Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Boom. I’m smiling as I say this because today’s guest has heard me say this so many times. He is a longtime Mixergy listener and fan and he’s built up this incredible business and I’m so glad to have him on here to talk about how he did it.
What’s incredible about his business is this–there’s a lot, but here’s the thing that got me. He sells roses. So, I saw what he’s charging for his roses. They’re something like $129. In fact, that’s exactly it, for 12 roses, $129. So, then I went to his competition to see, “What does it cost to really buy roses from any other website?”
And again, now I see you’re smiling, Nasim, even bigger because you know your competition is selling it for less than half .We’re not talking about some little dinky site you have to know about because your friend told you, you can get a good rate. We’re talking about the big names are charging less than half. The big smile is because that’s part of your strategy.
All right. The guy who’s on camera here with me, who’s here for this interview, his name is Nasim Pakmanesh. He is the founder of Roseshire. They make these really elegant bouquets. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it a bouquet, Nasim, would I? It’s a box with roses…
Nasim: It’s an experience.
Andrew: The fact that you make roses and flowers into an experience like that is what makes the business so interesting and I want to find out how you did it. This whole interview is sponsored by a company you’ve heard me talk about in the past. If you need a developer, you already know you should go to Toptal.com. I’m in charge of making them the best known name for hiring developers online. And if you want to grow your email marketing strategy, meaning get more people to find your site, later on I’ll tell you why you should checkout CloudSponge.
But I’ll tell you about those sponsors later. But first, Nasim, it’s good to have you on here.
Nasim: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Andrew: Dude, before we started, we were talking about this whole thing we’re about to talk about in this interview happened because a girl said something to you and you said, “I’m not standing for that.” What did she say?
Nasim: Not these exact words, but, “You’re a loser. You don’t know what you’re doing with your life,” pretty much.
Andrew: In retrospect, were you a loser?
Nasim: You know…
Andrew: Be honest.
Nasim: I swear to God, I’m going to say I was a hybrid loser, sure.
Nasim: I was hybrid.
Andrew: What makes you say hybrid? What’s the one part that was a loser and what’s the part that wasn’t?
Nasim: I have a natural procrastination. I like to put things off. I’ve always been, to a certain degree, I’ve been lazy most of my life. I have always tried to find that escape goat to just kind of make money quick scheme. That prior to obviously Roseshire I was doing real estate and mortgage. That was an easy way for me to just make fast money. It didn’t require a lot of skills. The market was doing great. Just go get your real estate license, pick up the phone, make a couple calls and you’re making a couple thousand a week. But once that died off, I was pretty much at square one.
Andrew: And square one, did that involve unemployment?
Nasim: Oh yeah.
Andrew: It did. I see, so, the part of you that was a little bit of a loser was that you procrastinated, you were looking for fast money and you were on unemployment. The part that wasn’t was you were dreaming big. You were trying to do something, right? When you went to this real estate work, did you think, “I could possibly make this into something huge?” Maybe not.
Nasim: No. I didn’t.
Andrew: Wow. So, maybe I’ve got to agree with this girl. Maybe you were a loser. Maybe you weren’t living up to your potential. You’re like one of those people you feel is wasting his life. Were you?
Nasim: Actually, technically I’ve always wanted to create my own product. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something big. But I was a big dreamer for a very long time. It really took a lot of inside push. There was push from obviously other people, whether it was negative or positive, but a lot of more inside push to actually do action, rather than just think about, “Oh yeah, I want to go do this or do that.”
Andrew: What was one of your dreams that were just pipe dreams in reality?
Nasim: What was one of my dreams?
Andrew: Yeah. One of your dreams and now you go back, “That’s a pipe dream. What was I thinking? Instead of working I was dreaming of doing something.”
Nasim: If we’re just talking in a broad aspect, I’ve always wanted to be like an actor or be a director. I swear to go, roses was the last thing on earth I thought I would be doing.
Andrew: I get it. I’m looking at your history. You were working at Circuit City. You did real estate. You were just kind of scratching around and then it seems like Facebook was where you said, “I think I can create something.” What’s the app that you had in mind for Facebook?
Nasim: Yeah. The idea of the app was where the user could send flowers to someone else without knowing the recipient’s address. At that point, when I came up with that idea, I didn’t even have an idea of where to start. I just thought, “Okay, Facebook is allowing third-party applications. I want to do this. I have some money. Let me just go try to do it.” I’ve told this story so many times.
Andrew: That’s the weird thing about being an entrepreneur. You have to tell your story a lot to the point you’re so bored and at the same time be grateful that people are asking you for the story, grateful because it’s a layup question, right?
Nasim: Exactly. It’s cake. I swear to god, I feel like it was just yesterday.
Andrew: And still there’s a part of you that feels like, “Why am I telling Andrew this? I should be telling something a little bit bigger to Andrew.” Is that right?
Nasim: Everything to this point stemmed from that.
Andrew: From that app. Okay.
Andrew: So, let’s go back to that app. You said, “I have a great idea. People should be able to send each other roses without knowing their addresses. I have no idea how to get started. I’m not a developer. I’m a guy that was dreaming of doing stuff and finally got a kick in the butt to do this.” Where do you start? How do you find a guy who’s going to build it for you?
Nasim: Sure. I actually went on Facebook and they had a list of developers that were available to build whatever app you had in mind. So, I called–I didn’t even go to the next page. I just called everybody on the first page. I called a couple people. Again, I had no knowledge of HTML or CSS or any of that. I just wanted to build this app and I just wanted to get it done. So, I called this guy. He happened to be, he was one of the senior developers of Facebook. According to him, he was the sixth hire of Facebook. Why he left, I really don’t know.
