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Career 180: A freshly-cut online business



Olivier Plusquellec is the founder of Ode à la Rose, a same-day flower delivery site in Manhattan.

Before he devoted his time to helping New Yorkers make their apartments and offices look and smell more beautiful, Plusquellec, 37, was a midtown investment banker at Societe Generale until 2008 and then at Natixis until late 2011.

He officially launched, which has its offices in the flower district on 28th Street, in January of 2012.

Plusquellec lives in Murray Hill with his wife and baby girl.

Why did you switch careers?

What really triggered the switch was I really want to have more control over my career. When I started launching my own company in 2008, at the time I was working at this investment bank, which had been really hard hit by the turmoil in the financial markets. … I felt like I could really be the next one on the [chopping block] without being able to do anything about it.

Why did you pick the flower biz?

Originally I looked at various industries and I’m a big flower person. … I just had the hardest time [finding flowers] in New York … I either have the choice between the national online players … or your local florist, which provides great quality but usually it’s very expensive. I thought here was definitely a market opportunity for a quality product at an affordable price.

Why did you decide to go with the only-online route, rather than a storefront?

The whole retail business has been really struggling in the last 30 years … and to be frank, we basically cater to what we call the ’gift industry’  … and so it didn’t really make sense to have a sort of retail presence because it’s much more convenient for these customers to be able to order directly on our website.

Is it difficult to provide same-day delivery?

In Manhattan it’s pretty easy because you have a high geographic density. We usually deliver in less than three hours, and it’s a city where, when people want something they want it in the next 5 minutes -- so providing them with same-day delivery service was definitely very important.

Do you deliver at all to the outer boroughs?

We deliver in some areas of Brooklyn, some areas of the Bronx and some areas of Queens. It’s actually doing so well that we’re … in the process of raising additional funds … and the goal now is basically to expand to other markets outside the five boroughs of New York City in five months. ... Obviously we won’t be able to provide same-day delivery, but our flowers will be available for delivery in [surrounding states].

What makes people love freshly cut flowers?

People want to send an emotion, and that’s really the whole point of sending flowers. When you’re sending an emotion you want to make sure that it’s going to be sent out the right way … because it reflects yourself before anything else. You want that message to be delivered. It’s something that’s very powerful actually.

What is your favorite kind of flower?

There’s a rose I love which is called a Circus Rose. It’s a yellow rose with reddish tips. It’s a very cheerful rose … and they last a while.

What are some pros and cons of your new job?

The pros definitely outweigh the cons. In terms of the pros, I find it’s extremely gratifying and satisfying to build a business from scratch. … The main con I would say is it’s definitely more challenging financially. I used to basically have a paycheck every month, now I have a lack of visibility, which can be challenging especially in a city like New York where the cost of living is so high.

Looking back, do you wish you had gone into this originally?

The skill set I learned in the 10 years where I was working at investment banks definitely increased my chances to carry out this project successfully. However, if I had to do things a little bit differently I probably shouldn’t have waited that long before taking the plunge. I learned the skill set after six or seven years … basically the incremental learning curve wasn’t worth the two years I wasted, in a way.

Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?

I think the most important thing is to be well-prepared, because whatever the project, it’s definitely going to be a bumpy road so you really need to do all the ground work beforehand. Talking to different people with different profiles is really going to bring light to your project and probably give you some answers you didn’t even think of. … Once you’ve done all that work the best thing is actually to stop talking about it and actually do it, which I guess is really the most difficult part.




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