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Sisters set down own roots to bloom in flower business

Liza Yosephine
Liza Yosephine

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, February 5, 2019  /  09:24 am
Sisters set down own roots to bloom in flower business

The founder-owners of La Madame Florist, Jessica Novia (left) and Peggy Novia (right), stand amid a garden of flowers in their shop on Jl. Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta. (The Jakarta Post/Donny Fernando)

Amid the restaurants and cafes that line Jl. Pantai Indah Kapuk in North Jakarta is La Madame Florist, which has injected a touch of natural beauty to the block. Floor-to-ceiling windows with brass-embellished frames showcases the colorful collection of flowers that fills the shop from wall to wall.

Founded by sisters Jessica Novia, 29, and Peggy Novia, 26, the now blooming business started online on Nov. 8, 2014, and a physical outlet was established one year later. The sisters' journey wasn’t easy, as they had branched off from their family business to carve out their own path.

Coming from a close-knit family of six with both parents owning individual businesses, the four children were all taught from a young age to be entrepreneurial. Like many Indonesian families of Chinese descent, business sense runs strong in their blood, and many Chinese-Indonesians pass down the family business from parents to their children, some even across many generations.

Jessica and Peggy's father, Felix Laman, owns an import business with an office in WTC Mangga Dua, North Jakarta, while their mother Yuliana has run a clothing store for almost two decades in the same commercial complex

The sisters, however, chose not to carry on with either business, and instead waited until they found their own niche.

When asked how their parents felt about them venturing beyond the family business, Jessica and Peggy replied that their mother and father were both supportive of their decision.

"Perhaps our passion and interests are different from our parents’, and we just happened to find something else that we're passionate about. So we focused on pursuing that," Jessica, the eldest of four siblings, told The Jakarta Post during a recent interview at their brightly lit flower shop.

Jessica Novia is the elder of the pair of sisters that founded La Madame Florist, which started out as an online business.Jessica Novia is the elder of the pair of sisters that founded La Madame Florist, which started out as an online business. (The Jakarta Post/Donny Fernando)

"Of course, we learned so much from our parents, they always share with us many of their own experiences and tips, including how to build a business from scratch, and everything. We look to them for such lessons," she added.

Peggy added that their parents had guided them since the very beginning of establishing their flower business. There was a lot to think about when starting La Madame and even more when they established the physical store on a street where the rent was very expensive, she said.

"I guess the biggest lesson our parents taught us was never to be afraid to take risks," said Peggy, who is the second youngest in the family.

The sisters’ venture started out as a hobby.

"We love flowers. And when we receive flowers, there's a certain happiness from [getting them]," said Peggy.

She said flowers grew into a passion that Jessica also shared. They used to surf the web to find flower arrangement videos on YouTube and pinned their favorite bouquets on Pinterest.

"It started as a hobby and at the time, we were also looking to start a business that followed our passion. So we decided flowers were a good start," Jessica chimed in.

But florists and bouquets were still a rarity five years ago in the crowded capital, where people preferred to send flower boards made to order at flower markets to convey congratulations or condolences.  

So they decided to test the waters through an e-commerce platform.

Read also: Researchers unlock thorny secrets of rose DNA

Jessica, then 25, held a management degree from Pelita Harapan University in Tangerang, Banten, and had a marketing job at a bank with a stellar performance. Holding down a full-time job, however, did not stop her from launching the joint venture with Peggy.

Meanwhile, Peggy, who was fresh out of college with a communications degree from Tarumanegara University in Jakarta, dove straight into the deep end.

The sisters invested their own money to found La Madame Florist.

"At the time, since it was still only an online business, I could handle it along with my job at the bank. I would work on orders in the evenings," said Jessica.

One year later and with their orders piling up, however, the time soon came when she had to choose.

“It was a difficult decision. I mean, I was doing well at the bank, and that career path is, of course, a safer one in comparison to building a business, which can be unpredictable,” she said.

With her parents’ wise words kept firmly in mind, however, she took the leap and eventually left her job at the bank in 2015, once the duo decided to set up a physical store.

La Madame Florist was an outlet that offered beautiful bouquets, initially starting with roses and tulips. Taking a step further, the sisters decided to create super-sized bouquets that were made to impress.

La Madame's employees help Jessica and Peggy arrange a super-sized bouquet.La Madame's employees help Jessica and Peggy arrange a super-sized bouquet. (The Jakarta Post/Donny Fernando)

"When we started, people were only familiar, perhaps, with small bouquets. But through our research, we also took inspiration from overseas, where large-sized bouquets were actually popular," said Peggy.

"So we adapted the ideas and inspiration we found, and from there, we created one of our first signature bouquets with roses and baby's breath. But we made it extra large," she added.

Today, the florist also offers larger-than-life arrangements that contain more than 1,000 flowers.

They also poured creative ideas into their gift-wrapping service. La Madame’s bouquets do not just come snuggled securely in tissue paper, but also baskets and premium boxes.

Innovation continues to be a pillar in growing their business, which in the past year also included expanding their store into the space next door.

"We just keep adapting new ideas and continue to be creative and innovative so that people don't get bored," Jessica said.

From selling an average of six bouquets a day during its online days, La Madame Florist now receives 80 orders on an average day. During peak seasons, such as around Valentine's Day, they can receive up to 300 orders.

"We've had to close on Valentine's Day before, because we'd reached full capacity from the pre-orders," Jessica said.

In the future, the sisters hope to make La Madame Florist into a one-stop-shop for all things floral.

"So for example, people won't just be coming to us for bouquets, but also flower arrangements for weddings and other events, as well as gardens and home decor, including accessories such as vases. It will all be complete and available here," said Jessica.

She added that they had already begun heading in that direction since last year, when they started making floral centerpieces for gala events.

The sisters said their parents were proud as they continued to forge their own path. When asked if anyone in their family might take on their parents’ businesses, Jessica said their brother Antonius Tommy had decided to carry on with their father’s import business.

Youngest sibling Giovani Novia, who is in university, is also practicing what their parents preach, as she has already begun developing her entrepreneurial skills as a health and fitness influencer on Instagram. (wng)