Now in its 16th year, the NatWest everywoman Awards celebrates the success of Britain’s top female entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey — from young businesses to those who have established multi-million pound organisations. We talked to Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, CEO of Flowerbx – winner of Brand of the Future at the 2017 NatWest everywoman Awards – about the impact of the award and the exciting changes in the pipeline for her business a year on.
What has the year brought you since winning the award?
So much has changed! Flowerbx has moved into France, Germany, Ireland and Belgium, and out across the UK, which has meant really expanding our teams. An operational warehouse in Holland now helps us to serve most of Europe, and a hub in Paris allows us to do the more bespoke arrangements. We’ve hired a digital marketing manager, which we didn’t previously have, and a CFO to help us prepare for a fundraising round that we are just about to complete.
How important was it to you to win the award last year?
Physically, mentally and emotionally it gave me a huge amount of confidence to receive that award. I think it has made a lot of people, particularly in the female entrepreneurial and VC space, pay attention to Flowerbx because everywoman has the kind of reputation in the start-up world that can really give gravitas to a small business. I also think it was a huge boost for the team at Flowerbx, too, to have all of their hard work recognised in such a public way. Plus, the award has paved the way for a lot of press and speaking opportunities — so it has been huge for the business.
How surprised were you to find that you’d won?
I was honoured because our chairman Mark Seber had put me forward for the award and that meant so much to me. I have such conviction in what we’re doing at Flowerbx; I believe we’re on the brink of making a pivotal change in how people consume flowers across the world, and I had that confidence behind me but I had no idea I was going to win. It was honestly the happiest day of my professional career, which has been very long!
What do you remember most about the day?
Our chairman hosted a table of women who have backed me at Flowerbx, such as Natalie Massenet, Carmen Busquets and some of our earliest investors. So that, in itself, felt like winning — it was so nice to be surrounded by all this female entrepreneurial talent. Actually winning the award was the icing on the cake.
As a Brand of the Future award winner, you also received mentoring from Chrissie Rucker OBE, founder of the White Company. What advice did you get?
Chrissie and Mary, her CEO, both had great advice. I think while we are attacking everything in such a digital way these days, Chrissy has a more traditional approach that was really beneficial for me to hear. New companies often don’t think about more traditional methods, which can be even more effective now, especially as the digital space is so crowded and expensive. Spending time with them was hugely valuable.
Mentoring is important at all stages of your business but I think the biggest key is finding the right mentor. If you have someone who is aligned with your company and your vision — which Chrissie very much is — there are few business relationships that are as rewarding.
What piece of advice would you give an entrepreneur starting out?
Look for women supporters and create a female network. I didn’t realise what I was doing when we first raised money with friends and family but having female investors — and mentors — has been so helpful to me. They have also served as ambassadors for the brand.
Another tip I would give young entrepreneurs — and I have given this tip a lot since the awards — is to nominate yourself. I have put so many people forward for the NatWest everywoman Awards because I know what a huge game changer that can be. My advice is to get yourself in the room with all of these amazing women.
As a Brand of the Future, what does the future hold for Flowerbx?
My vision is to change the way that people and businesses buy and consume flowers, and to become synonymous with the luxury floral offering. We plan on launching in the US within the next year, which will be a huge undertaking, and then continue our penetration into Europe – and I think that’s going to keep me busy!
The 2018 NatWest everywoman Awards ceremony will be held at The Dorchester in London on the 5th December 2018.