Andrew: I think I know the–I won’t say the name because of what you’re about to tell me.
Nasim: So, he built our application. I’ll put it blunt. It was shit. I didn’t like it.
Andrew: Why? What sucked about it?
Nasim: Everything in my head the way that I thought it would look, it wasn’t the case. It wasn’t anything like that way I envisioned, you know what I mean?
Andrew: Did it work?
Nasim: Yes. Very temporarily.
Nasim: Here’s the reason why. Number one, the app–you can get an app built on Facebook, I swear to god there are guys charging $500. I paid $15,000 to build this app. It was pretty half-ass. It worked to a certain degree. You had to be friends with the other person for it to work. In retrospect to that, I thought, “I’m just going to ride with it and I’ll make it work.” The design was garbage. Everything about it was just blah.
So the reason why it temporarily worked is because from the date I hired him to actually build the app, he didn’t complete it for about four months.
Andrew: Which is eternity at that point.
Nasim: Especially in technology, right? With my luck, Facebook had issues with their security. People were complaining about the whole privacy issue. So they shut off the–third-party applications couldn’t message a user anymore and the app stopped working. So it was just a boring app on Facebook to buy flowers. There was nothing at all special about it.
Andrew: So, how much money did you lose on it?
Nasim: Collectively it went back and forth a couple times. Here’s the thing. I actually hired–when he did it, I didn’t like it. So, I hired someone else. These two developers, collectively it was about $40,000.
Andrew: Where’d you get $40,000?
Nasim: Okay. Let me backup now. I didn’t have that much. $15,000 was already $15,000 more than I had. So, I did come up with some money, but in essence, the only way the application would work is if I had somebody to fulfill the orders. So, hence, that’s when my partner steps in, but he didn’t step in. Again, I was solo on this.
So, I literally went on Google. Yelp wasn’t really that popular back then. I went on Google and I just searched nearby florists. I drove up–I swear to god, I drove up to his warehouse and I said, “Hey, listen, I want to build this application. I need somebody to help service these flowers. I’m not trying to sell you. I hate selling. Do you want to help, yes or no? If you’re interested, we can talk.”
I don’t believe in luck. I’m not really that much of a religious person. But I don’t know whatever it was, it clicked. Right away, he’s like, “You seem like an interesting guy. I’m curious about this idea.” He happened to be an entrepreneur himself. So, once that clicked, we kind of went in it together and the build of this application, the whole process was about a year. Again, it stopped working. So, it’s pointless. But just in general, the build and the start of getting into the floral industry was about a year process and he helped put together the money for the $40,000.
Andrew: Helped put it together meaning he raised or put it up himself?
Nasim: Himself and I.
Andrew: Whoa and him mostly, is sounds like.
Andrew: Wow. So, how do you feel when you go back to him and say, “This thing is not going to work?”
Nasim: Oh man… The story continues a couple of years down the line too. Crapped out–you don’t want to come up with excuses but you do, naturally. He’s kind of the partner. He likes the idea. He likes who I am as an entrepreneur. You keep it very business and you push on what the goal is. The goal is to create a product that no one else is doing. So, that leverages a lot of excitement out of the both of us. But of course, losing $40,000 down the drain is not like, “Whatever, let’s move on.”
Andrew: So, I get it. I see how that’s not working. I’m curious about how you figured out this new thing, which is just ship roses out to people.
Nasim: Okay. So, when I say the story continues–application didn’t work. We pulled it off. We renamed the whole app, the name went out the window. We called it something else. Now it was a standalone website that people could buy and send flowers to whomever they want. We made the user interface and experience very easy. It was three steps. Boom. You’re done, which that, by the way in itself is already more simplified than most floral companies out there. There’s usually like a six-step process. They try upsell you five different times with chocolate, cheeses and all this other BS.
So, I literally went out and I found my own team to build this standalone website. From A to Z–I was driving around–you’re in the Bay Area, so I was driving to like San Jose State, UC Davis, Stanford, Berkeley, San Francisco State. I drove to all the popular UCs and state colleges around here trying to recruit developers and designers on the anticipation of the idea that this will work.
So, it was a lot of time, I was taking a lot of part-time jobs. I was on unemployment this whole time I’m talking about this. I was able to put together a team. At that point, I had five people on my team–zero pay, nothing, not $1 paying anybody to build this website. And I was handing out equity of the company.
Of course, that didn’t work. It just ended up being another standalone website using the–so, in the floral industry it’s called the–Teleflora has created what’s called the Dove Network. They’re kind of the middle man service for websites to connect with other florists.
Andrew: So, all the florists are a part of this network?
Nasim: I would say 95%. For example, if I want to send you flowers and you’re in San Francisco right?
Nasim: So, if I want to send you flowers and I just go on whatever random website, they’re going to find whatever florist in San Francisco, they’re going to find it using the Dove Network through Teleflora. So, it’s signed up. Teleflora takes a small percent off of each order, blah, blah, blah.
So, it was pretty much just another website. It looked a little bit fancier. That was it. There was no separation of experience or product compared to anybody else. We were just another one of 14,000 other guys doing this.
Andrew: Did it still have the same name that it does now, Roseshire?
Nasim: No. It was a different name.
Andrew: What was the name?
Nasim: It was called Bloomstown.
Andrew: Bloomstown, plural?
Andrew: Okay. Is this the period when you were listening to Mixergy?
Nasim: Oh yeah.
