The Silicon Review
“We make subscriptions, kitting and specialty fulfillment simple for brands including Disney, Clorox, and Buzzfeed.”
The subscription business, the mode of buying products through a monthly box that comes to your home, continues to change and grow.
The success of the subscription box model speaks to the profound effect the direct-to-consumer model is having on the retail industry. As consumers move toward expectations that retailers will get it right the first time, their attention spans have shortened for retailers unable to align their offerings with personalized preferences out of the gate.
Bulu Inc is the subscription box champion and industry authority working with partners to meet those expectations while delivering turnkey solutions for subscription boxes, specialty e-commerce, and fulfillment innovations.
Bulu was incorporated in 2012 and is headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Paul Jarrett, Bulu Inc Co-Founder and CEO, spoke exclusively toThe Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Explain your services in brief.
Bulu offers turnkey solutions for subscription boxes, specialty e-commerce, and fulfillment innovations. That means our team is experts at managing both recurring and one-time projects for brands like Scotts Miracle-Gro, Disney, GNC, and Clorox because we designed all of our systems the first time around to fit the unique needs of specialty fulfillment.
Q. The ‘unboxing’ ritual is a vital part of the subscriber experience and is often shared on social media. Taking care of package subscription orders attractively is important to ensure customer satisfaction. How do you manage to avoid poor presentation?
We do a lot of specialty e-commerce and other fulfillment in addition to subscriptions, and all customers indeed have expectations on that unboxing experience. How many times have you ordered something small from Amazon and it comes in a giant box? Whether it’s a pick-and-pack candle order from Lunarly.com or millions of GNC PRO boxes, Bulu has tried-and-tested processes that cover everything from the flute of the box cardboard to the images on the website to the specific order that items are placed in a subscription box. We’ve experienced it all (sometimes the hard way) and we know how to do it right: Bulu has created dozens of specialty boxes and launched or managed more than 16 subscription box programs generating a total revenue of over $100M and an average customer star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
Q. Is your company a leader or a follower? Do you formulate your core values?
Stephanie (Bulu Co-Founder, CPO and Paul’s wife) and I both come from a background in advertising and branding, specifically, so we invested our considerable experience in building our own company’s identity. I’ve told some of our horror stories of previous workplaces in podcasts and other interviews, which inspired our company’s core values: Fearless, Foundership, First Class, and Fire the Assholes. (Yes, that’s printed on our office wall.)
Q. A good workplace stresses teamwork while still encouraging individual achievement and creativity. Does your company follow the same strategy?
New hires—especially those who come from corporate backgrounds—always comment on the autonomy of our employees. One thing I learned playing football for Iowa State is that if your team is talented, and they have the playbook, you can trust them to make the right call. Of course, people make mistakes, and our core values pretty much demand that you do. In other words, being fearless means employees are rewarded for taking risks and asking for forgiveness, not permission. Importantly, if our team knows the goals, they usually make the right decision to get us closer to the result we all want.
Q. Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your employees?
Transparency is what Stephanie and I always come back to, after all our experiences with elite coaching and sports teams. If your team is aligned on the company’s goals and individual expectations, and everyone knows who is accountable for what pieces of the business, then we have found that trust is a natural outcome of the process of holding each other accountable to those goals. Sometimes you misstep and that’s painful. If you are honest with your team, trust them, and give them attention, they will give it back to you.
Q. Your brand is all about creativity and innovation. Do you have qualified individuals who can help you give your best always?
Absolutely! There’s a letter that Stephanie and I wrote that we give to every potential employee before we hire them that explains our core values in detail. I sit down as CEO with every final candidate (office, warehouse, doesn’t matter) and talk them through the letter. It’s pretty straight forward on what we expect from ourselves and our employees, and we either get a response of ‘yes, this is exactly the kind of workplace I have been looking for’ or ‘oh, this isn’t what I want’. No lie, we have had potential hires say that the role isn’t for them after hearing the core values speech. As a result, the Bulu crew is the best kind of people (and thus, the best kind of employees): smart, capable individuals who care about the work they do.
Q. In the pursuit to make everything as affordable as possible for their customers, many business owners don’t take the necessary time to accurately price a monthly box. Do you have an efficient subscription box calculator?
There are an insane amount of variables that impact your finances with a recurring product, even if you aren’t adjusting the box design or contents on a monthly or quarterly basis. Even the largest brands struggle to make sense of it, which is usually when they reach out to Bulu. We offer the exact template for a ‘Subscription Box 4 Year Financial Model’ that we use to manage millions of dollars of revenue from our partners and programs. We’ve felt the pain, so enjoy the fruits of our labor and get a first-class budget, forecast, and churn model to get off on the right foot with your program. And when the relentless nature of a subscription program becomes overwhelming to manage, Bulu can help with that, too.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
It’s not new, but as we’ve adapted to the post-pandemic world, Bulu has opened the gates a little wider on the types and size of projects that we will do. We used to focus tightly on big brands and subscriptions, but our team has the experience, knowledge, and the system to execute pretty much any specialty fulfillment project from a specially kitted gift to offer in retail to a series of boxes sent to employees to foster engagement during the pandemic.
Paul Jarrett: A Dynamic Leader
Paul Jarrett, Co-founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Bulu Inc. After running the San Francisco Half Marathon, Paul and his wife Stephanie launched a vitamin sample subscription box to help people discover healthier products. They had spent about 10 years working at ad agencies and big brands including BBDO, Complete Nutrition (Paul), Jergens, and LeapFrog (Stephanie).
Since its first product launch back in 2012, Bulu has launched or managed 16 subscription box programs and dozens of specialty fulfillment projects. The company has shipped over 10M kitted boxes, sales bundles, or other specialty fulfillment boxes from its Nebraska warehouse.