Olamide Oladosu ’15, From You Flowers

After being introduced to Internet entrepreneurship through the eLab, I became interested in e-commerce and what it takes to run a successful business, both of which I was exposed to in ample quantity at FromYouFlowers.com. Three days at the New York marketing office offered an in-depth look at their daily operations, from product management to paid search, and of course, more than I ever thought I’d know about flowers.

From_You_Flowers_PhotoThough my toes almost became casualties of the Polar Vortex, my mood was still high as Michael Chiang ’17 and I arrived at From You Flowers on Tuesday morning. , After meeting our host Spencer Lucian ‘08 and fellow alum David Palms ‘11, we were immersed into the business by way of a marketing meeting, which was probably the best way to do it.  To summarize the company’s progress over the past year, each person used both industry and position specific terminology that we could pick up on and later discuss with them individually. In these subsequent conversations, I learned about varying topics such as the role networks play in the flower business, what a conversion pixel is, the massive parts Google and Amazon are playing in shaping the future of e-commerce, and how software is constantly evolving to help companies get to know their customers better. Beyond this profession-specific learning (and in some cases practice), we were also able to discuss openly with everyone at From You Flowers about everything from NASA to their career paths to advice on staying current in their field; however, just as important was the deep and passionate conversation that analyzed the homes on House Hunters International over delectable New York sandwiches at lunch.

An overall takeaway with respect to my career considerations was the importance of data-driven decision making in e-commerce. Although there are many areas in which to specialize – affiliate services, social media, SEO, website design, and email marketing, to name a few – within the blanket of e-commerce, they all invite data input and analysis in order to be done well. An aptitude for making sense of numbers is definitely an asset when the order and number of products on a page can make a significant difference in conversion. For instance, tests in which half the visitors view one site layout and half view another are run regularly; a comparison of product checkouts or item codes will then allow a more informed (and tested) decision about best practices moving forward, and this method of continual hypothesis and testing really appealed to me as an engineer.

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely the evening of the first day, after which I thought I might need a week to digest everything I’d seen so far. However, as I now know, a Tuesday without some Mandatory Fun is no Tuesday at all. The entire office invited us along to their weekly bowling night, which was such a fun time; we got to continue getting to know everyone on a personal level while laughing – a lot – at gutterballs. This was just one of the ways in which this Princeternship was extremely rewarding; I am now so much more confident in my desire to pursue a career in business, and e-commerce is definitely here to stay, so I’ll be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity should it present itself. I want to take this chance to express my deep gratitude to Spencer and David for making this level of trip possible, Mike Chapin, for opening up his company to us, and of course everyone who took time out of their day to explain what they do and why they love it – thank you all for a wonderful experience!

Christine Li ’17, From You Flowers

Christine-LiI had a fantastic experience with my Princeternship at FromYouFlowers.com. I, along with one other Princeton student, Alan Du, was hosted by Mr. Spencer Lucian ’08, the VP of Business Management and Operations at From You Flowers. Coming into the office on the first day, I was not sure what to expect. Upon arrival, I was immediately welcomed by Spencer and introduced to a couple of people on the team, including another Princeton alumnus David Palms ’11 and the VP of marketing Michael Sabia, who both greeted us with warm smiles.

Spencer started off by giving us an overview of the company—I got a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes of flower delivery. I was surprised to see all the things that had to be accounted for when predicting the number of flower orders, especially during major holidays like Valentine’s Day. Spencer then showed us his own contribution to the company: a data analysis tool he had built from scratch which recorded the different trends in the flower orders over the year. The tool was an incredibly efficient and an easy way of keeping track of past orders and allowed the company to use past data to predict new trends.

We met the rest of the team during lunch, where everyone sat around a large table in the conference room and had casual conversations about their personal lives and common encounters with choosing apartments. It was nice to see how comfortable people felt around each other, and it was evident that they were all truly happy to be part of a team working toward the same goal.

Afterwards, we talked to Michael Sabia, the VP of marketing, and learned about different marketing strategies, from promoting growth in organic searches to optimizing the price per click for each adword, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one. He also shared with us his personal experience in marketing, which happens to be a career path that I’m considering. He had worked at a larger company prior to joining From You Flowers, and gave us his perspective on why he had chosen to join a smaller company. This conversation with him really made me think about what kind of work environment I would like to be a part of in the future, and I think his views have pushed me to lean towards working for a small company or start-up.

The next day, Alan and I talked to Dave about his experience with the company. He expressed how grateful he was to have a job at From You Flowers, and how he continues to challenge himself every day. Hearing this just confirms the positive and stimulating work environment there. He talked about the personal growth he experienced while working for this company—he came in with little technical background and coding experience, but was able to quickly catch on. This solidified my inclination to work at a small company in the future.

I also got a chance to talk to Ying, one of the members on the marketing team who specializes with marketing on social media. I was particularly intrigued by the specific examples of marketing strategies she gave us, which included researching the commonalities shared by people of the same generation, and using the information to target audiences of different generations. After talking to her, I realized that even though I was a frequent user of Facebook, I hadn’t been aware of the variety of different ways that Facebook could be used for marketing.

