Bouqs: Building and Scaling Branded Consumer Product Businesses

Bouqs is a direct-to-consumer floral retailer that delivers you beautiful, eco-friendly, sustainable flowers to your doorstep.

Wavemaker was fortunate to back Bouqs during its seed round. We recently sat down with Bouqs Co-founder and CEO John Tabis to discuss his take on the role of brands in business and scaling consumer branded businesses.

How did you convince yourself a branded experience could have a place in this ecosystem?

If you look at any category there are big emotionally driven brands. Except this one. It’s a really weird thing. Name a category. Jewelry: Cartier, Tiffany’s — outsized margins, big businesses. Fashion: millions of emotionally driven brands.

In this space (flowers) it’s really tough to control product quality, you can’t just brand flowers. You have to also have really good product chops and in flowers that is really tough. You almost have to have something beyond the branding to set yourself apart from a product perspective. Our product is physically and emotionally different from our competitors. They look and feel very different. Ultimately, what we felt was really the interesting opportunity was to orient around the customer, not the florist.

What does the Bouqs brand stand for now a few years into it?

The brand promise is elegant flowers with character. The elegant piece describes the flowers and the way we present the product. The way we design, the way we price, the UX on the website. Everything on the shopping side of things.

For character we call it character squared. We are one and we have it. We are a character meaning we have fun in the category. We take the product very seriously but not ourselves. We like to have fun, there are no fun shopping experiences in this category. You can’t go on a website and have fun. That’s the first definition. The other one is character in the sense we have values we care about. We only source from farms that are third-party certified as sustainable. That means they do things like conserve their water, they don’t use redlabel chemicals, they use natural predators for aphids. All these things that as consumers we would support, but in this category nobody has been able to have that transparency to tell you this is sourced in a certain way. That is our brand promise to our customer.

What is the biggest reason to go branded with your product as an entrepreneur?

I think the biggest reason to go branded is as you scale the business the brand makes marketing more efficient in a way you couldn’t get without that. For example, last week we had a People.Com story about our carnation collection. A competitor would have had to pay $100,000 to get that placement. Celebrities talk about us. We get that for free because of the brand. You just get all this outsized impact of your marketing dollars because you can get all that attention to yourself. Brand means belief and belief leads to opportunity.

The perception out there is that branding is an expensive exercise, especially branding a commodity item. But it sounds like you’ve had the opposite experience?

I don’t think branding is expensive, I think scaling brands is expensive. We’ve raised $43 million in VC funding. Building consumer branded businesses is capital intensive as it takes time and money to make the world aware of a new consumer product. But the actual building of the brand is about ideas and creative and not about dollars. Let’s have a clear vision and where we want to take it. But scaling that business without that brand would be even more expensive.

How do you get from where you are today tens of millions in revenue to hundreds of millions in revenue? What role has money play?

Money gave us a shot to try stuff, but we still had to try a bunch of stuff. The myth of “I find my scalable marketing channel” is laughable. It’s only scalable until it isn’t scalable anymore. They all tap out at some point. There are all these normal journey steps that we take that at some point just stop paying out. For example, I’ve never discounted, now I’m going to discount. What I’m trying to figure out now is how do you build a foundation for a business that can do hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Where do you find your stamina? How do you keep yourself interested?

You just get very immune to failure. In little and big ways. You just stop noticing it. I got used to it really early. I’m also just wildly stubborn. My desire and need to prove my thesis is right and to have an impact on the world is just really strong. That is the fuel that drives me most. I gotta show that this is the right answer and that the world needs to have this. I think that is just endemic to entrepreneurs in general. The desire to win, the need to change the world. They are almost restless if they don’t.

The other part of it is that it is never the same. It doesn’t get boring. Until this year I didn’t really ever spend a lot of time thinking about me. I thought a lot about the business and team. Not was I doing things the right way? Was I adding value. That’s what I’ve spent the last 3 months on. That is fascinating and interesting in itself.

Buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Bouqs for someone who matters in your life here.

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