Tulips To Table? These MBAs Try To Disrupt FTD

The Bouqs floral arrangement. Courtesy photo

The Bouqs Company floral arrangement. Courtesy photo

John Tabis is a dreamer–and a realist. It just depends on the moment. “I am a very weird combination of my parent’s personalities,” admits Tabis, who has an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School. Growing up in Rural Ridge, Pennsylvania, a coal mining village of around 400 that rests 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, in itself created a bit of an identity confusion. “I don’t know what’s between extreme rural and suburbs, but that’s where we were,” Tabis says of his hometown, which is even difficult to find on Google maps.

Tabis’ father was a public school teacher and the dreamer. His mother was a stay-at-home parent and the realist. “She was the most conservative person with money and ran the household books tightly,” says Tabis, noting they lived in a house about 200 yards from where his mother was born.

But at this moment, Tabis seems to be tapping into the best traits from each personality type. In 2012, Tabis and his long-time friend, JP Montúfar, founded The Bouqs Company and are now re-defining the way flowers, yes flowers,  are delivered by taking a leaf from the farm-to-table restaurant trend. They join a burgeoning list of MBA graduates hoping to disrupt a well-established industry.

A $19.1 MILLION VC BACKED FLORAL DELIVERY PLATFORM

Starting at $40, Venice, California-based Bouqs offers cut-to-order bouquets delivered in three to four days. The traditional floral delivery supply chain, Tabis claims, takes 15 to 20 days from the time the flower is cut to the time it’s delivered. The traditional way also creates unnecessary increases in margins and waste, Tabis says.

“There’s a long journey from the farm to the consumer for the flower,” insists Tabis. According to Tabis, well-established and massive floral delivery companies like 1-800-Flowers.com of FTD.com have a very long and convoluted way of harvesting and delivering bouquets. First, South American farmers sell the flowers to importers and brokers in Miami, explains Tabis. Next, the product gets held for a few days while the brokers auction them off to wholesalers and distributers. And then they are finally delivered to local retailers. “Every step of the way someone is creating margin and producing waste,” claims Tabis.

Bouqs has a “robust and growing” network of farms mainly in South America and the United States that cut flowers based on orders. The proximity and number of farms allows the delivery to be three to four days in a farm-to-door model. “We have better pricing than everyone else because we’ve cut out these layers,” believes Tabis. “They are better quality products because they get there quicker, and we have greater transparency to the source because we know exactly where those flowers came from.”

To be sure, farms, consumers and investors see the value. Tabis says they have a wait list of farms wanting to be part of the network. Bouqs has experienced an average of 600% revenue growth each year since being launched in 2012. And earlier this month, they announced a $12 million Series B round, which included investments from Draper Associates, Azure Capital Partners, and many others. To date, Bouqs has raised nearly $20 million total in venture capital backing.

FROM A ‘HORRIBLE’ COVER BAND TO STARTUP CO-FOUNDERS

The path to founding and launching Bouqs is akin to what Tabis claims the path of the flower is for their competitors–long and convoluted. Montúfar and Tabis met as freshmen at the University of Notre Dame. “We had a horrible college band where we did really bad covers of 90’s and early 2000s pop hits,” laughs Tabis, noting they focused on Prince and Backstreet Boys covers. “I play guitar and sing, but at that time I just sang because my guitar was too bad to be serviceable. It was really horrible.” Perhaps a precursor to the venture the two would launch together nearly two decades later, Montúfar was the lead guitarist and Tabis was the “frontman and ring leader” of the group.

Montúfar also spent a lot of time talking about moving back to his home in Ecuador to work on a flower farm. “We were all 18 years old and were like, ‘Come on, man, how lame are you to want to work on a flower farm?’ But he loved the earth, and he loved being outside. He loves the people and it was always what he wanted to do,” says Tabis.