Lifestyle

OnlyRoses CEO Sabine Schmitt shares her story

Tanya van Court

A conversation with Sabine Schmitt, co-founder and CEO, OnlyRoses

How did you come up with the concept for OnlyRoses?

I founded OnlyRoses with my husband, Anian, 11 years ago in London. I was working in advertising at the time, and he was in the IT world. Both of our parents were entrepreneurs, so from a young age the idea of running our own business was the only thing we knew.

While visiting my mom in Switzerland one weekend, we were brainstorming different ideas with her. After dismissing all of them, she suddenly pointed to a bouquet of red roses that she had just bought herself, and said, 'why don't you specialise in roses?'

Not long after that Anian and I were on a plane to Quito, Ecuador – home of the world's finest roses. We spent time learning all about breeding and growing roses, and the logistics of getting roses from Ecuador shipped all over the world. We were fascinated and inspired by Ecuadorian roses and the people who grew them, and we figured that the 15 million people living in London alone would drive enough demand for these beautiful roses, in the form of a speciality concept.

When we got back home, we found a location in Chelsea and opened the first OnlyRoses storefront in September 2007 on a shoestring budget of less than $100,000. It was a very minimal and contemporary space, with dark wood and black brick walls. The spotlight was on the roses.

What differentiates you from other flower boutiques?

When Anian and I decided to specialize in 'Only Roses' in 2007, we knew we wanted to create something different than a traditional florist.

We set out to elevate a rose from a flower to a luxury gift, while simultaneously modernizing the consumer experience. As the originators of the Infinite Roses® - real roses that last for years – and with our unique and simplistic design, product range, and retail concept, we've certainly disrupted the global floral industry and created an entirely new retail category.

OnlyRoses is not a florist. It's more like a high-end jewellery or fashion boutique, offering a luxury brand experience with consistent design and quality for both Classic Roses (fresh-cut roses) and Infinite Roses® (real, preserved roses that last more than a year without water).

Our stores are located in high-end shopping destinations and are designed by Roberto Baciocchi, a renowned Italian Designer.

Lastly, we fly the roses into our locations directly 'from farm to store'. This cuts out the middle man and ensures the highest and freshest quality flowers, so we can pass that longevity on to our clients. This farm-to-store concept was unique to OnlyRoses, when we began.

What's the secret behind your long-lasting roses?

Preserved roses and other preserved flowers have been around for hundreds of years, but we were the first to turn these roses into a product and retail concept. We work closely with our farm in Ecuador, who has been perfecting the process of preserving Ecuadorian roses from scratch for over 15 years.

The main difference to other companies who preserve roses is that each single Infinite Rose® is created by hand, meaning they are first hand-selected to meet the highest criteria, and after the preservation, the petals are re-arranged or removed, so each bud has a perfect, consistent look. Our exclusive, extra-large Infinite Roses® (in products such as the 'The Infinite Rose', 'Infinite Rose Luna', or 'Infinite Rose Blanc', or 'Infinite Rose Ebony'), are hand-assembled and it takes three normal-sized Infinite Roses® to create one extra-large Infinite Rose®. This process is essential to obtain the look of a rose in full bloom and it takes about 30 minutes per bloom, and almost 90 rose petals (compared to the usual 40).

Why do you think the gift of flowers has stood the test of time?

Flowers, and roses in particular, are a timeless and elegant gift for many occasions. The rose is known as the 'Queen of Flowers' and whether for romantic or non-romantic occasions, people across the globe enjoy giving or receiving roses. They are gifted as a sign of friendship, love, appreciation, or sympathy and are rather famous for their romantic connotations, ranging from a date, to an engagement, a wedding, and anniversary.

Color also plays a role in different cultures. White is commonly known to represent purity, pink is first love, and red stands for passion. We carry 250 different varieties and colors of our fresh-cut Classic Roses. Our preserved Infinite Roses® come in 30 different colors, ranging from all the natural colors to unusual colors like fluorescent green, royal blue, and black.

How have you maintained your luxury brand aesthetic as you continue to scale?

It's a combination of everything the customer encounters, that classifies a brand as a luxury brand. The store environment, the high quality of the products, and the high level of customer service a client receives. Attention to detail plays a huge part and a brand can only ensure that their luxury brand aesthetic is being maintained if everyone follows a process.

On a product level, we develop new designs according to market trends. I oversee the process of starting with dozens of prototypes that ultimately lead to 1-2 new OnlyRoses products per year. All products are assembled in each location, where highly skilled and trained florists make each product by hand, as per our design guidelines. Each item is quality checked by an additional pair of eyes before being made available for purchase in the stores or for delivery.

You've expanded rapidly in the last 5 years. What's the strategy behind your expansion and growth model? How do you pick locations? How do you decide between franchise and owned stores?

After our launch in London, we received many requests to open OnlyRoses stores in the Middle East. Once we were ready to expand into new markets, we decided that franchising the brand with local partners would be our best option as it allowed us to open new brand stores without having to raise capital. In order to optimize and ensure the success of our franchise model, we moved to Dubai with our children in early 2013. We aim to open within the luxury brand sections of high-end malls and rely on the local knowledge and experience of our franchise partners for choosing the perfect store locations.

In 2017 we decided to expand the brand further and open our first company-owned location in the US. After looking at different cities, we decided LA would be the perfect location for our first American store, and in particular Beverly Hills lends itself to high-end foot traffic from locals, professionals who work in the area, and tourists. Our first US flagship store can now be found in the heart of the triangle, on Brighton Way.

What is your vision for the brand in the next 5 years?

Our vision is to elevate a rose from a flower to a luxury gift and provide a new level of brand experience within the floral industry, with inspiring, memorable gifts and interior décor items, using only the World's finest roses, within our own unique and recognizable style. Our mission is to become the global leader in premium and artisanal fresh-cut and preserved roses.

We are the first and only global luxury brand specialised in roses, and for the next 5 years our aim is to grow the brand in the US market.

We are currently speaking to investors in the hopes of raising capital to support our US growth strategy. Internationally we are speaking to potential franchise partners for new stores in Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Reserved members enjoy 20% off all OnlyRoses collections.

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