Zach Brown had never been to Chicago.The first time he stepped foot in the windy city was when his employer, a 70-person flower delivery startup in New York, sent him to launch its third branch there.
Launching a startup in a new market is a tall task for anyone, let alone a 25-year-old.
But 13 months later Brown is managing 12 people and working with the 100 Chicago-based clients he helped bring onboard for H.Bloom. His branch is generating $1 million this year; last year H.Bloom generated $2 million across all four of its markets, total.
Unlike most companies, which seek business veterans to run new branches, H.Bloom is finding recent graduates and moulding them into managers. It spends three to six months training them in a SEED program, where they get one-on-one access to all of the company’s executives, marketing strategies and more. Trainees hang out with H.Bloom’s CEO on Saturdays and master technical, operational and marketing skills Monday through Friday. Upon graduating from the program, the mini managers are fully equipped to open H.Bloom in a new market.
For young professionals who are not quite ready to start their own ventures, it’s a pretty great deal. They learn how to manage a team and grow a business like it’s their own, without the financial risk. Not to mention they shoot up the corporate ladder.
The SEED program is a smart talent investment strategy for H.Bloom too — so long as it finds good people to train. Two people who went through the SEED program didn’t pan out, but the others are running H.Bloom’s New York, D.C. and San Francisco divisions.
“We knew the SEED program could provide a really good revenue opportunity, but it could also be a risk. If the person didn’t work out we’d have expended energy on a failure,” Burkhart tells Business Insider. “Through the program, we have three to six months to assess whether the person will work or not. But to be able to train people like Zach is a great strategy.”
Like any startup manager, Brown has aggressive goals. Next year he’s expected to double his team’s revenue to at least $2 million and achieve profitability for the Chicago market. So he’s busy building out his team, managing P&L, and pitching new business.
With nearly 500 clients, H.Bloom is planning to launch its subscription flower delivery service in 25 new cities soon. The new cities will be led predominately by other graduates of its SEED program.
“The SEED program was like Business 101 training, like a classroom aspect of learning a business,” Brown says. “It was an awesome opportunity for me, and I was able to hone my skills as a leader which has been really important to my professional development.”