In a recent interview with Lyndsay Horgan, we caught up on the background of GoQuets, how the Startup Weekend Ames 2013 event impacted their team, and why they think others should participate in the upcoming Startup Weekend Ames happening November 20th-22nd, 2015.
I grew up in Des Moines and went to Iowa State (Go Cyclones!) from 2005 to 2009, majoring in Interior Design. I studied abroad in Rome while in college and that was when I became interested in Graphic and Web Design. As a senior in college, I had to come to terms with the fact that my degree I just spent four years on wouldn’t dictate my future. After graduation, I moved out to New York City for a little while where I lived the life of barista by day, and student by night (teaching myself graphic and web design). I came back to Des Moines and worked in both marketing and UI/UX design and have been in the Product world ever since.
Have you ever started a business venture/entrepreneurial idea before Startup Weekend Ames in 2013?
I got involved with the entrepreneurial scene a few years before starting Goquets and always had a few ideas I was kicking around while working for other startups in the area. I used that time to learn as much as I could about how to build a successful business from the ground up. I also stayed active in the Des Moines Startup scene, attending as many events as possible and getting to know as many of the awesome people involved there as I could.
What is the background of Goquets and how did you get started? For example, wasn’t it first called Stinky Flowers? Talk through pivoting and concept now.
While at Startup Weekend Ames, my business partner Shawn pitched the idea of giving old stinky flowers to friends as a joke. Over the weekend, we refined this concept and pitched the idea of selling flowers with a 1-2 day shelf life at a discounted price (but kept the name because — well — it was funny). After taking 1st Place, we kept working on the idea over the next six months, talking with various florists to determine which direction to take our company. We quickly realized the reason florists end up with so much expiring product is because consumers were selecting from a photo gallery. Because of this, a florist can’t use their freshest inventory and instead has to try to match the photo as closely as they can. As Buzzfeed was quick to point out on Valentine’s Day, that photo promise was hard to hold up. We realized there was a big opportunity to simplify the way people order flowers online while also providing the florist the ability to be more creative. We launched the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version of this in February 2014 and have been going ever since.
How did you come up with your business concept today and recognize there was an opportunity within the marketplace?
Our concept today is providing a quick and easy way to order flowers online. We’ve taken away the cumbersome photo galleries and focused on capturing the details that actually matter to people. With Goquets, you simply tell us who it’s for, what the occasion is, any preferences on what you’d like included in the bouquet and how much you’d like to spend. This process takes less than three minutes, and unlike our competitors, we focus on the florists’ choice, recognizing that they have the chops to create a one-of-a-kind bouquet for you. We’ve also been able to deliver anywhere in the U.S. since Day 1, with our first three deliveries going to New York, California and Oklahoma.
Where is the business today? Next steps?
We’re currently finishing the marathon that is the Iowa Startup Accelerator in Cedar Rapids. It’s been over 90 days of building our company and our hope is to bring it back to Des Moines where we’re based and continue to work on it full-time as we figure out how to scale nationally.
What do you think is your biggest challenge for Goquets?
We’re really focused on building out SEM, Content, and Referral Marketing strategies at the moment as our biggest challenge is to figure out how to scale as quickly as possible. Goquets already shown some early promise in these areas and will continue to explore what works best for us in gaining traction.
Biggest challenge in the floral industry?
The floral industry has been around for a long time, which means they’re only just catching on to how technology can impact their business in a positive way. Because of this, it’s important for our team to be patient and understanding as they continue to incorporate technology into their businesses.
Talk about the mentors or others that have helped you build the business.
After we took 1st Place at Startup Weekend Ames, Shawn and I actually had the opportunity to talk with Aayush Phumbra, the founder of Chegg as part of our prize package. It was actually really awesome because he asked us some really tough questions right off the bat about the logistics of our business, challenging us to talk more with the florists to make sure this was a model we could actually build and scale (which of course, later we realized we couldn’t and pivoted).
Since then, we tried to meet with a few mentors each month to spin new ideas off of, and once we came to the Iowa Startup Accelerator we actually had the opportunity to meet over 150 mentors of all professions. Both Shawn and I thought this was great because it forced us to look at our idea from a lot of different angles (both good and bad). These meetings (and subsequent ones thereafter) have given us a lot of food for thought on how to drive our company forward and for what cause.
Any advice to students or colleagues? Any advice to potential Startup Weekend Ames participants who may be on the fence to attending?
My rule of thumb on starting a company at a Startup Weekend is to never put that much time into a name (see: Stinky Flowers)! Too many teams get caught up trying to come up with the perfect name and in reality that’s one tiny part of your business when it comes to pitching on Sunday night. Also, as a Product person myself I had to resist trying to figure out how this company might work but instead focused on the validation of why it needed to be there in the first place (or in other words, finding Product Market Fit). If you haven’t heard of the Lean Startup Canvas, google it! It’s incredibly valuable.
For those of you on the fence about attending:
To put it lightly, Startup Weekend changed my life. Being surrounded by insanely smart people leads to building really cool things. No matter what kind of idea you might have, this is the right place to build it. After attending my first Startup Weekend back in 2013, it was hard not to catch the startup fever and is something I’d tell anyone to try for a weekend.
For more information and ticket details, checkout Startup Weekend Ames website. Register by November 9th for early-bird prices and a chance to win an iPad Mini (student offer only).