Launching a successful business in Canberra

Fri 04 May

Meet the lady behind all the businesses in Canberra you didn’t know we needed and now can’t live without. Renee Douros has brought the capital The Floral Society, The Sugar Deli, Planted, and The Social Club on the back of her first business baby Hooray Magazine.

We chatted with Renee about the birth of each business. With four under her belt and child number two on the way, it’s fair to say she is one busy boss.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey in business so far?

I started publishing Hooray Magazine, about six years ago which was my first legit business. I had owned businesses growing up, like a swim school when I was 18, but a proper fully-fledged business all started with Hooray. We were doing big international print distribution in the UK, US and every newsagent in Australia. Our distributor went bankrupt and as a small independent publisher we were told to ‘jump off the ship before it sinks.’ I stopped printing the magazine and turned it online, not long after I had my daughter.

I put a lot of money into a really good website, knowing in the back of my mind I wanted to sell the Hooray brand. I started The Floral Society, which established an online platform for a delivery based business, the framework was all there, I had done the thinking and paid a lot of money to have a website that was intuitive and good in terms of user experience, so I thought ‘how can I capitalise off that and bring another cash flow stream into my life?’ Pregnancy cravings is what gave me the idea for Sugar Deli. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I could get dessert delivered?’ – instead I made my husband do a 40-minute round trip for Goodberry’s.

One year after the Floral Society launch, Sugar Deli was up and running, based on what I already knew about online delivery. Next, I started Planted using the same platform again, online ordering and delivery where the user deals with us through our online interface 90% of the time. The only customer dealing face is delivery – other than the shop front we have for Floral Society, which is a touch point we have for customers because people want to touch and smell flowers.

The Social Club came about because our tenant [above The Floral Society] moved back to Turkey, and we had this massive space. Knowing rent in Kingston wasn’t good, even for a nice place - this one was run down – we decided to renovate.  It took us four months before we could launch. I wouldn’t have started The Social Club if we didn’t have the building in the family, I never would have leased a space for this idea. It is because we own it that makes it great, we can do what we want, we don’t have a landlord to answer to and we can allow people to party until 4am if they want because it’s privately owned.

What are the biggest challenges in coming up with the new ideas for a city like Canberra?

It’s about looking at the market and recognising a need for the business. A lot of people come up with a business idea because they are very passionate about it but they don’t stop and asses the market, and look at the competition. It can be difficult to crack a market in Canberra because locals are very loyal to the businesses that they love. I don’t follow passions, I follow what I think will make money. I have no emotional connection to any of my businesses. They have all been launched purely because the market needed it at that time.

How important is  good execution?

For me, getting the business off the ground is the most exciting part about the whole journey. Really establishing the brand and tone.  You have to have a great website and curated social media account – everything has to be polished. A good launch party doesn’t go astray. It’s an effective PR tool, but if you don’t have the budget to do that, cute media send outs are also effective. In Canberra, it is important to make a bit of a bang – there are a lot of things going on, so you need to cut through and reach your consumer. I have been very fortunate in the sense that local creatives, other businesses and general Canberrans have been very supportive of what we have done, and it is important to reach out and get them involved. At The Social Club, we have influencers coming in for photo shoots for their own Instagram and content which is cool, and it’s good to be involved and work with the community.

Would you say your businesses have a similar vibe or tone?

I try to make them separate from one another but inevitably I am the one behind it all so my personality is going to reflect.

How important has social media been for your type of business?

I’ve always said even with Hooray back in the day, likes don’t equal dollars in the bank account. That is something people don’t get. People get so caught up in followers and yes it in very valuable, user engagement is great for exposure but 500,000 likes is not going to mean you have $500,000 in your bank account. The amount of people coming into your space and buying from you is more important.

How do you balance between each business?

The Floral Society requires a team to run that because I’m not a florist. I am useless so I outsource. The Sugar Deli and Planted essentially run themselves, we have small teams looking after them. The Social Club has taken up the most time because it demands that we are here physically. If a party finishes at 1am you have to be here to lock the door. If we aren’t hosting, we are bringing people through the space.

Is this you done? Or are you always looking for a new idea?

Probably not. After every single launch I have said to my family and friends I am finished but something always comes up. I will never say never.

Photography by Peta Rudd