Awais Babar’s business idea stemmed from a gap in the floral industry he believed desperately needed watering and, despite embarking on a thorny path, he’s making Endura Roses a blooming franchise
The Manchester bombings in 2017 didn’t just devastate locals of the Northern city – people across the UK and around the world were left shocked and grief-stricken by the attack. Nothing could reverse the trauma faced by the families who suffered a loved one’s death. However, there was something that comforted them during those times and Awais Babar, founder of Endura Roses, the flower preservation franchise, was the reason behind it. “We gave all 22 families [affected] our fresh roses that last forever and watching them get a moment of peace was worth every challenge I went through,” Babar remembers. “Making millions of pounds is good but giving people something that will stay for their entire lifetime is something else altogether.” And this is what drove him to leave his 16-year run as a consultant for fast-food franchises and turn to flowers.
Reaching that level of recognition just one year after opening the first store in 2016 was no bed of roses for Babar. Launched in 2015, Endura Roses stemmed from a dilemma he faced as a father fulfilling the routine of bringing gifts home for his daughters following business trips. Cosmetics and chocolates no longer took his fancy. While glancing at the stores in an airport four years ago, a high-end flower shop piqued his interest. But much to his dismay they all looked shrivelled and on their last legs. “Nothing showcases your emotions like flowers but not when they look tired,” he says, adding this was his eureka moment as he realised the floral industry needed new seeds to be planted.
Feeling existing flower sellers were out of touch, Babar didn’t desire to go down the same path as the traditional flora market. “High street and luxury bouquet stores with fancy displays are getting wiped out and are struggling because they don’t have the prices that a Tesco or Sainsbury’s has and the products aren’t too different,” he says. “So that was a no-go for me.” Artificial flowers were also out of the question for the environmentalist – his vision was to preserve the freshness and fragrance of flowers forever. “I wanted to revolutionise the industry in a way that a customer could pluck a flower from the garden and keep it beside a preserved one and be unable to tell the difference,” he details.
For his idea to bloom, Babar had to embark on a journey filled with thorns – figuratively and literally – as he travelled to Ecuador, Colombia, Japan and even Kenya to source the finest flowers. From there, he began his expedition to concoct the preservation process. “That innovative formula to retain the colour, stature and feel of a rose took over a year to be perfect,” he recalls.
Little did he expect that the real challenge was yet to come. After getting the immortal roses ready, he was confident they would amaze any customer, bewitching them like the enchanted flower in Beauty and the Beast to “fly off the shelves in no time.” The first store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre was welcomed with much enthusiasm thanks to the ideal Instagram backdrop of rose-filled arches where shoppers who weren’t necessarily customers came to get snapped but didn’t want to open their wallets. While these posts garnered much brand awareness without Babar having to spend money on marketing, it failed to generate profits. “I got the response I expected but it wasn’t driving enough sales,” Babar says, adding that receiving social media success had him look at the business through rose-tinted glasses hence he “underestimated the upcoming challenges.” “We then realised the financially dull climate we were in and because this wasn’t a consumable product people were struggling to spend £80 for a rose,” he admits.
With the root cause being the high pricing and unending expenses, things needed a little trim for the company to grow. Drawing upon his past experience in crisis management for franchises and analysing their business models, Babar knew what had to be done. “The R&D needed more capital as we were revising our model,” he adds. “And we couldn’t sell too many roses as the production process to preserve a rose forever takes quite a long time.” However, financial challenges didn’t wither his passion for the project. To ensure the budding company was nurtured to the best of his ability, he bootstrapped and smashed open the piggy bank of savings from his previous job.
Once he rose above those obstacles and built a stronger team, the business started gaining momentum. A few months down the line, Babar started getting enquiries for franchising without having to advertise. The only reason he took his time to sign the first franchisee was because he didn’t think the company was ready initially. “[But] branching into franchising was the goal from day one,” he says. After opening his company store in the Trafford Centre which is touted as a premium location, Babar wanted to experiment with lesser known territories and chose the Intu Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex for his first franchise site, which opened as of July 2018.
Harnessing his experience in franchising even before opening the first franchise, Babar knew the key factor for success was ensuring happy and profitable franchisees. “Opening your own franchise is a different ball game,” he says. “I need to have the answers for every problem that might come up and that was a lesson for me.”
For Babar, it was all about simplicity for his model. Based on that, he notes the franchisee doesn’t require any extensive training and ensures they’re hand-held at every step. From marketing, designing, sourcing the product, recruiting the staff as well as the store launch – it’s all executed by the franchisor. “Simply put, franchisees mainly need to put the product from the box onto the shelf – the roses sell themselves,” he says. “As soon as a customer comes into the store, they get fascinated with the product so 70% of the job is done. You don’t need to be an expert in marketing to run an Endura store.”
Like his training model, Babar’s recruitment checklist wasn’t a complicated one. “I don’t want a franchisee who thinks of Endura as just a moneymaking ATM,” he says. Nor is having business experience important for him. “All I want is passion and value which you add to the brand.” This passion held by the franchisor helped him to start retailing the roses in House of Fraser and initiate talks with Selfridges.
And now that the fragrance of Endura Roses is spreading across Britain, Babar is sowing the seed in international soil. Having already signed master franchisees in the US, Scandinavia and India, Babar has plans to take over all major cities of Europe and eventually grow his roots on every continent.
He hasn’t forgotten where he started though and the UK is still very much his bread and butter with two franchisees scheduled to open this autumn and four more in early 2019 in all parts of the country. Indeed, Babar is sure to see his brand cultivate more popularity and aims to open at least 25 stores nationwide in the next five years. “There’s nothing more quintessential as a bouquet of red roses for a loved one irrespective of the occasion,” he declares. “With the fast-paced, technology-filled life today, people need more natural beauty around them. And the way flowers touch people’s lives is unfathomable, so what could be a better business than that?”