Andrew: So, what did you think as you were listening to all these other people build their businesses while you were struggling?
Nasim: “What the fuck is wrong with me?”
Nasim: Honestly, it was like pissed off. You can’t describe when you put so much effort and so much time to try and make something work and you listen to what all these entrepreneurs say to do. In this time period, during all this time period, I’m going to every networking event, talking to different advisors, investors. I don’t know how many guys were like, “That’s a bullshit idea. You don’t know what you’re doing. Go do something else. It’s not going to work.”
Even up to the launch of Roseshire, I heard it. Like I told you even pre-interview–even today, I don’t hear that anymore, but they still don’t show interest, which boggles my brain. I don’t know what’s wrong with investors these days. I don’t know what’s wrong with advisors these days. It’s like where do you guys put your money if it’s not in a business that’s making money?
Andrew: I see. So, you’re saying today you’re making money and they’re still not interested. So, if they’re not interested in this then what are they interested in? Meanwhile, there was one investor who didn’t invest but told you something that helped shape the product. What did he say?
Nasim: He said, “If you want to succeed, don’t go the route of competing with everyone else. You’ve either got to be the cheapest of all of them or you have to be the best.” So, obviously keeping in mind that I’m not doing this for charity purposes, I’m doing this to obviously make money off of it, we’re going to be the best.
Andrew: Did he say the best or most expensive?
Nasim: Best meaning most expensive, but obviously you can’t be the most expensive and sell the same kind of product. It was a combination of both.
Andrew: It kind of seems to me like markets go into the hourglass shape eventually, hourglass meaning you have a lot of business on the very bottom, meaning the cheapest and a lot of business on the very top, meaning the most expensive and the middle just gets squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. So you’ll see both Walmart doing well and you’ll see Gucci selling well.
Andrew: I just picked Gucci out. I don’t happen to know anything about them. You’ll see the two sides, but you don’t know too many blah companies that are doing okay.
Nasim: I agree. It’s very… I don’t know the reason why. I was actually talking to a buddy of mine during that period and he was telling me it’s called the barbell effect.
Andrew: Yeah. I’ve heard it called that too.
Nasim: So, where the weight is, is on the left and right-hand side. Everything in between is kind of squeezed because you’re just competing with a plethora of other businesses that are in the same kind of industry.
Andrew: That’s a lesson, frankly, what he told you is one that anyone listening to us should take with them. You were selling basically a commodity product. You can’t be just another seller with even a gimmick. But if you go towards the most expensive or the cheapest, the best or the most accessible, if you go to one of those tow ends. Then things start to happen. That’s what happened to you.
I want to take a moment and just talk about my sponsor, Toptal. All right. We all just heard Nasim, you just us one of the worst stories of hiring a developer. Not your money, a guy you’re partnering up with, you spend all of his cash and you don’t get a product that you love. That’s the problem with having a developer that, frankly, stinks.
We often as entrepreneurs end up blaming ourselves, “Maybe I’m to communicating to this guy. Maybe there’s something about me that he’s not respecting. Maybe she’s not performing because I don’t know how to tell her what to do or I’m not using the right software for managing the relationship or the project.”
So, you start going to self-doubt. You start to spin your wheels. Meanwhile, money is going out the window and it’s just not working out. Or worse, it’s working out just flat but not awesome and that’s not where you want to be.
So, how do you find the best developer? I’ll tell you exactly where it is. Speaking of either go to the cheapest and go to the best–the cheapest are those cheapo freelance sites. The best is a company called Toptal. They’re my sponsor. Toptal is fantastic because it was started by people who have a lot of respect in the industry and they assembled this network of developers for themselves, really superstar developers partially because they’re kinds of pains in the ass about who they want to work with.
They’ve turned down some people who I think are freaking magnificent who anyone would be the lucky to work with, but they’re obsessive about it. In fact, the founder, Brennan, was telling me about how he’s obsessive about every word on his freaking website. I don’t know how he has time to do anything, which is probably why he doesn’t like to have dinner with anyone. But they’re obsessive without this stuff. They have this incredible network.
So, when an entrepreneur or a business or project manager wants to hire developers, they just come to Toptal. They tell Toptal what they’re looking for. Toptal will reach out to their network, find the ideal candidate, introduce them and make that relationship happen and often do it within 48 hours. You do not have to drive all the way out to Palo Alto and all the way up to Berkeley and everywhere in between in order to find your developer at some random school. These guys have them on their network, incredible people. I’ve worked with their developers. They’re fan-freaking-tastic.
If you want to work with them, there are two ways to do it. One is you can go to Toptal.com and frankly, you’re going to get a good deal there. Or number two, you go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and you will get 80 free Toptal developer hours when you pay for 80 in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. These guys are fantastic–trial period of up to two weeks. Where do you get that? Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even get that. He has to pay his people a big signing bonus.
So, Toptal is the place to go. Go to that URL, Toptal.com/Mixergy or I know these guys so well, the founder has been in my house, I’ve gotten to know them over now years. I will gladly make an introduction to my guy over at Toptal. You’ll still get the whole 80 free hours and everything from them. All you have to do is email me, Andrew@Mixergy.com.
These guys just locked in a bunch of ads at Mixergy because they’re getting business from it because Mixergy listeners are working with them. Frankly, not only are they working with them, but it’s a long term relationship that lets Toptal know that it’s worth reinvesting in a Mixergy sponsorship. Check them out. Toptal is fantastic.
Nasim, you now have your idea. Do you at that point rebrand or do you start a new business?
