This week we are putting the spotlight on Acuity customer: LovePop. They have grown immensely and have some exciting news this week – check it out!
Well I think we should kick off by talking about the most obvious excitement – How crazy has it been to prepare for your premiere on Shark Tank this Friday, December 11th?
Man – we’ve been doing all kind of things to first ensure that our site will be up (and stay up) when the estimated 100k people hit our page all at once this week. We’re doing everything from running site audits to preparing inventory to meet demand. It’s been fun to reach out to friends, family and our local community to be sure they tune in. We can wait to show the world what we are doing through this show.
Your journey to creating a unique gifting experience hasn’t been a conventional one. As aspiring naval architects and marine engineers, what inspired you and John to dive into the world of paper art?
It has been a big shift from ship designers into the world of paper. But it all started when we went on a trip to Vietnam in business school. That is where we discovered and fell in love with geo-gami.
Our approach and technique is completely different because we understand the structure. We view and design these cards the same way we would design a ship – but instead of welding, we use glue.
That’s incredible. Instead of building ships, you build gifting experiences. So what was your final push to create the wildly successful LovePop brand?
We thought that geo-gami was awesome. But what really inspired us to start LovePop was seeing the powerful reactions people had to these types of products and how much they wanted to share it with other people. That genuine enthusiasm was the tipping point for us.
Now, almost 2 years into the LovePop journey, we have pioneered a new style we call slice-gami. Slice-gami is a combo of the art and science behind paper crafting. Slice refers to the structure, engineering and software of laser cutting. Gami refers to the art – going back to Japanese paper folding.
Together we use slice-gami to be the only company redefining gifting expectations, with a goal to surprise and delight.
Speaking of great combos – how did you and John meet?
We actually met as freshman at Webb Institute on our first day of college in 2005. We then re-connected at Harvard Business School. We were about 6 months in when we discovered the geo-gami style.
We started this business in February of 2014, so we have known each other for about 9 years now.
What would you say are the biggest benefits of starting LovePop with John, vs going it alone?
People will often say that starting a business is like a roller coaster, but you can’t really get what this means until you are on it. It is so extreme. When you are spending all day long investing your heart and soul into a company, anything that goes wrong absolutely crushes you and anything that goes well makes you highly elated. The chemicals in your brain have a hard time keeping up with these ups and downs.
Having a partner is the best way to keep you grounded during the highs and lift you up during the lows. Simply having someone to talk to who gets it.
As an entrepreneur, you are forced to make so many decisions every day. It’s so important to have someone you can bounce questions off. I can’t imagine starting a business by yourself.
Speaking of roles, what are some of the important roles that have helped you scale so quickly?
John has a million jobs – he is essentially our HR, finance, IT, retail, production, design, operations, and fulfillment department -all in one. So without a partner like Acuity, there is no way that he would be able to get through the accounting function.
We actually tried to work with 4 different accounting firms before we ended up with Acuity. They are the only ones who have been able to keep up with us.
It is hard to keep up with a young and growing company. We are constantly changing systems and modifying our processes. It’s hard to find systems that work. We are always slightly changing our business model. It seems like every month we have one new payment processor or operational channel onboarded or discarded. Acuity is the first company we’ve worked with that has been able to keep up with our books.
Scaling is not easy to do – it sounds like having a partner like Acuity who gets it and can scale with you has been integral to your business.
How large is your team now?
After almost 2 years in business, we have about 15 people in our HQ, 20 people selling, and about 60 in our product facility in Vietnam which we built out specifically for LovePop.
It is so satisfying to watch your team grow. Not just partners and co-founders, but the whole team. This would be pretty boring if it was me in a room doing all the work.
Haha that is a really sad visual – What is your personal routine to get your day started every morning?
My routine is very simple – 1) Wake up. 2) Go to the office.
I take the Red Line in each morning. Someone usually ends up being gracious and brings me some lunch since I very rarely pause to eat. We have the whole team together in one big room so it is a lot of fun. We stay here pretty late most nights.
Is there anything you enjoy to do if you are not working or in the office?
That certainly hasn’t existed for a while haha. I mostly hang out with the awesome people in my office. I did start the company with John who is my best friend and we have some other good friends who are involved, so most of my life is in and around my business.
Outside of work I’ll hang out with a couple of friends from Boston. Then, once a year or so I plan a sailing trip with a group of friends from school.
Incredible – You strike me as someone who enjoys taking risks. What is the biggest risk you have ever taken in your personal or professional life?
LovePop for sure – we both started this company with the last of our savings and after having taken out big student loans for school. We could have easily gotten good paying jobs that allowed us extra free time on weekends.
Instead we took a big gamble and kept working on this business. We then took another big risk by recently taking on funding. That significantly increased our risk and reward. Now we have a good bit of leverage, but we now have investors to answer to. It’s really fantastic that we are in a position to be able to do so but it doesn’t come without strings attached, the biggest string being the risk
Another big risk I took was in regards to school. I could have gone to a number of brand name engineering schools, but instead I went to Webb. There was 100 people total in the entire school and only 1 major – Naval architecture and Marine engineering. It is a very very different place.
Ultimately it set me up to do what I want to do but at the time it was a bit of a gamble.
So, what do you find most rewarding about entrepreneurial life overall?
Growing a team and seeing members of your team grow. I realized the other day while I was sitting at a big table with about 8 people from my team – I looked around and thought to myself, “I really like being here. This is really fun. When is the last time that I wanted to go home from work?” and I couldn’t remember the last time I was waiting for a day to be over.
I worked as a consultant for a while but I have also had a lot of days in the engineering world where I was like “man, I am really looking forward to the weekend.” Now it is completely switched around where I am like “No weekends! So much left to do!” and I am excited that everyone is going to be back in the office on Monday.
There are lots of other rewarding feelings like creating new designs and getting to show them to customers. Hearing about who customers are going to give them to. You get to see the whole process and how your products truly make an impact on people’s lives.