Filipino Entrepreneur Dustin Andaya Is Coming Up Roses
Filipino entrepreneur Dustin Andaya sells sustainably-sourced roses online, and is changing the gift-giving habits of a nation!
Running a flower shop may come across as easy and relaxed, but things are lot more exciting when you’re CEO of the largest and most popular flower retailer in the Philippines.
University of Bath School of Management alum Dustin Andaya is keeping romance alive through ethically sourced flowers sold and distributed using cloud technology.
Dustin graduated from the University of Bath School of Management in 1999 and since then has grown his online flower business, Island Rose, from a $2,000 investment to a household name in flower delivery in the Philippines.
Dustin, 42, grew up in the Philippines and studied in the US and UK. He worked for Honda and then in real estate but when the Asian crisis hit in 1997, he felt it was time to get an MBA.
The idea to start an online flower business came after he wrote a paper on a small business during the MBA. Dustin’s father ran a rose farm in the Philippines, in addition to running a small boutique consultancy firm.
Dustin decided to base his paper on his dad's side business. Prior to this he had never worked for his father or his family, so he called up his brother and asked for some data from the farm.
The paper did not turn out so well, but it gave Dustin the idea to start his own online business. The farm only supplied wholesale to stores but Dustin’s idea was to sell directly to consumers online.
Dustin says that flowers are not as popular in Philippines as they are in the West. “It’s not a regular tradition here, unlike in the West, where people take flowers to a dinner. This meant we had to remake the business and give it a focus on relationships. You will notice that our tagline is 'keeping relationships alive'."
All the French and Dutch variety roses sold on Island Rose come from an environmentally friendly farm. When Dustin presented his father with the proposition for an online store, his father was not initially convinced as he did not understand online business.
Soon enough he noticed that 10 to 15 per cent of the requests were coming through the online shop so he eagerly embraced technology and decided to modernize the farm. Now, the flowers are grown using state-of-the art greenhouse facilities in the cool climate of Tagaytay. Computerized programmes ensure that water is not wasted.
It seems Island Rose has always been one step ahead of the competition. When Dustin entered the online business, he started out by making sure he used a cloud-based system so that he could work from anywhere without worrying about the speed of the connection or about servers going down. During peak periods when they need extra hands, the team of 50 moves to a warehouse by the farm and can simply log on and carry on working.
Although Island Rose has become a household name in the Philippines, Dustin sees more room for growth. The company already overcame the challenge of a small online population and little credit card penetration when they first started out.
The online store delivers directly to consumers rather than having to go through wholesale and retail channels but this means that Dustin has to take care of the tough areas of SEO, online marketing and online PR.
The company has increased the variety of flowers and have added other gifts to accompany the flowers. They recently acquired ExpressRegalo, an online gift shop - ‘Regalo’ means gift in Filipino - and have also bought Bruges, a Belgian chocolate factory in the Philippines. Logistics are easier to manage because the country is small and Valentine's, Mother’s Day and Christmas are the most demanding occasions for the business.
Dustin hasn’t become immune to the effect of giving and receiving flowers after working closely with them for so long. Likewise, he doesn’t think people can get tired of them. He wants to take advantage of other occasions such as Teacher’s day and Father’s Day to create more demand for the business.
He said, “I prefer to give and not receive. The effect you get when you send someone flowers is like a gift card on steroids.
“Flowers are a very sincere thing to give because you cannot place a price on the message that it delivers. If you give flowers with electronics or with jewellery, it completely changes the message and gives it a newer, warmer meaning”.
So, what’s next for the business?
Dustin is spending time upgrading Express Regalo and working on a website for women giving to men. There will also be more gift customization services to allow people give more personalized gifts. Island Rose will remain exclusively for flowers.
His advice to freshly minted MBAs who want to start their own business is to work really hard. “A lot of people think that it’s about luck or knowing the right people or having connections. You can get lucky but nothing replaces hard work”, he said.
The other thing is to learn to learn. “You learn stuff from school and think that you’re hot but things move along and all the knowledge you gained soon becomes obsolete. Learning to learn is what gives you an edge”.
Read more stories about students, alumni and programmes at University of Bath School of Management, here. Check out more stories on MBA Entrepreneurs, here