Nasim: Both. It’s completely–the new idea was to completely take the hands out of everyone else and put it here.
Andrew: So, no more–the cofounder is gone, the people you gave shares to no longer are a part of the business. You’re starting a brand new one?
Nasim: Well, the cofounder, which is my partner from the beginning stuck with me the whole time. He’s my partner today.
Andrew: 50-50 in this new business?
Nasim: Pretty much.
Andrew: Okay. Who has more, him or you?
Nasim: Him, obviously because he put in more of the money.
Andrew: How much more? What’s his share?
Nasim: He’s 60. I’m 40.
Andrew: All right. That’s a fair deal considering how much trust, how much money he put in you.
Andrew: And he’s in the rose business, right?
Nasim: He’s been in the industry for about 20 years or so.
Andrew: I see that there are a bunch of parts that have to come together. First of all, one of the things you’re proudest of is the flowers look better than they do when they come from something else.
Andrew: And it’s the box that looks so good. So, you had to come up with this whole presentation. Did you design the box?
Andrew: You did. What’s key? I’m looking at the box right here. What’s the part that looks especially impressive that makes people love working with you?
Nasim: The idea was how do we make a quality product and experience that surpasses everyone else? This industry, I don’t want to say it was a problem and we’re the solution because all we did was create another product. But if I had to call it a problem, it’s that there was no differentiation between florist A and florist B and florist Z and all the other florists. They all sell the same cookie cutter product.
There was no branding effect. All these companies are services, to a certain degree. There’s no brand in the floral industry. That’s what really hit home for us. We wanted to create a brand. The only way you could create a brand is to keep everything internal, not using any middlemen.
Andrew: Meaning you’re not using Teleflora’s Dove service. It’s one place that the flowers come from in the same box so that you’re not counting on the local florist to create your vision.
Andrew: Okay. So, the box itself, who created the logo on it? I like the logo.
Nasim: That was me and another designer. I don’t know if it was like 99 Designs or something like that, but we worked together. It was primarily me. Obviously the first round, you get whatever they think and then you’ve got to go back, tweak it. Then you’re like, “No, let me show you,” draw it on a piece of paper. So, it was collectively me. I don’t have any Photoshop skills or design skills. But I can draw to a certain degree. So, I drew it out and she designed it.
Andrew: You knew you wanted it to be in a black box. You knew the look. I get that now that I see it. I think that the best way for anyone to notice it is to just go to your website, Roseshire.com. But where do you get this box? I heard it was a pain in the butt to figure out how to have this box made.
Nasim: Yeah. Especially in California, there are not that many box manufacturers, especially when it comes to–the box type that we used is corrugated cardboard. There’s also rigid cardboard, which is like what jewelry boxes are made out of. So, we really wanted a luxury feel. We wanted to really stick on that, not sway away. We wanted what people pay is what they get. So, I really wanted to stick with that.
It was very difficult to find a company that would work with us when you have no money. Seriously, at this point, my partner was done. This is August of last year. We had this idea. We were both tapped out. We were both winded. We were like, “This is the last jump. If it doesn’t work, part ways. I’ve got to do something.” I was going to get a job at a startup in the city. I’m so tired of the floral industry at that point.
So, it was very difficult to find a manufacturer that would work with somebody that has no money. Fortunately with him being established already, being in business in the floral industry already and having had net terms with different manufacturers, we were able to get that with this box manufacturer and pretty much we had a 30-day window to come up with money to obviously make it work.
Andrew: I see. So, this box manufacturer was going to create the thing for you and no charge you for 30 days, which was huge.
Andrew: It also means if you go bankrupt, you don’t have to really pay him.
Nasim: Pretty much. Actually, it gets worse. Not only did we not make money for the first 30 days. We didn’t make money for probably the first four months.
Andrew: Four months? Whoa. How did you end up paying him for his box?
Nasim: We didn’t.
Andrew: You didn’t? So, now are you working with a new guy?
Nasim: No. We’re still working with him. So what happened was–this is where my partner and I constantly go back and forth with this–when it comes to business, all people are the same. If you know how to talk to people and if you can I don’t want to say sell them or sway them. If you just understand and then make them understand you, you can reason with them. You can have them reason with you and vice versa to understand the business model.
Andrew: So, you went in there and you just reasoned with the guy.
Andrew: What did you say to him?
Nasim: No way would I go in there. I called him. I called him and I said, “I’ll be real with you. We’re going to have money very soon here. The money hasn’t come in yet because everything that we have right now we’re pushing to obviously create revenue.” If I pay you guys, I have no money for marketing. In the back of my head, I’m thinking, “I don’t even know what the hell I’m going to do with marketing. I don’t know where I’m going to go.”
Andrew: When people hear how you ended up getting marketing, there’s no way you could have predicted that. There’s no way you could have prepared for it.
Nasim: Exactly. To this day–yeah, exactly.
Andrew: We’re going to get into that because that’s freaking crazy. I’m still looking at one of the places where you got your traffic. I don’t understand it. But we’ll get to that. So, you’re reasoning with him. He says, “Fine, take a little bit more time.” Frankly what else could he say? It’s not like you’re going to get the money any other way, right?
Nasim: Exactly. What is he going to do? He’s not going to come throw a lien or sue us. At that point, we owed–it wasn’t much. It was like a couple grand in boxes.
Andrew: He’s not going to go bankrupt over it. You have this agreement with him. You have more time. How did you get your first customers?
