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What the Founder of 1-800-Flowers Wishes He’d Known When Starting Up

1-800-Flowers may be one of the biggest companies in flowers and gifts, exceeding $1 billion in annual revenue, but the retailer grew from modest beginnings.

Before starting the company in 1976, Jim McCann was working as a social worker in Queens, New York, and had a part-time job as a bartender. One of his customers from the bar, a flower shop owner, told him he wanted to sell his store. McCann tried working there a few weekends and decided he liked the business. And so, with $10,000, he took a risk and bought his first shop, on Manhattan’s East Side. Over the next 20 years he acquired 20 more stores, and put his family to work to help run his growing enterprise.

Over the years, 1-800-Flowers has branched out from physical locations to e-commerce, relying on a national network of florists who can fulfill orders by phone, web, and now through special order bots on Facebook. Along the way, the company has acquired complementary businesses in food and gifts, such as Harry & David, Fannie May, 1-800-Baskets, and The Popcorn Factory. These acquisitions have been an important component in 1-800-Flowers doubling its revenue size since 2011.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth the company has experienced over the past few decades, McCann, who stepped down from his role as chief executive in March to become executive chairman, says in retrospect he would have done things slightly differently.

Check out the video above to learn what McCann wishes he had known when starting out. Also hear about 1-800-Flowers’ formula for sustaining growth, even in the toughest economic environments.