A Cut Above the Rest
Here’s a phrase we hear a lot lately: “Straight from the farm to the table.” They’re talking about purchasing fresh food. But have you heard it said when ordering freshly cut flowers? Probably not, but you’re sure to hear it soon — and often.
The Bouqs Company, a cut-to-order online flower retailer, proves these words true every day with their fresh approaches to sourcing, distribution and marketing. Even the name (short for “bouquets”) demonstrates its mission to bring a modern twist to the floral delivery industry.
A seed of an idea
The idea for The Bouqs Company, also known as Bouqs.com, took shape the way many great start-up concepts do: during conversations between college friends. Co-founder and CEO John “JT” Tabis had a background in marketing, while Co-founder and Chief Supply Chain Officer JP Montúfar was steeped in the field of floral agriculture.
“We chatted a lot,” Montúfar recalls. “One of these chats led to me saying that flowers are amazing, and growing them is a delightful experience. JT responded by saying that buying them, traditionally, is a horrible experience: It’s a pain, it’s difficult, there’s bait-and-switch pricing, you never get what you want. Eventually we thought we could work with this: How do we make it so the experience of receiving flowers is consistent with the experience of growing flowers?”
Tabis adds: “Farming is a tough industry. It has narrow margins, it’s very physical and demanding. And as JP said, I thought the floral delivery experience in the States left much to be desired.”
So the two set out to build a solution to create better returns for eco-friendly, sustainable farms that use responsible labor practices. They also aimed to offer better value to online consumers by giving them a fresher product at a better price.
Growing the business
In the beginning, though they were big on ideas, Montúfar and Tabis were rather short on funds and employees.
“We made it work with what we had, which was about $13,000 that came from my mom, my sister and a couple of my friends from Bain & Company [one of Tabis’ former employers],” Tabis says. “JP and I also put in a couple thousand bucks. The company was myself, JP, and an intern from UCLA, who is now our VP of Operations & Technology.”
Cut to today, and you’ll see a small-business e-commerce company that bears little resemblance to its early self. Through brisk sales growth, a multifaceted social media strategy and even a profile-raising visit to ABC’s "Shark Tank," the company has raised close to $8 million of venture capital for the business.
A fresh approach
The Bouqs Company realizes its founders’ passions for fresh-cut flowers and sustainability in several ways. First, it sources flowers directly from its provider farms, which are located in South America and the U.S. This farm-to-door supply chain not only decreases shipment costs but also guarantees that blooms arrive looking as fresh as when they were picked.
“In traditional flower supply chains, the product has many ‘touches,’” Tabis says. “A flower moves from place A to place B, is transported to place C to be purchased by party D, then is moved to warehouse E and distribution center F and then at last reaches the final consumer. Our farm-direct model minimizes the number of touches. We’re able to lower expenses because we don’t have infrastructure and third parties, and it also guarantees the freshest product.”
In addition, Bouqs.com works exclusively with farms that employ sustainable farming and labor practices. The farmers only cut as many flowers as necessary, eliminating the waste common to other industry players. The Bouqs Company also provides its workers with benefits, such as a living wage, health care and childcare.
To get its flowers to e-commerce customers on time and in great shape, The Bouqs Company relies on many FedEx team members, including Paula Windyka, a Miami-based global sales executive in the Latin America and Caribbean division. Windyka, who has worked with The Bouqs Company since 2013, is an ardent supporter of the company. “Their success is feeding families all over the U.S. and South America — when I go on a farm visit and see hundreds of people smiling while they work, it warms me up inside.”
Windyka regularly communicates with The Bouqs Company team about everyday business matters and also assists with big-picture strategy. “We are forever brainstorming new ideas. How can we move 50,000 boxes in a short period? How can we have them all delivered in one day when the farm needs multiple days for production? How can we increase sourcing in other countries to meet the quality requirements, and supply and demand needs?”
The sales executive is quick to note the vital role her fellow FedEx team members play. “Our operations team in Miami offers dedicated support to this industry. They touch these boxes that move through our network every single day and have worked against the odds when circumstances challenged them beyond belief. ‘Can’t’ is not in their vocabulary,” Windyka says.
“We also have a premier customer service team that supports the movement of fresh-cut flowers exclusively,” she says. “They’re ‘best in show,’ and one of the major contributors to our successful business partnership.”
Nourishing a responsible generation
Tabis and Montúfar are contributing to the ideals that many millennials, dubbed by some as “Generation Responsibility,” value. This generation not only cares about the price of things, they also take note of a company’s principles.
And Bouqs.com delivers on both. For Tabis and Montúfar, social responsibility extends far beyond their personal beliefs. “Treating the earth better is part of what our generation really values,” Tabis says. “In the age of electric cars, hydrogen fuel, natural gas powered transportation and recycling, it’s clearly an important part of the public consciousness. We want to be where our consumers are, and that means delivering a product that supports the values they hold dear.”
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