Business students develop sweet solutions for edible bouquet creator

April 24, 2014

Turning fruits, vegetables and chocolate into fresh arrangements that are as appetizing to the eye as they are to the stomach is Janaki Nallapareddy's specialty.

But it's the inner-workings of her Terre Haute business, Edible Bouquets by Janaki, which had her looking to Indiana State University junior business majors for help. Students Jacquelyn Gary of Indianapolis and Simone Hill of Temples Hill, Md. provided Nallapareddy assistance as part of their community engagement requirement for the university's honors program in an introductory supply chain course at Indiana State.

Among the issues Gary and Hill were asked to tackle for the less than 3-year-old business was to create a new company name that would eliminate similarities to national brands that might lead to legal issues, weighing the pros and cons of partnering with 1-800-FLOWERS to get her products out, and creating a new method of tracking orders.

Following one consultation with Nallapareddy that included a taste test of her products, Hill and Gary narrowed business name possibilities down to Delicious Designs by Janaki, which they believe expresses both customer sentiment as well as a personal touch, given that each bouquet is handcrafted by Nallapareddy.

"Part of the students' job was pushing this seemingly simple exercise through the lens of business logic", said Kuntal Bhattacharyya, who advised the students in this project as part of his supply chain course. "Supply chains thrive on value...I wanted the students to test-drive this philosophy on Janaki's product".

The students combined customer reviews and feedback on Janaki's business into a wonderful "word cloud" that emphasized the most frequently used words used by customers to describe Janaki's business.

Their final proposal ties nicely with the word cloud by mapping the business offerings with customer perceptions and feedback - thereby enabling the creation of value and a brand built around customers.

"People like the quality of the products and we tried to come up with a name that shows what her products stand for," Hill said.They also compiled financial data to determine that partnering with 1-800-FLOWERS would be a benefit in the long run, as it got Nallapareddy's name and products into the market.

If Nallapareddy could distribute an average of six bouquets per week through 1-800-FLOWERS at a price of $55 per basket (up from her current distribution of around three per week), the students concluded that the partnership could yield the business more than $800 in additional revenue over a five-year horizon and that any initial investment in the partnership would be repaid in one year.

As orders grow, the students recommended that Nallapareddy track monthly records on Excel spreadsheets to keep the information organized, which would also allow for capturing trends of her sale by demographics.

"This really made us put into action what we've learned in the classroom, and the skills we developed in class really helped us on this project," Gary said.

"Working with Janaki on this project was a great experience in business consulting," Hill said.

This was the second time Nallapareddy has turned to Indiana State as she gets her edible bouquet store on Wabash Avenue off the ground. She first approached the Small Business Development Center, which is housed in the Scott College of Business, nearly three years ago for guidance in getting the business off the ground.

Despite the relatively small customer base in Terre Haute and Vigo County, Bhattacharyya, assistant professor in the Scott College's department of marketing, said partnering with 1-800-FLOWERS would boost Nallapareddy's name recognition with consumers.

"The biggest issue she faces is how to advertise herself. Janaki is not a common name, which often times creates a cultural barrier, but combining it with 1-800-FLOWERS and letting her products go through them allows that barrier to be lost," Bhattacharyya said. "If people don't immediately trust the name Janaki because they aren't familiar with it, they're more likely to trust 1-800-FLOWERS because they've heard of it. 1-800-FLOWERS would serve as the perfect intermediary catalyst to connect Janaki to a larger customer base."

Although Nallapareddy decided to work with 1-800-FLOWERS before the students presented their conclusions to her on April 22, she said their work was reinforcement that she made the right decision.

"I rushed it a little bit because I wanted to join (1-800-FLOWERS) before Mother's Day, but it feels good to hear from the students that it was a good decision," Nallapareddy said. "I make really great bouquets, but I don't know this side of the business as well. I would like to work more with Indiana State students again if there are ways they can help me with my business."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu

Contact: Kuntal Bhattacharyya, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management, Kuntal.Bhattacharyya@indstate.edu