We ended our day with a trip to a nearby bowling alley with the company—definitely a highlight of the trip. I had already loved the sense of community at From You Flowers, and the weekly bowling trips as a way of bonding and relaxing after a long day of work was just a reaffirmation of this close-knit community.

Through conversations with some of the team members, I’ve realized that I want to have a job similar to Spencer’s in the future, at a smaller company where I can see the results of my contributions. I also appreciate all the advice I’ve received during my visit, especially from Dave, regarding both college and career. Overall, I very much enjoyed my Princeternship at From You Flowers.

Alan Du ’17, From You Flowers

Alan-DuMy Princeternship at FromYouFlowers.com, hosted by Mr. Spencer Lucian, ORFE ’08, was an extremely valuable experience. I entered the Princeternship lacking any experience in e-commerce.  Now, after spending two days with Spencer and his colleagues, I am well versed in the areas of digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), predictive forecasting, and business operations. Furthermore, I got an inside look on how a successful business is run; From You Flowers is the 5th largest flower-selling company in the U.S.

Day 1

Spencer began with a broadAlan 2 overview of the company and his role as VP of Business Operations. The company serves as a same-day nationwide flower delivery service, by both shipping from its own warehouses and utilizing a national florist network. Spencer showed my fellow Princetern and I the platform on which, in combination with Google Analytics, the company does its analysis of operations and performance. Impressively, Spencer coded this entire platform from the ground up in Python.

For the rest of the day, we met with other members of the company. We talked to Dave Palms ’11, who is also involved with operations and business intelligence. Dave discussed other aspects of the analysis platform, pointing out certain trends that the team noticed when particular tests were applied to investigate the effects of a marketing technique. We also participated in a meeting between Dave and the email-marketing specialist—we discussed the results of a test from the day before, in which a percentage discount was offered to some people on the email list and free shipping was offered to other people on the email list.

Later in the day, we spent time with the VP of Digital Marketing, who talked about advertising on Google and other search engines. We discussed cost-per-click for Google AdWords, along with in-site advertising based on previously browsed websites. It was very interesting to learn about how digital advertising is becoming increasingly more predictive—marketers are attempting to predict what one is likely to buy and display relevant advertisements in the websites one browses through.

Day 2

We met with members of the IT team to discuss predictive forecasting. I was particularly interested in this aspect of the company, considering that an inaccurate forecasting for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day would have enormous consequences. An IT specialist walked us through his forecasting work in Excel and methods of estimating quarterly or yearly growth. We also listened to a discussion between Spencer and the IT specialist about this year’s Mother’s Day forecast.

A notable event during the day was sitting in on a conference call between a few members of From You Flowers and a few members of an email service provider. This call was part of multi-day pitch to attract the business of From You Flowers. It was beneficial to see how conference calls and pitching work between businesses; I found the stark contrast between the sales and technical aspects of the pitch quite interesting. After the call, Spencer provided us with insights on additional aspects of sales pitches and how he evaluates sales offers.

The Princeternship wasAlan 3 a very rewarding experience. Not only did I learn so much about e-commerce, but throughout my stay I also received extremely helpful career advice for both my time at Princeton and after graduation. To top it off, at the end of the second day we participated in the company-wide bowling tournament!

Michael Chiang ’17, From You Flowers

Michael-ChiangI had my winter Princeternship at FromYouFlowers.com during Reading Period. As a freshman I didn’t know what to expect. I applied for the program in the hopes that I would get some experience in the job search process. However, from start to finish the whole experience was incredible. On my first day, I I met my fellow Princetern Olamide and host Spencer Lucian (ORFE ’08) and David Palms (Econ ’11). They explained the complex nature of the flower business, the different florist networks that FYF uses. After receiving a basic understanding of the flower business, we were thrown into the team’s monthly marketing meeting. Although I was a bit out of my league with terminology and it felt like they were saying the alphabet over and over again (SEO, SEM, CPC), the meeting was a great way for me to understand what each person did for the company, and put a face to each division. Over the next two days I was given the opportunity to talk to each person, about what they did. I had the chance to ask questions ranging from work-life balance, interview advice, professional history, and daily life/responsibilities.

One of the coolest things I Chiang 2learned wasn’t about marketing or operations, but rather, about workplace dynamic and how to foster a good workplace. CEO Mike Chapin created an environment where everyone felt they had a purpose, and saw how their work impacted the company. One way he achieved this was through “mandatory fun” which consisted of bowling every Tuesday night. As someone who hadn’t bowled since elementary school (with bumpers), I was severely outmatched. Although I probably threw as many gutterballs as successful hits, I had a great time, and received this “brilliant” piece of advice from our host: “Why don’t you try throwing it down the middle?” (Complete with hand gestures)

Chiang 1Spencer and David were amazing hosts. As a perspective ORFE major, I was able to talk to Spencer about ORFE, his path, and how he felt his Princeton education helped him professionally. I came back to Princeton raving about my time at From You Flowers, and hope to participate in another Princeternship soon.

Ironically, the one thing I did not learn too much about during my time at From You Flowers was flowers.