Portugal has been attracting more entrepreneurs from foreign shores in the past few years due to programmes designed to attract start-ups. The dynamic couple Firuza and Ramin Sultanov are two such entrepreneurs who are literally blooming in Portugal with their new company, Floovly.
The couple originated from Azerbaijan but were widely travelled when they met in 2017. Firuza attended high school in Kuwait before attending University in Turkey and gaining a master’s degree in entrepreneurship in France. “I have always felt at home in Europe.” Ramin lived in Moscow for nine years, working as a data analyst. They both shared a common dream to start their own business.
Their first foray into being entrepreneurial came with an e-commerce business which they quit their jobs for. This concept called ‘drop shipping’ is a form of retail business wherein the seller accepts customer orders without keeping stock. At the same time, they started to coach people on how to create an e-commerce business. However, their sights were set higher, and they began to explore ideas for a start-up that would be global and allow them to live in Europe.
“Azerbaijan has a flower culture,” explains Firuza, “it is normal to have flowers in your house and I started to research more about how flowers improve your mental health and act as mood enhancers.” The idea of Floovly blossomed! It is a weekly flower subscription platform focusing on the mental health benefits of flowers.
The couple started looking for start-up programmes in Europe. Ramin explains, “Many European countries have schemes offering ‘incubators’ or ‘accelerators’ that normally take equity in exchange for money and mentoring. We were accepted in the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal.” Despite never having been to Portugal, some instinct led them to choose that country to follow their dreams.
Despite the Portuguese government (IAPMEI) inviting them to launch their project in Portugal, the hardest part was getting here! There is no Portuguese embassy in Azerbaijan and the world was in the grip of the pandemic. They also have different citizenships, so Ramin had to go to the Moscow embassy and Firuza to the embassy in Ankara. Then having received visas and with flights booked, they tested positive for COVID with their PCR tests and couldn’t travel. Despite wondering if the universe was telling them to give up, finally, the French embassy gave them the visas they needed to get to Portugal, from where they applied to become residents. Their successful application for the start-up programme accelerated the process of becoming residents in Portugal.
Once they arrived in Portugal, fate started to turn in their favour. They even had a chance to pitch their startup to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and had a booth at the WebSummit in Lisbon in November 2021. “There has been a massive shift post-COVID towards self-love, while people are delving more into spirituality and mental health, which connects with what we are doing. When I have flowers in my house, it lifts my mood,” says Firuza.
Their primary target market is female entrepreneurs who work from home and want to improve their live-work space and treat themselves to some beautiful blooms, which has been proven to increase productivity. They currently operate in Lisbon, the Algarve, London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Prague and Bratislava, offering customers the joy of receiving a surprise bouquet of seasonal flowers.
They also intend to help florists by generating more business and better conditions. Sadly, 45% of cut flowers die before being sold, so they aim to decrease those numbers by helping local florists reach more customers through Floovly. They also aim to help other entrepreneurs by donating a percentage of their profits to female-orientated businesses that help them become entrepreneurs. They also are forming partnerships with other like-minded organisations and offering discounts to members, including Athena Founders in Lisbon. “All my values align with this brand,” reflects Firuza.
Originally basing themselves in Lisbon, they realised it was unnecessary to live in the capital with their enterprise, so they decided to try living in the Algarve. They searched for an apartment and the only one they found was in Lagos, which they had never previously visited. “We were very pleasantly surprised by Lagos, we love the community vibe and lots of young people are coming to live here, so we have made friends,” says Ramin.
With their blooming marvellous idea, energy, and enthusiasm, Floovly will undoubtedly grow into a huge success for this enterprising young couple.