The gentle art of picking flowers is no longer limited to wandering lonely through fields of daffodils – now you can simply get a computer to do it for you.

Vanisha Narsey, who co-founded online flower delivery service provider Bouqo in 2020, thinks it’s “more important than ever to get people to experience the power of flowers” and wants her firm to help lead the charge.

“Flowers speak to a wide range of emotional needs,” Narsey says.

“People don’t need another knife set – I want people to realise how meaningful flowers can be and what wonderful gifts they make.”

Narsey says Bouqo was “built to do the hard grafting for you” when it comes to picking the perfect bouquet and works in a three-step system via their website.

The first step involves the bouquet sender answering a few questions to help the Bouqo algorithm figure out what sort of bouquet will be the best fit for the person and occasion.

At the second step, Bouqo’s algorithm will show the prospective sender a selection of recommended flowers from local Auckland florists to pick from.

After being picked, the choice of bouquet is sent to one of Bouqo’s 15 florists whose expertise was the best match with the finished bouquet, then hand-delivered to the recipient.

Narsey describes Bouqo as an online system that “helps people translate the in-store bouquet buying experience into an easy online experience”.

Just for men?

Initially, her plan for Bouqo focused on capturing the male portion of the flower-buying market to tackle the difficulty some men had visiting a florist and choosing flowers for someone they cared for.

“Flower shops aren’t made for guys,” she says.

“I thought there could be real growth there if I could capture that market via an online service.”

Although Bouqo started out targeting men, its customer base is now made up “pretty equally” across all genders and ages.

Narsey says she’s been surprised by the number of older people – especially older women – who use Bouqo.

But she says without covid-19 – which has demolished so many businesses – Bouqo would still just be an idea in the back of her mind.

Being made redundant from her advertising job two months into the pandemic made her realise that if she wanted to bring her blossoming business idea to life, she had to see her unexpected unemployment as an opportunity to go all-in on Bouqo.

“Being made redundant was the sign I needed to just go for it,” she says.

Breeding lilacs out of the dead land

Building a business in any industry over the past two years would be a hard slog but Narsey says it’s been particularly challenging trying to build a business in the floristry sector.

“Covid-19 has hit florists hard as international flower imports have dried up, there’s a really competitive domestic flower growing market and inflation is driving up the prices of everything from flowers to other floristry materials,” she says.

Through those challenges, Bouqo’s flock of florists has grown to 15, joining the Bouqo team made up of Narsey, technical cofounder Bhavik Kumar and developer Yun Won.

She feels Bouqo is helping bridge the gap between floristry and technology and showing florists “how an online delivery service can create a new way to get their craft out there while creating more customers at the same time”.

Narsey is keen to “spread Bouqo’s wings” into other cities around the country such as Christchurch and Wellington and wants to enter Australia in a few years.

‘But right now, I’m focused on building Bouqo’s reach in Auckland and getting more florists on board,” she says.

She feels content where she’s at in her quest to “change how people think about flowers” and convincing people to think of more sustainable – and sweeter – gifting options that flowers can provide.

And if there’s anything she’s learnt from starting a company in the middle of a pandemic, it’s that nothing ever really goes to plan – and sometimes that’s for the best.

“Right now, I enjoy the flexibility of not knowing what's going to happen next,” she says.