Tuesday, June 25, 2013
TheBouqs.com: An Online Flower Service For The Next Generation?
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
The online flower delivery market is now an old and established market. However, is there an opening for a new way of reaching consumers with flower delivery? Los Angeles-based TheBouqs (www.thebouqs.com) thinks so, with its new, cut-to-order online flower delivery service for the iPad generation. We spoke with CEO and co-founder John Tabis about how TheBouqs believes there's an opening for a modern online flower delivery service, because none of the existing players are catering to the new generation of consumers.
What is the Bouqs?
John Tabis: Our ten second elevator pitch, is we drop ship premium, super fresh flowers from an active volcano, and ship them directly to a consumer's door for $40 flat. What sets us apart from other, online floral solutions, is it's direct from the farm. It's not just any farm, it's from a premium grower, locate don a volcano, at the equator, in South America. The vast majority of premium flowers are from this region. We partner with those premium providers to get a high quality stem, while cutting out three or four layers of middlemen, who create waste and just take margin. The second big part of this, is the user experience, the brand, and the customers. It's all about being very simple, very honest, and very straightforward in how you treat the customer. We have a flat rate with no hidden fees and no additional shipping charges. There's no continual upsell like you might encounter on other floral sites. We're not always trying to sell you chocolates, and teddy bears, and more to add to your order. The third part of this is the subscription service we offer. It's not really a traditional subscription, because there are not set delivery time period or restrictions on how you can use the subscription.
Instead, we offer three types of subscriptions. One is Never Forget, a reminder service where a user places all of their important relationship dates in, like birthdays and anniversaries. We'll remind the client that the date is coming up, and then auto-ship and auto-deliver flowers for those dates. We also have Just Because, which schedules random deliveries. That's for when you want to regularly surprise someone. We send you reminders by email, and deliver as many times a year as you prefer. If you want to surprise your wife with flowers four times a year, we'll take care of that for you. The last subscription is more traditional, which is regular delivery. It's completely customizable, and you can get deliveries weekly, every other week, or once a month. That's for folks who like to have fresh flowers on their table every week, or for businesses who want to regularly freshen up their waiting room. It's completely customizable.
What are the details on your seed funding?
John Tabis: The announcement today is a $1.1 million round. Participating in the round is Quest Venture Partners, Siemer Ventures here in Los Angeles, Telegraph Hill Capital, and a number of great angel investors. Those include Mich Mathews, Dennis Phelps, Andy Dunn and and Brian Spaly . That round is really to fuel us going forward. We've been bootstrapped since we launched, and already got to half a million in revenues on a total initial investment of $13,000. Closing this $1.1M round changes things for us, and will let us invest in infrastructure, build our team, invest in media, and also invest in technology to better leverage our spend on media.
There are lots of online flower delivery services, in a pretty established market. What was it that you were doing which attracted investors to your company?
John Tabis: It varied by investor, but came down to two things we're doing. First, is the supply chain we've established. Accessing farm direct flowers in South America is not easy to do. We have a really efficient supply chain, and it's pretty defensible. A number of investors saw value on the operational side of things. Some were equally, or more interested in the front end, the buying experience and the brand we're building. It's a pretty crowded space, with some pretty big players. However, our users and target audience are really the younger, web-savvy, college educated, and very technologically comfortable consumers. We're designing for the iPad and iPhone generation. The way we represent our product, how we merchandise it, and how we price it, and our UX is really targeted towards the younger clientele. I think investors saw lots of value in disrupting that space with a brand, from the marketing perspective as well.
Was focusing on that generation something you specifically decided to do?
John Tabis: It was definitely a conscious strategy when we were looking at the market. We saw that there were already many large players, mass brands, but no one was speaking to a younger, more tech-savvy, more hip audience. The really important thing to those folks, obviously, was transparency in pricing and customer service. Plus, a really simple and elegant UX. The design and aesthetic, and our way of speaking to them really resonates with them. We've spent a lot of time on our site an done things in a very particular way to appeal to that group. One of those things, for example, is our ecofriendly, sustainable practice, being responsible in how we treat the environment and employees. We believe in that, and also know our target audience is attracted to that. When we looked at the market, we just didn't see anyone building a brand for the next generation of online flower buyers. On top of that, no one is really making flowers feel special. It felt like lots of brands out there are treating flowers like a commodity. We felt that with our supply chain, brand, and how consumers purchase our flowers, we can build a brand which feels like something special, and where consumers can feel good about purchasing our flowers and build a relationship with us. We think there is white space in the market for this kind of play.
How did you gain access to the operational parts of this business, and flower suppliers?
John Tabis: My co-founder, JP Montufar, is really the secret to our supply chain. He's behind the science and art behind shipping fresh cut flowers direct to the consumer. He's been a really good friend of mine for fifteen years. He's from South America, and grew up in the floral business. His family has been in it for generations, and he's an expert in terms of farming, cutting, care, and shipping of cut flowers. He's also very well connected in that region to the industry. He's really been the secret to making this business work. I don't think it would be possible on my own, or for anyone, to set up this kind of business without a partner like him. He grew up in the space, has the relationships and access, but was here for fifteen years. He got his MBA here, and went back to help start this company. He's the secret to that part of the business. While I have now learned a ton about flowers, he's the guru on the supply chain.
Flowers are an old industry, and you're cutting out a lot of middlemen. Have your suppliers been accepting of what you're doing?
John Tabis: It's gone pretty smoothly. We've done our job of selling our partners on why they'd want to work with us. We've signed on four farmers to date, and those farms are now shipping 7 tons of flowers a month around the world. They're big, legitimate operations, and they've been very receptive to what we're doing. Direct to consumer is not necessarily something they're used to, and it's not a model that is commonplace, but they see potential in it. Part of that, is because our model gives them predictive demand, due to our subscription services, and it also gets them outside of the wholesale supply chain they're used to servicing. That provides many benefits for farms, and the supply side has been really positive.
What's the key to getting out to consumers for you?
John Tabis: It's really about driving awareness of what we're offering. At the heart of it, whether you love the brand, or what we stand for, or our customer service, we're offering more flowers for less money, with less effort on behalf of the buyer. It's premium, fresh cut product. It's really just a matter of getting the word out that we're an alternative to the mass brands out there. That's what our seed round is about, to help us achieve that goal. We're about creating a really valuable experience and utility, at a really accessible price point, wrapped in brand a customer can feel good about.