can really say, hey, look, you own this part. And I really am standing behind you to perform. So I think team building and really understanding who those people are is super important. [01:06:02] And then from a leading perspective, it's really just having a mind set for our business, that's really heavy during our Valentine's Mother's Day holiday seasons, having a mindset that tells everybody that if you put your mind to that, you can do it. There's going to be long work hours. You're going to be tired. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs, but everybody that's working together is going to get through it together. And I think keeping that mindset is so important, really walking around the floors for me on our holiday times and keeping that morale up and telling people how amazing of a job they're doing. A celebrity posts on Instagram, and I walk over to a designer that I know created it and say, "Hey, look. Thank you so much for the job that you do for us. But take a look at how many millions of people just saw this photo that this celebrity posted." And they're are people that maybe don't use social media and they see and they're like, "Oh, my God, there's a hundred thousand likes on that photo? That's insane." And they just feel joy in that something that they're touching in the business is turning into something so much greater and bigger. And I think that's really important, keeping that boost there and keeping the support for everybody in the business.

Lee: [01:07:12] That's interesting. So you kind of make it a point to really bring these things to light so that your team can be recognized.

Sunny: [01:07:20] Yeah, for sure. [01:07:21] I think that it's really important for us to do things like that so that everyone knows that their hard work is not only being recognized in the company, but they're a part of a moment, a special moment that somebody just celebrated or had. [01:07:33]

Lee: [01:07:33] Absolutely. Well, before we wrap up here, what final advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or business operators out there? What advice do you have? You've already provided such great insights and awesome advice, but anything else you'd like to add?

Sunny: [01:07:53] Yeah, I think it's really just writing things down is very important, too. I think that as something continues to mature, sort of the vision might change over time. So really writing things down and having a goal. Seema has been one of the biggest drivers for me to actually learn to write things down, to set goals that aren't just in your head, but on paper. To have a vision board, both for personal and for business. Cut out photos for magazines. What do you want your warehouse to look like? You see a photo of a brand out there that's got a massive warehouse. Everybody that's wearing uniforms or taking joy in just like being a part of a team, take those things and put those up and set the vision to that. So I think there's so much value in doing that. I think also just networking in today's day and age is so important. There's so many people out there that if you talk about ideas, you talk about business that can help you out with either advice or potentially getting involved with somebody that may be able to work with you in the collaboration is really important too. Really just for us, it's about being around good people. And that's the advice that we give to people, is you may not have the smartest possible person working for you in a business that you just started, but as long as these are very hard working, they're willing to give it their all, that's what's really valuable. And one last thing that I think is important is you don't want a mistake to impact the business in any way that's going to be so monetarily damaging. But it's very important for staff to make mistakes, I think. So for me early on, letting somebody, even though I know it's going to turn into maybe one hundred dollar or two hundred dollar mistake, letting someone make a mistake and before a product goes out the door or whatever it is, just meet with them and say, "Hey, look, before this product left, just so you know, like that could have been a hundred dollar mistake. And this is why." And they go back and they fix something, and they really see, versus you just telling them how to do their job like a robot all day. I feel like the staff actually feel this sense of like, hey, I'm learning more by having this person oversee me, and they allow me to make a small mistake. And it goes so much further because they're like, wow, that was a mistake that cost a little bit of money. I'm going to make sure I give more attention to this part of the business. So I think that's important as well. But just all around, having people that if you have a business idea, putting that goal out there, setting those goals, trying to continue to work hard and blow through those goals every day is so important and so valuable and just seeing the whole journey at the end of it is just as amazing as being in the moment at the time. So that's something that I'd say to everybody is I wish I had documented more of the early years at Venus ET Fleur. But something that I look back at is some of the photos and moments that you have are just so beautiful. So [01:10:52] it's something that I'd say is not just to hope to get to the goal and then look back at the journey. Also embrace it as you go going through the journey.  [01:11:01]

Lee: [01:11:01] Right, try to enjoy the process. It's interesting that you mentioned vision boards. Do you still make vision boards today? And when did you start them? Did you start them early on in the beginning? Have some of your vision boards come true?

Sunny: [01:11:17] Yes. So it's amazing because when I first had heard about the whole concept of doing the vision boards and stuff, Seema had been doing them every single year. So she does every year just after Christmas and looks into OK, let's look back at this year and let's put the vision for next year. And so she had been doing that for so long, and I was like, eh does it really work? And it's amazing because you start to unlock not only your thoughts, but you're actually looking at those things now. You're setting those goals. You're seeing those things that you really want to aspire to. And so for us, my vision board was in 2016. It was the end of 2016, going into 2017. And a lot of those things at the end of the year, they turned out to coming true. And so I really encourage them. I think at first it was just like it's not going to work kind of. And then after you're like, wow. I'd recommend it to friends. I'm like, man just do one. And in a year from now, you'll look back at it and be like, wow, like some of those things came true. Even if you have a hundred photos on this board, a few of them will come true. And it's really just like that. OK, wow. I put it out there, I manifested it and it came true. And that's why it's so important to do that.

Lee: [01:12:25] Yeah, it is. Do you just use magazines and also like print stuff from online or like how do you source the images?

Sunny: [01:12:32] Yeah, I think for us we've stuck the magazines, so we pop into Barnes Noble or wherever and actually physically purchase the magazines. Have to go through that process of why are we selecting that magazine? Is it an art and design? Why is it an art design? Is it because we have a vision of a house or do we have a vision of traveling to a certain country? So are we finding ourselves purchasing a magazine because of that? Sort of where the intense starts from and where the vision started from? But it just being such a hard process of physically picking up the magazine, doing it versus being like a you know, what the vision is, is Amazon's office one day. I'm going to google Amazon's office and then print it and cut it out. It's more of like this process we're embedding all the different things in the magazine of why something is a pass for me or why something stood out.

Lee: [01:13:20] Very cool. Very cool. I like vision boards. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate your time and sharing your story. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Sunny: [01:13:30] Thank you so much for having me.

Lee: [01:13:33] Thank you so much for listening to the Stairway to CEO podcast, once again, I'm your host, Lee Greene. And if you have any burning business questions, please feel free to reach us at We'd love to hear from you. And if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to the show. Tell your friends, leave us a review, and follow us on Instagram @StairwaytoCEO. Until next time, guys, keep on climbing.

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