Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Interview with Bryan Burkhart, H.Bloom
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Los Angeles has always been a major market for launching products, and in the era of e-commerce has become highly attractive for its large consumer population, a technology-savvy population, and affinity for new products and services. The latest company to expand into the market is H.Bloom, a venture backed luxury floral delivery and gifts company based out of New York. H.Bloom is one of the companies backed by Los Angeles technology entrepreneur and investor Brian Lee (Shoedazzle, Legalzoom). Bryan Burkhart is CEO of H.Bloom, and was in Los Angeles this week to talk about the company's launch into this market.
What is H.Bloom?
Bryan Burkhart: H. Bloom is in the process of building the world's first, luxury floral brand. We started the company three years ago, in 2010, and started in New York City. Today, when we officially launch in Los Angeles, we will be operating in eight cities around the country, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, and now Los Angeles. Essentially, we focus on customers who view flowers as living art, and want amazing flowers in their space, either corporate customer in a work environment, or consumers in their home. They both want amazing, living art, but they also expect world class service. The way we're able to deliver that is a combination of working with one of the best designers in every city we're in, and coupling that with a subscription model. That allows us to get terrific flowers from around the world, but only buy what someone has subscribed for, so there isn't any waste. Finally, my background, and the background of my co-founder is software. We've invested tremendously in technology, which allows us to run the operations for a perishable product, in a real high service way. We're excited to be opening her in Los Angeles, because of the luxury brands, luxury retailers, and hotel chains and offices here. As you can imagine, the property managers we work with in other cities have a great concentration of spaces here in Los Angeles, too. We're excited to service them here.
Your connection to LA, aside from this expansion, is Brian Lee (of Shoedazzle, Legalzoom)- how did you connect?
Bryan Burkhart: I was initially introduced to Brian Lee a few years ago, I think through Brian O'Malley at Battery Ventures. Battery is an investor at H.Bloom and on the board. It was one of those things, thankfully, where we hit it off. He's been a great mentor to me, and the company, as we've thought about how to build the company and think about expansion plans. He's also an early investor in the company.
Why run a staged rollout, rather than rolling out nationally all at one time?
Bryan Burkhart: We do a staged roll-out, because in order to fulfill the promise of a luxury brand, we need to make sure that our operations are ready for a high level of service. In every city we're in, we have H.Bloom account managers on the ground, who serve as a 24/7 customer service representative for our corporate and consumer customers. We have world class level of service. We also focused a lot on the operations themselves, connecting with a city's best designer, and having physical space for delivery of high end flower arrangements. We're not an e-commerce company. We're focused on that level of service, so we have to roll out on a city-by-city basis.
Why Los Angeles as your next market?
Bryan Burkhart: It's just a natural place for us, because we serve so many corporate customers. In particular, on the hotel side, we serve the Ritz Carlton, the Mandarin Oriental, W Hotels, Sofitel, in the other cities we're in. They clearly also have a high concentration in Los Angeles. Similar, luxury retailers like YSL, Chanel, Burberry, Bvlgari, and others are also in other cities we're in. Los Angele is a natural fit, as it relates to those corporate customers. We're offering one-stop shopping with H.Bloom to service their properties around the country. On the consumer side, the population of Los Angeles is one that really enjoys the high end aesthetic, so we're delivering our living room art to consumers here, as well.
Are you staffing up operations here in Los Angeles?
Bryan Burkhart: Absolute, we're hiring here.
What markets are you thinking about next?
Bryan Burkhart: We're here this week in Los Angeles, which is actually a fantastic relief, given that New York has been having a massive heat wave. In addition to launching in Los Angeles, it really is a much more pleasant area to be right now. We're launching this week in Los Angeles, and next week in Las Vegas. In August we'll be opening in Miami, which will bring us to ten H.Bloom markets around the country.