NetFlorist - South Africa’s oldest e-commerce company - was accidentally founded when three friends experimented with online retail in South Africa.
On Valentine’s Day, the flower and gift delivery service will turn 20 years old. It now handles more than 730,000 orders a year.
In an interview on personal-finance show Geldhelde on VIA TV (DStv channel 147), co-founder and managing director Ryan Bacher credits the company’s longevity to flexibility and willingness to learn new skills.
With his two partners, Lawrence Brick and Jonathan Hackner, they were asked to build an online test store for the South Africa wholesale giant Makro to showcase the possibilities of online retail.
“Ecommerce didn’t really exist in South Africa and we were testing to see if we could sell stuff – and we picked flowers randomly,” Bacher said.
“There was no strategic thinking and none of us knew about flowers. We just thought, ‘I wonder if flowers could sell.’”
The online test store was launched on Valentine’s Day in 1999 and was meant to close after a few days. NetFlorist ended up making R30,000 in its first month.
Despite not knowing anything about flowers, Bacher, Brick and Hackner realised they were on to something and turned NetFlorist experiment into a fully-fledged business.
NetFlorist today specialises in same-day delivery of flowers, gifts, baked goods and even jewellery, and fulfills some 2,000 orders a day.
“Initially we liked the idea of selling flowers and that worked for a few years and then we realised flowers don’t tick every occasion,” Bacher said.
“So we started branching off into all sorts of different things and it’s gone quite wide. There’s a bakery here. We can laser engrave your name on a chopping board.”
These non-floral products now represent almost half 50% of NetFlorist’s business.
Geldhelde airs every Tuesday at 20:30 on VIA (DStv channel 147), with repeats on Wednesdays at 08:30 and Sundays at 19:30.
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