Arka Interview: Bulu CEO & Co-Founder Paul Jarrett

Arka Interview: Bulu CEO & Co-Founder Paul Jarrett

Here at Arka, we truly care about our customers. We want to know why they do what they do, and see what we can learn from them. In this post, we speak to Bulu CEO and Co-Founder, Paul Jarrett.

How Did This Idea Come To You? 

My Co-Founder, Stephanie and I started Bulu Box in 2011 after running the San Francisco Half Marathon. At the finish line, we received free product samples, and as the former Marketing Director of a large nutrition company, I was impressed by how smart it was for brands to give out products for their target market to test.

As an athlete, I had always been interested in vitamins and supplements but found it challenging to discover new products. I got online the night of the marathon and started Googling health product sample boxes and nothing popped up. Honestly, how often do you Google something and there are zero search results? I stared at the screen assuming I had misspelled a word, but over and over again I saw “no results found.” We built wireframes for the website in our living room that night.

Our original Subscription Box was Bulu Box, a vitamin and supplement sample box designed as a way for suppliers to get their products in the hands of real customers and collect consumer insight data on the product via built-in surveys. Bulu Box was one of the first Subscription Boxes to the market. Seven years and seven million samples later, Bulu Box and Subscription Boxes are recognized as an industry with more than 3,000% growth.

In 2016, Bulu created its “Turnkey Subscription Box Solutions” division to partner with select companies who want to launch Subscription Box programs. We now provide eight services that allow large retail brands to go direct to consumer.

Why The Move To Working with Large Retail Brands? 

There are many factors that go into launching a successful Subscription Box program, such as fulfillment, design, website, sourcing, customer service and more. Many of the brands we work with have come to understand the time, money and resources it takes to get a Sub Box running and recognize it’s hard to do alone. Honestly, we work with large retail brands because we have the industry expertise and they have the customer base to make a successful Subscription Box. We’ve worked hard to build our reputation as authorities in the industry. We didn’t land companies like Disney and Crayola overnight, that was the product of a lot of late nights, thousands of hours of research, building a kick-ass team and relentlessly pursuing our goal to build a billion-dollar company. 

When we launched our Turnkey Subscription Box Solutions arm, we created a list of the top 100 companies we wanted to partner with. Crayola was at the top of that list and together we launched the Crayola CIY Box this past spring. 

Who Was Your First Customer & How Have They Shaped Your Company? 

The Crayola CIY Box is targeted at tweens to young adults, providing them with the opportunity to enjoy Crayola crafting from their home. The CIY Box provides an affordable solution to home-based crafting with aspirational projects delivered to their doorstep. The box is still new and we are learning important lessons daily about our customers and what they want.

As with each of our programs, we welcome the market to tell us what they want to see and continuously iterate to ensure every customer has a first-class experience with the program.

What are Challenges You've Overcome or are Facing Today? 

Any possible scenario you can imagine, we've experienced. From selling hundreds of thousands of products with one lucky marketing tactic to battling copyright issues and everything in between. We expect issues and frankly if there are none it's likely we're not trying hard enough.

What Were You Doing for Packaging Pre-Arka? 

Currently, the Crayola CIY Box is the only Box program we are partnering with Arka on. We chose to go with Arka because of the pricing and recommendation from a friend who hyped up how great the prices were.

Why Did You Choose Arka? 

Something I appreciate about Arka is that you can order as few as 10 custom boxes at a reasonable price. At Bulu, we ship hundreds of thousands of boxes each month but still appreciate the option to order in smaller quantities for sample boxes to iterate and optimize packaging. 

Arka offers competitive pricing and high-quality packaging, which is why we chose Arka for the Crayola CIY Box packaging. 

How did you come up with the packaging for your business? 

Honestly, we have some of the best packaging designers in the industry. Our team spends a lot of time making sure that every aspect of the packaging is expertly crafted to deliver a first-class experience to the consumer. For the Crayola CIY Box, the packaging even has a ruler guide on the bottom of the box to make crafting easier and more convenient for the consumer. 

How has your branded packaging positively impacted your company? 

The packaging is a critical piece of Subscription Boxes because it’s the first thing the customer interacts with. The packaging provides a first impression that impacts their overall assumptions of the quality of what is going to be inside. 

The material quality is vital because you never want your product to be damaged in transit. If it is, it may not be your fault - but that doesn’t matter, your reputation is still damaged in the eye of the customer. When products arrive intact and looking their best, while wrapped in our branded packaging - that’s a win for us.

There’s also the crucial visual element. Being able to design our own custom packaging has given us a major boost in customer satisfaction. The way we see it is that the packaging we use on our products is an opportunity to communicate our brand to a customer. We all know the excitement you get when you open a nice looking package - it really helps you feel like you’ve made a great purchase.

If there’s any advice you’d lend to new e-commerce entrepreneurs, what would it be? 

My best advice is to not take any advice at all. The reality is the industry is still new and we’re all figuring it out as we go. You’re going to fail at some point, and you have to be able to get back up and keep going. If I were to share one thing about the journey - don't work with assholes, life's too short and the money isn't worth it. 

Final Thoughts

Arka provides affordable, world-class packaging solutions. You can choose from a range of Kraft boxes that are eco-friendly, durable and inexpensive. Or, if it is white boxes you want, then these are available in multi-color, clear print and with a high-quality finish. 

Arka can help you meet cost targets as they can undertake orders of as little as 10 boxes. You can even Custom Design your own custom shipper boxes today at prices that are simply too good to miss. 

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