Customer Conversations and Innovation Drive Post Shark Tank Growth

Customer Conversations and Innovation Drive Post Shark Tank Growth
June 28 06:38 2017 Print This Article

What do you get when two naval architects focus their attentions on disrupting the greeting card industry? Lovepop is the only greeting card company that combines imagination and engineering to add meaning into people’s lives. The Boston startup, founded by Wombi Rose and John Wise, was featured on Season 7 of Shark Tank where the duo caught the attention of investor Kevin O’Leary. Lovepop co-founder and CEO Wombi Rose spoke with me recently about their successful customer happiness strategy and their post-Shark Tank growth.

Jay: First off, can you explain how a Lovepop is different than a regular greeting card?

Wombi: There’s a deeper level of emotion, after the initial sense of wonder over the intricate design itself, where anyone who’s giving a Lovepop can deliver the sentiment even without words. For example, when someone gives a willow card to their aunt who is a gardener, who they know is going to love the willow, or the fishing bear to a dad in their life who is really into fishing, you have that connection between shared experiences that is really powerful and part of the reason why we don’t put messages in our cards. We really try to make the expression be as personal as possible. Those are the reasons people are really attracted to Lovepop today, and I think as we move forward, the thing that we’re looking to do based on all of our conversations with our customers is build more meaning into the product.
Jay: How did you guys handle the surge of success from appearing on Shark Tank and how do you continue that growth into the future? Are you guys creating new products? Finding new audiences?

Wombi: Since we joined forces with Kevin O’Leary our business has experienced explosive growth but that doesn’t mean we lose sight of our number one mission: building meaningful moments for our customers. In fact, the success we’ve seen from our Shark Tank appearance and Kevin’s mentorship has only helped us in our pursuit of that mission by forcing us to refine our customer conversation process and to increase our output of new products and an improved customer experience.

Jay: What does the customer conversation process look like at Lovepop and how are you utilizing social media in your efforts?

Wombi: One of the core strengths of Lovepop is our ability to have conversations with our customers. We have customer facing parts of the company in everything that we do, so early on, we created a customer happiness feed that monitors 22 different channels (including social media, product reviews, emails, phone calls etc.) to ensure that any customer who wants to have a one-on-one conversation with our team can do so. We then use those conversations to touch base internally on things that are going well and things that we need to improve. We leverage the issues or challenges that people are having with either our operations or our product to spearhead our problem-solving efforts both on a day-to-day level and on a systematic level which is an essential part of our growth as a company. Our customer conversations also happen at our retail operations from 10 different locations each day. Our designers actually go down to the kiosks and test new designs to receive feedback. We also work with a product development organization to gather more hard data by conducting conversations with customers especially on new designs to understand what kinds of designs people are looking for and how they respond to different artwork, but also what kinds of new ways we can engage our customers and what problems we can help them solve in their lives. So between those three avenues we have constant customer conversations and we incorporate that all into our strategic planning, into our product development, and even our technology development. Recently what we’ve gleaned from our customer conversations is that, as we move forward and continue to innovate, the thing that we’re looking to do is build more meaning into the product.

Jay: When it comes to innovating and strategic planning does it make a difference to have an investor like Kevin O’Leary on your team now? How do you tap into his expertise?

Wombi: Having Kevin O’Leary on our team has been instrumental in building this business. Not only does he help us as an investor, but he challenges us on the strategic side and helps us determine where the opportunities are for the business. One example of how he’s pushed us to innovate in a new space is that we’ve just entered the wedding stationery market. When you consider that the average couple spent $25,961 on their wedding in 2016 and $445 was spent on wedding stationery alone, you realize why it’s a great space for us to be in. But there’s a big difference between saying “let’s get more involved in the wedding industry” and actually developing a product. So, we’ve spent a year developing a Lovepop wedding invitation suite as well as a technology frontend and backend that enables us to show our customers what their wedding celebration would look like in paper art form in a Lovepop card as well as in the production capabilities to fulfill demand. We bring something completely unique to the wedding stationery market — something that the couple will always treasure. It’s right there within our mission of building meaningful moments for people so we’re very excited to be rolling this out.

Jay: You took an incredible risk going from being a naval architect to starting your own company, what has that leap of faith taught you about yourself?

Wombi: As Lovepop continues to grow as a business and become a part of more and more customer’s lives I am reminded just how lucky I am to be a part of this story. A professor of mine in college used to say, “do what you love.”  That’s really the opportunity that Lovepop has given me, to work on something that I love. Back in High school I was that kid who would take as many study halls as possible and then always go to the art classroom and work on sculptures and work on art and now I get to do art for a living and it makes everything really fun. Aligning what you’re doing with what you love doing is a core part of my life. Everyday when I come to work I’m reminded how lucky I am to be doing what I love and also helping people deliver their messages of love.

Lovepop founders Wombi Rose and John Wise became best friends at Webb Institute training to become naval architects. After school, the duo traveled to Vietnam where they discovered incredible hand-crafted paper cards. They headed back to Boston and put the cards in the hands of friends, family, and strangers–and watched. That moment when someone opened a card and saw the paper sculpture revealed for the first time became their obsession, and Lovepop was born. The two launched Lovepop out out of the Harvard Innovation Lab in late 2014. Since then, they were named to the 2015 Techstars class, nominated for 50 on Fire by BostInno, and gained the confidence of professional investors