Goquets takes flower-buying experience back to the future

One in a series of stories introducing the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort – check back all week for more and find the series here.

The founders of Goquets talk about their business with a reporter.

Sending flowers is usually reserved for happy occasions, but two Des Moines entrepreneurs found a lot of frustration in the process. Their resulting business, Goquets, joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort this week.

The issue is that when customers order flowers online, they have high expectations based on the photos they see. A local florist might struggle to match the photo with the flowers they have in stock – and in the meantime, they might have other inventory going to waste.

“If a truck of fresh purple roses and orchids show up, people don’t even know that because they’re buying from the pictures,” said co-founder Shawn Harrington.

So, Goquets created a simple order form, sans photos. Users can say who the flowers are for, the occasion, any preferences (‘she loves daisies’) and how much they want to spend – that’s it. Goquets sends the order to a local florist, by tapping into the existing networks that move flowers back and forth.

The simplicity is a major selling point. Ordering this way replicates the experience of ordering on the phone.

“Our partners talk about this constantly. They’re like, ‘you’re just going back to what we did 20 years ago – pre-Internet,’” said co-founder Lyndsay Clark.

The idea wasn’t always so refined. Clark and Harrington met at startup events in Des Moines before first developing the idea at Startup Weekend Ames in 2013.

Then, it was called ‘Stinky Flowers,’ and was centered on the idea of overstock inventory: would florists sell their almost-expired flowers at a deep discount? It impressed customers enough to take the top prize at Startup Weekend, but florists hated it – they would rather throw flowers away than put their name on a shady product, the co-founders said.

So, after a few months of developing that idea, the team changed directions and found their current model. They launched their e-commerce website in February 2014, and have been placing orders ever since.

Last fall, the co-founders took the next step by joining Venture School in Des Moines, a six-week program developed by the University of Iowa. One of their Venture School mentors, an e-commerce expert, has since joined the team.

Although the co-founders have done a lot already – Startup Weekend, customer discovery, launching, Venture School – they know they still have plenty of work ahead of them during the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 94 days.

Their goal for the program is to dramatically expand their national presence, with the help and advice of the ISA’s mentor network.

“Lyndsay and I got it to the first stage on our own,” Harrington said. “There’s going to be people in that room, who have taken [startups] from where we are right now to those next levels.”

Although the plan is to expand nationally, the co-founders are happy to do it from Iowa. In fact, they said one of their biggest partnerships is with a national florist based in Des Moines.

“It’s that combination of Iowa nice plus business savviness. There’s a lot to be said for the fact that we were able to call and ask for a meeting, and get one the next day,” Clark said. “That doesn’t happen everywhere.”

One in a series of stories introducing the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort – find the rest here.