Start-Ups.Co really enjoyed interviewing the brilliant entrepreneur; Mr. ‘Quy Vo'; Founder and CEO of the Virginia – Start Up “Bloomforth”.
Below, is the full interview that we have conducted :
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Bloomforth operates under the slogan “Big Technology for Small Businesses”. We provide powerful, cloud-based applications exclusively to small business owners at an extremely affordable price. Our applications are designed to save them time and money all while helping them grow by making it easy to manage their business’s daily operations. The applications we offer include a Point-of-Sale system, an inventory management tool, an online appointment booking system, employee timekeeping, and an email newsletter campaigning tool.
Bloomforth aims to create a diverse variety of resources that would incorporate all facets of running a small business. Our vision is to be a complete one-stop-shop and to eliminate the need to purchase and use multiple software packages.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Our team of engineers started working on writing the programs in early 2013 and the applications were released on January 1st, 2014. We started with a meager 6 employees, including the engineers, who worked together to manage the daily operations. As is the case for many startups, the employees were unpaid and worked out of a townhouse to fulfill their completely selfless dream of seeing small businesses thrive.
Over the past few months we have brought on more employees to fill the positions that are needed. For example we’ve brought on a marketing team to expand the brand, as well as, an employee to deal with human resources. As for the current stage of our company: we are revenue positive, moving into a new, larger office space, and have 11 employees.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
We offer three packages and advertise on our site. Companies with fewer than 6 employees (seedling) get full access to our suite of applications for free. Companies with 6-35 employees (budding) get full access to our suite of applications and customer support for $29 a month. Companies with 36+ employees (blooming) get full access to our applications as well as premium customer support for $49 a month. We display advertisements to to the seedling companies.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
We’ve all met through school, mutual friendships, or online. I have been good friends with Stephen Giese for a number of years, and we worked together throughout the entire development process. We worked with the other two engineers, Omo and Yevgeniy, whom we met online. I met Chris at Best Buy, Anh is my fiance, Mike and Holly are mutual friends of Anh and I, and Lyle, Jessica, and Todd all started out as interns a few months ago. Chris is our creative associate, Anh is our VP of human resources, Mike is our VP of intellectual property, Holly is the corporate secretary, Lyle is the intern coordinator, and Jessica and Todd are marketing associates.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
For each of our applications, i.e. point of sale, inventory management, employee management, there are many competitors on the market and each one with a separate monthly/yearly fee. So if you own a small business, you end up paying many different companies to have each application you need and that gets expensive fast. The first way we are innovating the market is by offering all of the applications a small business needs in one inexpensive bundle. And the second is by offering the software on the cloud giving small business owners the ability to manage their business on the cloud, making the apps accessible from anywhere at any time. Nobody else out there is offering a cloud-based small business software package with all of the applications a small business owner needs to run their day to day operations.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
Since inception in January 2014, we have enrolled over 130 companies with a total of 200 employees. We continue to expand and grow by the day and see a bright future for the company. Although the company has only been operational for 4 months, we have increased our number of employees from 3 to 11 and have begun receiving our first sources of advertising revenue. In addition, we have moved from a small townhouse to an official office space made for a growing company.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Currently, our application package is the only one of its kind in the market. While other companies offer similar programs to our applications, we are the only company that provides multiple resources bundled together in one place for an incredibly low cost. While a small business owner will pay around $3,000 for all of these resources, Bloomforth offers it all from a price ranging from $0-49/month.
Another advantage we have is that we are completely on the cloud. Most of the other companies that provide one of our applications require a software download and then charge the small business owner an extra fee to put the software on another computer. With our cloud-based system all a small business owner needs is an internet connection and they can log in and use it without any problems.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was recruiting talented people. Not many people want to work for a start-up and convincing talent to see the bigger picture can be difficult. Our search for talented individuals to join the Bloomforth family was hampered by the required time commitment and the lack of immediate substantial pay. Luckily, our powerful vision and strong business model enable us to attract the right people to strengthen the team.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Outsiders don’t understand the struggles that small business owners and entrepreneurs go through when it comes to running their business. There are tons of different business software options out there, it can get confusing and expensive. On top of that, they are usually required to purchase expensive hardware to use with the software they are paying a monthly fee for. It’s for that purpose that Bloomforth was created. We don’t believe it is right for small businesses to have to pay the same extreme prices that larger companies pay in order to have a smooth running and up to date business.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Bloomforth is going to succeed because of our unique business model and our relaxed office environment. We believe in setting goals and deadlines and then letting the employees meet the goals in any way they choose. We make lunch for everybody everyday and encourage playing games and relaxing when a break is needed. We like to think of our environment as similar to Google’s.