Nasim: So, the initial idea was, “Oh, we’ve got a new product. Google AdWords. Boom. People will come.” Not only is the so far from the truth, it let me drive home so much for everyone listening–I don’t care if you come up with the pill that makes you live forever. You cannot go at the same angle everybody else goes through to drive traffic.
I understand there are different platforms. I understand you can put your money there. You can compete with bids and blah, blah, blah and all these different things. When you’re selling a product that you have competition with to a certain degree or in a relative industry? You can’t go the same approach, especially when you’re the most expensive guys out there.
Andrew: There are tons of competitors when it comes to flowers. There are tons of them. Let me type in roses into a plain old Google search. Let’s see who comes up.
Nasim: If we show up on the first five pages, I’ll be surprised.
Andrew: I’m surprised that it’s not covered in ads. I wonder if it’s my ad blocker that’s stopping it. There is no ad blocker. Strange. I’m getting Guns N’ Roses as the first Twitter result, the second organic result. The first one is a YouTube video. Strange that there wouldn’t be ads there. So, how much money did you lose?
Nasim: In the process of trying to market and everything, we didn’t have a lot of money to market anyways. So, with any amount of money that we had, we constantly put it back into development thinking, “Let’s keep making the product better.” No one has even bought this product. Let me throw that out there. From August to December, nobody has bought the product.
Andrew: You decide, “I’m not going to keep spending more money on improving the ads. I’m going to go out there and improve my product.”
Nasim: That’s it.
Andrew: What does it mean to improve the product?
Nasim: Initially we thought we’re not justifying what it is that makes us different, what it is that people are spending their money for and why 12 roses is $130. So, I really wanted to create a product that is very–I wanted to make it untouchable, that nobody else, even if they wanted to come up with that same idea, they couldn’t do it over night. They’d have to spend at least six months to a year, have $50,000 to $100,000.
Like I said initially, all that experience to last August is what amounted to create this idea. So, I really started focusing on the interior of the box, the exterior, the branding on the box, the foam, the shape of the foam, the quality of the rose. The quality of the rose–we’ve tried probably every single grower that ships to the US.
Andrew: Why couldn’t you just–Don Hotton is your cofounder, right? Why couldn’t you just go to Don and say, “Whatever roses you guys are selling, that’s what I’m going to go with?”
Nasim: So, we initially we did that. The issue became that the same rose that a florist sells is not necessarily the same kind of rose that would sustain shipment.
Andrew: Oh wow. So, you had to spend even more time fixing that.
Nasim: Oh yeah.
Andrew: In the video on your homepage, you’re melting wax on the piece of paper that goes into the box. That actually happens?
Nasim: Yeah. Exactly.
Andrew: What’s that piece of paper that you guys are melting wax on to close shut?
Nasim: It’s actually changed. Now it’s a black linen envelope and it’s a wax seal. We have an actual stamp. I guess it’s made out of brass with a wood handle. We actually wax that every single envelope that goes into every single box.
Andrew: Unreal. What goes into the envelope?
Nasim: The card message. So, everything–like I was telling you, I really want to focus on making the product better. The card that we sell you can’t get anywhere else. We hired a designer to draw the card. That card is custom drawn specifically for us. We had him draw out the card. We started searching out different companies that get the wax from, different companies that provide–I don’t know how many manufacturers.
Andrew: When you’re doing this, Nasim, do you feel like, “I’m wasting time. I have no customers. I should be getting customers because if I make this perfect and no one buys, then I’ve failed. But if I get some buyers and it’s not perfect, then I live to improve it.”
Nasim: Yes, most definitely. Keep in mind, at this point, I have no money. I have no money. I’m living at home with parents. I have no money to my name–nothing. I’m living on borrowed money. I have a car. That car is gone now. But it was a like a ’98 Civic. I paid $500 for it. It had 300,000 miles. $500–I didn’t have $500. That was borrowed money to buy that car. So 100%, that was all that was going through my head.
I constantly, my partner and I were constantly going back and forth on the same page of create the best product, worry about marketing later. If you create the best product, they will get customer number one, they will have nothing to say but good things. They’ll go tell somebody else. Customer two comes along, customer three, four–it will start to go viral. This was the theory originally.
So, at this point, December, I think we sold maybe I swear to god, two boxes. So, I thought, “Let me reach out to bloggers. Let me reach out to people that write about products. It’s Christmas. Let’s create a Christmas-themed box.” We built a rose–it was a rose tree in the box just because of the layout of the roses–
Andrew: So, it was a Christmas tree that looked like–it was roses that were presented in the box like a Christmas tree.
Nasim: Exactly. Here’s where it gets funny. This is all theoretical. We’re making the box. Great. The issue becomes when you’re trying to build the best product, you have to do a lot of testing. So, I don’t have money to start throwing around and testing it like that. So, the only testing we get is when people are buying the product.
So, the roses, they’re good quality. We searched it out. They did well. The problem was the freight, the shipping. The rose tree looked great on the website when people would buy it. By the time it got there, it looked like somebody threw up in the box because the roses were everywhere. It wasn’t a tree anymore. It’s so funny. The things that you predict will happen do not happen. It’s always something else.
People didn’t mind that the tree was messed up. They loved the box. They loved the presentation factor. They loved that each rose has its own individual water tube at the end. They see that there was time put into actually building the box. It wasn’t a rose tree. But they still liked it. So, we got a few write-ups. We had some sales. It wasn’t significant at all. We finally made enough money to just payoff the box manufacturer guys and that was it. We didn’t have $1 to our name. It was just to pay off the couple thousand. That was it.
Andrew: Who’s one of the first bloggers that you remember from this Christmas season?
