Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's Startup of the Month column spotlights the launch stories of noteworthy new companies.
Coming off just scoring $1.1 million in funding from investors, things seem to be coming up roses for online-flower-delivery startup The Bouqs.
Founded by Notre Dame grads 35-year-old John Tabis and 34-year-old JP Montufar, the Venice, Calif-based startup is looking to disrupt the flower-delivery industry with its direct-to-consumer method and eco-friendly approach.
Instead of following suit of big-name companies like 1-800-Flowers and having middlemen and enormous warehouse-storage facilities, The Bouqs ships directly to consumers from one of their partner farms nestled on active volcanoes in Ecuador. By doing so, The Bouqs provides fresh-cut stems at a flat rate of $40 (shipping included) for a one-time delivery or subscription service.
"For something that is supposed to be a special occasion, the flower purchasing process can be frustrating and complex," says Tabis. "We set out to change that. We wanted to make it easy, pleasing and special."
Prior to the fundraising, The Bouqs bootstrapped the company on a meager $13,000 investment from savings, friends and family. Yet the two founders still managed to generate $500,000 in sales in their first year. They are currently on target to reach the $1 million mark by end of 2013.
At YoungEntrepreneur.com, we think this is impressive. So for August, The Bouqs is officially YE’s Startup of the Month. With that comes bragging rights for life, along with a copy of Entrepreneur Press’s Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business and a digital subscription to Entrepreneur magazine.
We chatted with co-founder Tabis about starting up, finding funding and other challenges attached to being the little guy:
Q: How are you able to compete with the flower industry's heavyweights?
A: While the brands that are big in this space are very well-known, I think the things we are trying to stand for, no one has really claimed in this industry. Being farm-direct, fresh and straight from South America on a volcano, we are really bringing a sense of romance to the experience.
Also, outside of those big players there are a lot of really small players that take up a good chunk of the market. There is stiff competition in the space, but we think by staying on the path we are on and trying to build something unique, we will differentiate ourselves and acquire a lot of share over the long-run.
Q: What's been your top challenge, besides trying to topple industry giants?
A: Building the company from scratch with no funding. It was my co-founder and I working with nothing for six months and trying to make it work. It was hard to cut through and make traction when we didn't have a marketing budget or a team. But we know what we can accomplish without a lot of money.
Q: What would you say is your biggest asset?
A: The team we have assembled. My co-founder is a great example: He is business person but also understands what it takes to make a great flower and ship it. The rest of the team is similarly top-notch.
Then, our shared vision is an asset too. We are not aiming to be a niche brand. We are building our experience according to what consumers online will want over the next 10 to 20 years.
Q: If you had $500,000 in sales as a bootstrapped company, why did you decide to raise a round?
A: We were doing a great job bootstrapping the company, but what we saw that we had a lot of potential to be big. We knew that we needed more people, marketing dollars and an expanded technical team to help build the product we envisioned. We could get there by continuing to bootstrap, but it would take us a long time and would give our competition more time to react to us.
Q: What do you plan on doing with the funding?
A: It will go to three core areas: One is hiring the team and building out the infrastructure. Another chunk will be into technology to make our platform world class. The third is for marketing and customer acquisition.
Q: What advice can you give to other young entrepreneurs?
A: Go do whatever your idea or your passion is. For The Bouqs, I just went and did it. We didn't have any funding, a technical co-founder or all the resources I thought I might have needed. Ultimately by going out and just doing it, we sort of took care of all those things. If it is something you really want to do, you go and figure out a way.
-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.