Well I think we should kick off by talking about the most obvious excitement – How crazy was it to prepare for your premiere on Shark Tank?
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.
To see more of Wombi’s story – Check it out here.