Nasim: JoesDaily.com or something like that.
Andrew: Joes Daily? Let me check that out.
Nasim: Joes Daily. If you put in there–I think if you Google “Joes Daily Roseshire” it should pop up.
Andrew: A men’s lifestyle blog. That’s what it is.
Andrew: That’s just you reaching out to him?
Nasim: Yeah. I just emailed the guy and I said, “We’ve got a product. We made it. It’s roses. I know it’s not a typical rose season, but there’s a Christmas tree in there. You want to write us up?” Out of 100 bloggers that I hit up, he was one of maybe three that actually came back and said okay.
Andrew: Did you give it to him for free?
Nasim: Of course.
Andrew: You did. Okay. So, you said, “Look, can I send this to you? Are you interested?” You were hoping he would write up something about it. I see his write up right now, December 9th, 2014, “#GiftGuide: Roseshire Joyous Arrangement.” I see. It’s actually arranged in a square in the box, but because of the different colors, it looks like it’s a Christmas tree. This looks really nice.
Nasim: Yeah. It looks very nice.
Andrew: But when it arrived, I can see it’s all over he place.
Nasim: It got sloppy.
Andrew: Thankfully he didn’t show what it looked like when it arrived then.
Nasim: I’m exaggerating when I said it would look like throw up. It looked fine. With me, at least, I’m very anal. If I know we’re doing all of this and we’re putting that kind of price tag on it, I really want it to be perfect. I want people to understand why it is it’s that expensive, how much time we put in there to actually layout the roses like that.
Andrew: You know what, though? I don’t see that Joe linked to you. He didn’t. He just wrote up about you.
Nasim: I don’t know if he did. Maybe in the name part.
Andrew: The name is in there, but as far as I can tell, there’s no link directly to you. It looks like it still worked. All right. So, you’re starting to get a little bit of traction there, much more than you were getting from buying Google ads. So, then you start to, it seems like, double down on that. That’s where you start to really focus your marketing energy.
Nasim: Correct. So, I saw blogging works. Obviously after Christmas, everyone thinks roses, they think Valentine’s Day. So, obviously Valentine’s Day is coming around the corner. My partner and I, I can’t stress how much–I have no money, like nothing. I have nothing to improve on, on the box. Everything, every expense that I had to improve the product or do any type of marketing, advertising is gone. I can’t even send out a free box if Oprah wanted one.
So, in my head I’m thinking, “This is Valentine’s Day coming up. We’re in January. If this doesn’t work, it’s game over. I don’t know what else to do.” So, reaching out to Joe worked. I thought, “All right, I’m going to try pushing on that in January. Let me hit them early so they have time to write.” I don’t want to hear excuses like, “It’s too late.”
So, I start hitting up first week of January, second week of January. I’m going after anybody and everybody–TechCrunch to Forbes to Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, everybody. Nobody is replying back. Not even one hit back. Nothing. Zero. Zip. I keep thinking to myself, “If we’re selling roses and this isn’t quality material for them or content for their blog or for a post on their publication, what do they want?”
So, I start to get pissed off. I start looking for contributing writers that have written up for Valentine’s Day or other seasons of different products, like seasonal products. So, I find a couple people. Again, one of them was for Forbes. He covered startups and he covered seasonal products. I thought, “This is a no-brainer.” I write up this whole press release by myself. I don’t have any experience with this, by the way. I write it up. I send it to him. He’s like, “It looks good.” I swear to god, his email say, “It looks good. I’ll let you know.”
So, he sends me that back and I’m like, “All right.” I hit him back and I’m like, “What do you mean? Are you going to write up? Let me know. I don’t know what to do here. I’m kind of panicking a little bit.” He comes back and he’s like, “I just have a lot of stuff on my plate. I’ll let you know.”
So, now I’m just at a point where I’m kind of like, “Fuck it, dude.” I don’t even care anymore. I’m just going to hit everybody as if I don’t even care. I don’t know what it is. But when you don’t put that much effort, when you don’t show that much like you really want it, if you’re just like, “Whatever, it’s up to you.” I feel like you get more in return for it.
I hit up another contributing writer. I told her the story. I told her, “I’ve already contacted a couple people that write for Forbes. They didn’t show any interest. If you like it, let me know.” I left it that, no press release. Nothing. I put the URL on there, Roseshire.
So, she comes back and she’s like, “I like it. Let me interview you.” Now I’m thinking in my head, “She’s going to interview me. Cool.” She sends me a questionnaire. It wasn’t an interview like how I’m having with you. I do the interview. I hit her back and I’m like, “Let me know when it posts.” No response back. First week of February comes. I hit her up again. No response back. I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh. She changed her mind.” I have nobody writing up about us.
The first–it was like the week of Valentine’s Day. I think it was like Monday or Tuesday. She emails me early in the morning, “Hey, I posted it up on my…” it’s not the blog, it’s Forbes. “I posted up the article. Let me know what you think about it.” So, I go on there. I see the article I’m like, “This looks great. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
My partner and I, we’re sitting by the computer waiting. Nothing is happening. Not one order yet. It was about 8:00 that night–this is three days before Valentine’s Day, 8:00, we are the most expensive guys there are. The article becomes the top trending products for Valentine’s Day on Forbes. Every 45 seconds to every minute, we were getting an order. We sold out within three hours.
Andrew: Three hours?
Andrew: And you can’t undo that. You can’t get more roses shipped over. You’re done.
Andrew: But that’s a fantastic way to be done.
