The founder of BloomMe — Hong Kong’s one-stop beauty services app — Iella Koblenz shares her experience on the Hong Kong startup scene, gaining confidence and delegating like a boss.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT BLOOMME
Originally from Berlin, Koblenz moved to Hong Kong three years ago and launched BloomMe with husband Imanuel in 2015. The mobile app makes it easy for on-the-go gals and guys to browse and book last-minute beauty appointments at spas and salons across Hong Kong.
Identify a problem
BloomMe came along about three years ago. I had been traveling back and forth from Hong Kong to Berlin for work and was looking for an easy solution to book beauty appointments, spas and salons. But I didn’t see one in Hong Kong!
Make life easier
Although I am not the biggest spa goer, I realized it’s really a hassle to book appointments in Hong Kong. First you have to find the right spa, then you have to make the appointment over the phone and often there’s a language barrier. It takes time.
Find the right partners
We had three cofounders including my husband Imanuel and his brother. We work together and, honestly it’s 24-7, but we enjoy it. Our relationship gives structure — like a foundation — to the company.
Everyone has their role
I am not the visionary in the company. I get things done and that’s what I’m good at. Imanuel can see where to be in six months, two months, one year. We talk about the plan, and I implement it. I make sure the team is on board and everyone knows what to do — I like to delegate.
On staying sane
We aren’t so young, trying to build this company. It’s the biggest challenge and also the biggest asset. I am very aware of my weaknesses, and I am aware of my strengths. That’s why a lot of younger people who start their own companies have a tendency to completely lose their minds.
Build a powerhouse team
But the most important part is your team. Creating a team that can reach all the goals you want to achieve as a company is crucial. It’s also important to acknowledge what you’re good at and what you’re not good at — it strengthens the business.
Take a risk
The hardest challenge so far was the first round of funding. We have three co-founders and my brother-in-law has an online marketing company. He has knowledge, but we didn’t really have a strong tech background.
We invested a lot of our own money into the company and we needed more outside funds. We had to show traction, and prove that we could attract customers and partners. That meant we had to survive on our own without funding until we could prove the concept. We had to take the risk on ourselves.
Gain that confidence
We gained confidence from trial and error. We stumbled a few times, and simply kept going. I am really happy to say that I have learned so much in the last two years, and now I can hold a meeting with investors with confidence — something I definitely couldn’t do before.
I am really curious and open to challenges. I don’t mind trying everything because I think every experience has its value and it will help me become better in what I’m doing.
Knowing more and broadening your horizons is always a good thing. I have a natural curiosity. And I’m really not afraid to fail, actually, or the disappointment of failing. It happens all the time. You just have to keep going.
But don’t burn out
As a startup you have to be careful with your resources — don’t burn yourself out running to each and every event. Be targeted with the events you attend. In the startup community, we collaborate, form partnerships and support each other to push both your company's. That’s something that I consider really valuable.
A FEW MORE QUESTIONS
What do you think of the Hong Kong startup scene?
The startup scene is growing fast. I am not the biggest networking person in the world but it really helps a business and helps you break into the community. We like to have a good relationship with other startups and businesses so we can share struggles and learn from others experiences.
What is the startup experience like for women in Hong Kong?
I don’t think the experience for me has been any different than that of a man. At the beginning we had problems because we were amateurs. Not just me as a woman, my male cofounders too.
What are your go-to tools for productivity?
We use Trello online for productivity and work — without it BloomMe wouldn’t be where it is now. It’s what we use for daily communications. You can organize weekly tasks, daily tasks, visualize things, share reports. Every department has its own board. We separate it down to smaller pieces. That’s how we communicate and assign tasks to each other.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Our investment advisers have been a huge help. They are successful business men and women themselves. They are older than us and have done this 100 times. They give us very good advice on how to prioritize.
What is your favorite power meal before a big day?
My pre-game routine starts with coffee. I start my day with 3-4 espressos. I am addicted for sure! But to balance that out, I personally like muesli with yogurt and fruit. It keeps me full and energized for a long time.
How do you relax?
Yoga is one of those things I don’t let anyone interfere with. I love to listen to music between meetings — especially 90s hip hop and contemoproary pop. It makes that time really relaxing and helps my brain to process.
Where do you shop for business clothes?
Honestly, I go to Zara and H&M. I’m not a big shopper. Once a while, if I want to spoil myself or I need a good business outfit, then Reiss is my favorite.