We also highly value customer service and never want to compromise our level of commitment to the users or the applications themselves.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We are constantly developing new applications to release to our users. Recently, we released the MyMailer app which enables small business owners to send email campaigns to their customers with ease. There are several areas we plan on expanding into, and we have a couple of new apps currently in the works. One of the great things about our company is that we take feature requests from our users, so if a small business owner thinks that a certain feature might be helpful to them, and other owners with similar businesses, we have our engineers work on building it.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
I used to be a broker for a bank. I worked with quite a few small business owners who were trying to get loans, and often times they would have trouble with the payments. So I started doing research into why small businesses have trouble staying afloat. I found that the software available to small businesses was either extremely cheap and inefficient or very expensive and therefore less likely to be used. I also found that for each facet of business management there was a different company providing it. This meant that small business owners who wanted to control their business properly would need to pay several different companies to be able to. I saw the opportunity for extreme improvement in this field and decided to take the leap and create the software that small business owners needed to grow.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
The most important lesson I’ve learned since launching Bloomforth has been that no matter what stage the business is in, there will always be difficult challenges. The best thing to do is to fight through them and keep your eye on the bigger picture. You have to believe in your vision, and you can’t let the challenges get the better of you and cause you to lose faith.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Because our company is just starting out, our only departments are Marketing, HR, Creative, Tech Support, and Intellectual Property. In six months, I believe our biggest obstacle will be creating new departments from scratch and filling these departments with individuals who are skilled and fit with our company culture. It is hard to tell what the future will hold, but I know that we will be able to handle any and every problem.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Small business owners and entrepreneurs struggle keeping their business afloat because of the many challenges presented with owning a small business. It’s unfortunate to think that many entrepreneurs have a passion for their idea and their business, however, due to poor organization and lack of experience, many of their endeavors fail.
Bloomforth applications offers an extremely simple way with which to run a business and reduces problems with organization and inexperience. Bloomforth users no longer have to search extensively for different software or pay an annual upgrade free. The company also offers unlimited access and unlimited storage at no additional cost. The all-inclusive and inexpensive software is unique in the field of small business technology.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
We have many different approaches for getting our name out there. Obviously the first thing we did was pay for great search engine optimization. After we brought on some marketing employees, we started doing email campaigning to small business owners. We also started going out to local small businesses in order to spread the word. After a few weeks, we stopped going out and decided our time would be better spent by contacting editors and authors in order to gets some articles written about us and by using social media. Finally, we attended the Chicago Small Business Expo in April and plan on attending at least 3 more of them as the year goes on. The Expo was great for networking and marketing and we almost doubled our users at it. We get new users on a daily basis.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our current and target users are owners in the retail, service, and restaurant industry. Retail and service shop owners comprise of our largest user base. Retail shops use our Point-of-Sale system, inventory management, and employee timekeeping while service shop owners utilize the online appointment booking, employee timekeeping, and inventory management systems.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We started out going to businesses around the area to spread our name and to find business owners who may benefit from the applications. The marketing team also started email and social media campaigns. However, our largest success has come from attending small business expos in which small business owners attend and look for resources to help out their career.
One of our greatest strengths is that we are truly looking out for the small business owner. We don’t have any hidden fees or annual upgrades. Our simple, customer focused approach to owning a small business is extremely difficult to find in an oversaturated market filled with expensive and unintuitive software.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Overall we’ve had positive feedback about the applications. Current and potential users love the low cost and the simplicity that comes with Bloomforth’s services. In addition, our customer support is always willing to help out shop owners. Technical support is never automated and always available, thus, users never hesitate to reach out to us regarding any questions they have about our system.
20. How are you going to scale?
To scale, we are going to enroll both paid and free users by increasing the marketing budget. We also plan on creating additional advertising space for larger corporations to directly reach small business owners. As always, we will work to build additional applications that innovate the market. Finally, we plan on hiring the best and brightest to help our company keep growing.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature?
The one thing customers/users keep asking for? (Min. 300 characters): Our most requested feature is to develop a mobile app. As a company that pays close attention to feedback, the developers and engineers at Bloomforth are eagerly working on developing this. The mobile feature will allow employees to scan items, process payments, check their work schedules online, and send email campaigns. Essentially, the entirety of the POS system will be available over a mobile device, among other great features.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Bloomforth’s long term goal is to see every small business using our technology. My dream is to walk into a shop anywhere in the world and see them using our applications. We currently have shops using our apps all around the world including Guam, England, Spain, and Bahrain. That is where being on the cloud comes in handy! Anyone with an internet connection can use our apps.
In order to further expand internationally, we have brand ambassadors sharing our vision around the globe. Currently, the brand ambassador is in China and is speaking to shop owners and spreading Bloomforth’s name.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
I truly believe that we can have every small business around the world using our applications because we offer a service that is sincerely meant to help small businesses thrive. We plan to get there by employing the best talent, launching creative marketing campaigns, continuing to build integrated/smart applications, and continuing to offer the inexpensive business model.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
As we grow, Bloomforth is constantly looking for new talent to join the team. Currently we are hiring marketing and accounting summer interns for a three month period from May 25 to August 25. We plan to invite the best suited interns to join the Bloomforth family. Applicants can send their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org to Anh Tran.
Our marketing internship program is designed to create a fun, yet challenging experience where the interns are encouraged to maximize their creative skills to come up with unique marketing ideas.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are always open to conversations with Venture Capitalists and other investors. Our ability to grow organically and our business model makes Bloomforth an attractive option to many investors. However, because the company is at a self-sustainable stage, we are selective about our partnerships. If there’s any inquiry they can contact us at email@example.com.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Owning your own business can be an incredibly difficult. However, if you truly believe in your vision and your idea then just keep plowing through the tough times. Having confidence in your idea is one of the most important characteristics of being an entrepreneur.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
As mentioned throughout the questionnaire, we are completely dedicated to serving small businesses. Bloomforth has wonderful relationships among the employees as well as with the clients, and I see many years of success for the company. Even though we are just a start-up, my ultimate goal of fostering the development of small businesses throughout the world is certainly attainable and would definitely get a head start with your help.