Nasim: Not only is it a fantastic way, we had people–this isn’t one, two, five, ten, we had maybe 100 to 200 people email us or call saying, “We’ll pay more.”
Andrew: Whoa. So, this is an article–I have it in here in front of me–Kristen Philikoski.
Andrew: From February 9th, 2015 at 10:09 a.m. Unbelievable. And it only got 2,000 views.
Andrew: But it’s the right 2,000 views.
Nasim: It’s the right 2,000.
Andrew: This interview is going to get more than 2,000 views but it’s not going to be just before Valentine’s Day and it’s not going to be promoting it. But that’s unbelievable return. But what she did that Joe didn’t do is she linked, right in the very first paragraph.
Andrew: It’s also a much better fit. Wow. We’ll get into what happened to your revenues as a result of that. I’ve got them here on my screen. But first I should tell people about CloudSponge, my sponsor.
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Do you remember what your revenues were for February of 2014?
Nasim: Yes. You know what’s crazy is that month I thought, “This is a game-changer,” and it was nothing. It was like–it was nothing.
Andrew: Compared to where you are now, but it’s solid.
Nasim: It was good. For three days, it was very good. At three days, it was around $15,000.
Andrew: $15,000. That’s fantastic. Now, suddenly you’ve got something. Then the next month, you actually gave our producer your revenues month after month after month. Do you remember what it was for May? Do you want me to just read it off of my sheet?
Nasim: Go for it.
Andrew: So, I got May, $35,000–these are all estimates–May, $35,000, then June, $9,000. What the hell happened in June?
Nasim: So, May is Mother’s Day.
Andrew: Okay. And June is Father’s Day and fathers don’t get flowers.
Nasim: No. Dads don’t care about roses.
Andrew: But then what about August? August you jump out to $38,000 in the middle of the summer. Who’s sending flowers in August?
Nasim: So, between May and August, we really honed in on what this product, the way this product needs to be spread or the brand awareness that people need to see about this product, is it something that Google AdWords was providing. We realized it has to be visual. It needs to be something that people could see, that people could actually, whether it was from the video or the pictures to actually see people holding it.
So, we really started to market through Instagram, sending out boxes to different influencers and celebrities and things like that. Obviously you have their followers looking and showing interest.
Andrew: So, you’d just target people on Instagram and celebrities from all over and send them a box of flowers?
Andrew: Who’s one of the early hits that you got, either celebrity or Instagram?
Nasim: Nobody crazy big. It wasn’t like Brad Pitt or anything like that. It was like somebody form “The Bachelor,” one of the seasons of “The Bachelor,” very low-level celebrities like that. They had a large following. But most of the influencers were–you know what sucks, Andrew? The influencers back then weren’t so diluted like they are now. I don’t know how many influencers there are on Instagram.
I actually make a lot of fun of these. I don’t make fun of the people. I just make fun of the way social media has turned into a magazine. Now they’re like, “Strawberry lose weight protein shake, look at this, look at that.” It looks like an ad stream of pictures now if you’re following some of these influencers. Back then, it was only half a year ago, but it wasn’t that dramatic as it is now. But those were the people that were sending product, basically people that had over 100,000 following.
Andrew: How would you contact them to get their address to send it out?
Nasim: Whether it was LinkedIn or sometimes they provide their email. A lot of them didn’t respond back. Some of them did. Some of them wanted money, which at that point we didn’t have. All we could do was just offer a box if they wanted it or not.
Obviously, the difficult part about this is that our primary customer is men buying this product. But you can’t go to a man and say, “Hey, do you want roses.” Most men are going to say, “No, what am I going to do with the roses?” So, the angle was if it was an influencer that was a man, we’d offer to send it to his girlfriend or wife or whatever. We’d offer it in that direction or of it was a woman that was an influencer, we’d just offer a box of roses. For the most part, they liked our box. They loved the packaging. They loved what the experience was providing. It wasn’t just another box of flowers.
Andrew: I see one of these boxes right now. I see on Instagram an account called GentBeLike. So, did you send GentBeLike a photo of–you didn’t send flowers, nothing? That’s just them saying, “This is a really cool thing to post.” So, they shared it. Men’s Fashions, did you send them?
Andrew: No? That got 4,300 likes a week ago. Street Fashions?
Andrew: 2,000 likes a week ago. Let me see. How about Dollhouse Entertainment?
Nasim: If it looks like a picture that is something on our own Instagram and it’s relatively to kind of notice the difference, if it looks similar to ours, we didn’t send them a box.
Andrew: Right. You mean if it looks like it’s you guys taking the photo, you didn’t. Here’s one–I can’t tell if it’s organic or what. Vicki2525 shows a photo that says, “I love you from the beginning and forever.” So, it sounds like maybe Vicki just got the flowers and decided to post it.
Nasim: Now, there are some celebrities that have shown interest, whether they’ve bought the product for their wife or girlfriend or whatever. There have some that have actually–it’s gotten to the point where some of these high influencers and like I said, real time celebrities have bought the product and now they’re actually showing more interest than just buying. I’m talking about in the aspect of like involving themselves, whether it’s representing the product or even investing. The turn of events in the past four or five months, I don’t even know.
Andrew: Let me keep going then with my numbers. So, I’m looking at August, which is $38,000 because you discovered influencers. You realized it’s not just blogging, it’s these Instagram stars, these Twitter stars and you start targeting them. September, you end up with $130,000. So, now we’re clearly in the over $100,000 a month range and this is not for a holiday. This is fantastic.
