As the gift-giving season heats up, Ottawa Flowers Inc. has scored a fitting deal. The growing flower business has acquired Givopoly, a made-in-Ottawa platform that helps shoppers anywhere in the world buy gifts from businesses in the recipient's local area.
Founded by Ottawa entrepreneur Susan Richards, Givopoly acts as a hub for local businesses and gift-giving services – think flowers, tasty treats and handcrafted items – to post their products. Currently active in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, the site allows international customers to purchase from a local business, rather than shipping the gift from a big-box supplier somewhere in the world.
That concept resonates with Ottawa Flowers owner Pavel Bogdanov, who took over the business from his parents seven years ago. In that time, the local flower shop has grown its staff from two employees to more than 70 during peak seasons.
Having built his business in an industry that lives and dies on local patronage, Bogdanov says the Givopoly model has a competitive advantage over Amazon and eBay when it comes to “buy local” campaigns.
Establishing Givopoly as a one-stop shop for a variety of gifts can give companies that put products on the platform more exposure than they’d normally receive in the crowded e-commerce space.
“I think it is supported by the vision of local business on one domain,” Bogdanov says. “(On Givopoly), I can buy a full range of local products, (whereas on) Ottawa Flowers or a specific business, you're limited to their product range.”
As one of the first local businesses signed up on Givopoly, Ottawa Flowers itself has benefited from the platform. Though the company has an online store of its own, Bogdanov says he sells 10 times the volume of some products on Givopoly than through his own digital storefront.
Bogdanov says he’d like to see the platform reach other major metropolitan centres in Canada before scaling out to Europe and the rest of North America.
Re-focusing on the business
Richards, who is also the co-founder of the SaaS accounting services firm numbercrunch and co-chair of Invest Ottawa, found her focus was becoming too split between her numerous responsibilities to give Givopoly the attention it required. While she still had a vision for Givopoly’s future, she realized recently that she wasn’t necessarily the entrepreneur to take it there.
“I often spend time advising entrepreneurs about knowing what's best for their company and making hard choices,” Richard says. “It struck me that the best individual or organization to see it through to fruition wasn't necessarily us.”
Bogdanov also runs multiple businesses, including a B2B wedding and events services firm, but says he tries to keep each one complementary to Ottawa Flowers and his other ventures. Givopoly will operate from within the Ottawa Flowers umbrella going forward.
The acquisition relates solely to the Givopoly platform, but Richards says the deal hasn’t put anyone out in the cold. Some Givopoly employees have been folded into roles with numbercrunch and Richards says they’ve helped others find jobs elsewhere.
“There’s nobody going to be out of jobs over the holidays, so I’m very happy with that,” she says.