A Q&A with Bulu Box co-founder and CEO Paul Jarrett. The Lincoln, Nebraska–based company was founded in early 2012 and closed a $550K Series A funding round at the start of September. The round was led by Dundee Venture Capital.
SUB: Please describe Bulu Box, and the value proposition you bring to the nutrition and supplements business.
Jarrett: Bulu Box is connecting new customers to companies in the vitamin and supplement industry. Each month, members sample four to five premium, nutritional vitamin and supplement samples. Bulu Box helps brands like Swanson Health Products, Cellucor, Pure Matters and Vplenish improve the effectiveness of their sampling programs by putting their product into the hands of qualified consumers. The company helps develop deep relationships between brands and customers through social media and one-to-one customer service.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Jarrett: Bulu Box members, or ‘Bulugans,’ are women and men who want healthier lives. When it comes to nutrition and exercise, they aren’t perfect. They do their best to maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle without sacrificing all the joys—or temptations—presented by modern society. They rely on vitamins, herbs, sports nutrition products and other supplements to give them an edge, and Bulu Box helps them discover new, unique products like Nightfood, or find the best multivitamin or fish oil for them.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Jarrett: Big box, brick and mortar stores who sell vitamins and supplements.
SUB: What differentiates Bulu Box from the competition?
Jarrett: We’re giving our customers access to a wide variety of brands, such as Revhoney, Life Equals, Eight Ball Nutrition, and Detour Protein Bars, and encouraging them to discover products for themselves. They truly get to ‘try before they buy.’ We have no intention of creating our own supplement line. Consumers don’t always do their homework on who is manufacturing their product. We have no hidden agenda to push our own products.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Jarrett: We started kicking around the idea in February 2012. The first thing we did was start asking friends and family if they thought it was a good idea. We then went straight to a law firm and made sure we set the company up properly. From that point we took simultaneous steps to securing the name, a few brand partners, and began working on our pitch deck. Since that time, it’s been a 24/7 juggling act and we love it.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Bulu Box? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Jarrett: Running the San Francisco half marathon, I turned to my wife/co-founder/CMO Stephanie and said, “I need a post-workout mix after this!” She replied, “we should sign up for the Birchbox of supplements.” After about 10,000 Google searches, I said “You know what someone needs to do…” That someone turned out to be us.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Jarrett: We get that question all the time. It’s a secret that only four people who helped start the company know. We thought it’d be fun to keep it a secret. Plus, we like hearing what people think it means.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Jarrett: Building out the minimum viable product and making it better as we grow. Bulu Box is full of perfectionists and we have a hard time deciding when features are good to roll out. We have dozens of things we want to improve and update but getting the MVP out was the most important.
SUB: You recently raised $400K in Series A funding. What do you plan to do with the new funds?
Jarrett: Actually, total including a Convertible Note, it was approximately $550K. This funding opens up opportunities for us as we continue to grow and expand our brand. Most of the funds will be used to make new hires, launch a marketing campaign and cover growing costs of storage and distribution.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional outside funding in the near future?
Jarrett: We’re open to it and we’ll be working closely with Dundee Venture Capital who handled the lion’s share of our funding to determine what the best strategy is for us. We selected Dundee because they offer more than just funding—they’re partners and mentors. They understand our space and are valuable to us on a day-to-day basis.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Jarrett: We have been generating revenue from day one and have a few ways of doing so. When looking at the booming vitamin and supplement industry we see lots of opportunities to generate revenue but we’re sticking with our business plan. Over time that might change, but for now, we’re on schedule with our plans.
SUB: What are your goals for Bulu Box over the next year or so?
Jarrett: We have plenty of goals and milestones set up for every month through the next year. But if I had to boil it down to a few it would be partnering with the ten best—not biggest—brands to sample and sell through Bulu Box and to have our Bulugan community of people sharing well over 3K reviews each month.
Bulu Box – www.bulubox.com