After a year of helping small businesses navigate sales and operations during the global pandemic, Curate has raised a $1.25 million seed to continue developing its modern sales and operations platform for florists, caterers and other creative businesses.
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Ryan O’Neil and his wife founded the St. Louis-based company in 2013 after previously owning a wedding and event floral business together. A year in, and their event company was losing customers because it was taking too long for O’Neil’s wife to get proposals back due to the time she put into researching all of the event components and their costs.
“Sitting at the kitchen table, we realized that all of these spreadsheets and lists should be talking to each other,” he said. “We started building a tool for ours and other florist businesses, but then started having catering companies ask us for software.”
Curate’s platform enables businesses to create proposals, process payments, manage supply chains, and maintain communication with customers and suppliers so owners can spend more time on their business. It also has workflow integrations with popular tools such as Square, QuickBooks and Stripe.
The seed round was led by OCA Ventures, which was joined by Jim McKelvey, Cultivation Capital and Stout Street Capital. Prior to this investment, Curate was largely bootstrapped with a small seed round, O’Neil said.
“Coming out of COVID, there were some important opportunities we knew we had to jump on, and we knew if we were going to raise a Series A, we needed all of the pieces in order,” he added. “We ended up finding great partners, like OCA.”
O’Neil intends to use the new funding on technology development, to grow and provide new features and functionalities, especially for catering companies, as well as for a more robust customer relationship management platform for florists.
Tamim Abdul Majid, general partner at OCA Ventures, said he was introduced to O’Neil by another entrepreneur in St. Louis. The firm was looking for solid vertical SaaS solutions and was impressed with how well O’Neil had coordinated Curate’s growth.
“Ryan is the kind of customer-driven CEO that we like,” Abdul Majid said in an interview. “His numbers are really good, he has good economics and churn rates — the right kind of thing you want to see in a SaaS play. In addition, Ryan’s customers are some of the best we have had in terms of fans, who are saying ‘you can’t take this service away from me.’”
Meanwhile, O’Neil said Curate experienced “explosive demand” over the past year, with April 2021 revenue up 700 percent over the year prior. As such, he also expects to double his employee headcount to 32 people and is hiring in infrastructure and product development.
During the global pandemic, the company was working with customers to cancel events and solve supply chain issues. Within six weeks, Curate had also built a brand-new product for customers to see what their workflow would look like for one product versus another. It even hired a full-time employee to answer Paycheck Protection Program questions and help companies apply, O’Neil said.
Next up, the company will round out key roles within the leadership team and work on product development.
“As we look forward, we will be restructuring the application so it is faster and stronger,” O’Neil added. “One of the key things that showed up this year was that we can jump verticals. We are seeing dynamic growth with caterers, but also have landscapers, interior designers and creative small businesses, and we want to be the sales and operations center for all businesses.”
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