Nasim: Yeah. And Andrew, that wasn’t all of September. That revenue came in the last two weeks of September.
Andrew: Right because we actually did the pre-interview–no, the last two or the first two of September.
Andrew: $130,000 September.
Nasim: That’s right, the first two. I’m sorry.
Andrew: Right, because we pre-interviewed you in the middle of September. So, where did September end?
Nasim: It was around $140,000 or $150,000. What happened was the post got pushed back. So, it kind of started–
Andrew: I see where the revenues are and things are growing. I have my phone here. What’s the name of this girl who called you a loser? Let’s call her right now.
Nasim: Oh my god… I don’t even know where she lives. I don’t even know if I have her phone number.
Andrew: Do you have her phone number?
Nasim: I don’t think so.
Andrew: Look at it. Let’s see if we can find it in your phone. That would be killer. I’ll be gentle. You know me. I’m good. Who even picks up the phone?
Nasim: She won’t pick up the phone.
Andrew: I’ll text her.
Nasim: You know what’s funny?
Andrew: I’ll text her and say, “This is for Mixergy.” I’ll attach the word show at the end of it. People respond better to “show.”
Nasim: Andrew, this is a girl that lives off of Kim Kardashian’s life. If it’s not Kim Kardashian, she won’t know who you are.
Andrew: I’m learning everyone lives off of Kim Kardashian’s life, apparently, except for people in our world. I had Wil Schroter at my house the founder of Startups.co. I was telling him how the tech scene is now dictating what the rest of the world does. We get into iPhone Watches, the rest of the world does. We get into smart watches, the rest of the world does. He goes, “Andrew, look a little bit around you and you’ll realize all the stuff we’re into is nothing. There’s a kid skateboarding on YouTube who’s got a huge following bigger than anyone you’re talking about in tech. Forget TechCrunch.”
Nasim: You know what’s funny? I’ll allow you to bring it up because it might have been in the pre-interview. Do you have in your notes what our age bracket of buyers are?
Andrew: Before you get into that, what’s her phone number? You’ve got to have it in your thing.
Nasim: I don’t know if I have it. I swear to god. You are talking to the wrong guy.
Andrew: You don’t even have it in your phone for anything, maybe in text messages?
Nasim: Oh my god yeah, four iPhones ago.
Andrew: But iPhone keeps it.
Nasim: iPhone does keep it? Okay.
Andrew: I saw the eyes. You’ve got it.
Nasim: No. This isn’t it.
Andrew: If she was a website, type it in chat. I’ll find her phone number from that.
Nasim: No. I don’t have it. I have her work. It was Linens n Things or something like that.
Andrew: Who’s a loser now, Linens n Things? I’m going to drive-by on my way home. I know where Linens n Things is. Do you have her email address?
Andrew: I’m getting too hung up on that. So, what’s the age group?
Nasim: So, let me back up. So, the average age demographic of the floral industry in general is between 30 to about 60. Our main core buyer is between the age of 17 and 22.
Andrew: Oh wow. 17-year olds are sending your flowers out? They’ve got that kind of money?
Nasim: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s even legal to be like, “Whose credit card are you using?” I can’t necessarily see it. We can see what the billing information says. Sometimes it’s a different name. Sometimes it’s the same name. But I don’t know have any idea. I don’t know if they’re using parents’ money. They’re buying it.
Andrew: I didn’t have a credit card at that age. I know 17-year olds do. You kind of get it on your parents’ credit card. I’ve got a credit card here under Dale Carnegie’s name. I needed an extra credit card for the office in case someone needed to buy something and I didn’t want to give them my credit card. So, I just gave them a name. So, you can get a credit card under anyone’s name if it’s authorized. So, I could give my son a credit card even though he’s a year and a half old.
Nasim: Or a debit card. I think you can open up a bank account when you’re 16, can’t you?
Andrew: Right. Do you pay yourself only $1,000 a month? Is that right?
Nasim: As of that pre-interview, yes. Now I pay myself–
Andrew: That was a month ago.
Nasim: Yes, that was a month ago. It hasn’t dramatically changed. I pay myself a couple thousand now.
Nasim: When you go through the–my life has changed a lot in the past five years. It’s really humbled me a lot. I think about where I am now and where this is going and who’s contacting us. Some of these connections, I’m talking about billion dollar companies are contacting us to do partnerships. It’s to that degree now. I don’t know if I can necessarily say their name. I just think, “What is the rush to pay myself a salary?” besides to the extent that if I want to get finding, I should show that I’m going to need this much in salary per month to survive, especially in the most expensive place on earth, to a certain degree. But I have enough to eat. I have enough to have clothes.
Andrew: How do you eat and live on $1,000 a month in San Francisco? You’re still living at your parents then?
Andrew: Where are you finding a place for under $1,000?
Nasim: I have a roommate. I live in Walnut Creek now. I have a roommate. It’s $1,000. I buy groceries. I almost never eat out. Don’t get me wrong. There are times where you feel like shit because it’s like you want to hang out with your friends, time is passing. It’s like a struggle. There’s a struggle, I feel, with entrepreneurs that are doing well and having success. It changes you. You know what I mean?
I want to go out there and I want to be able to spend money and I can easily draw more money. But I think what is the rush? What’s going to happen between now and the next six months? Can I hold off for that period? What can happen to the business instead of me pulling out $10,000 a month if I keep that $10,000 and use that towards growing it or hiring better talent or more talent?
Andrew: Yeah. That makes sense. I’m with you on that too. It’s just so hard to do in the city. Earlier today–Sachit Gupta is the guy who sells ads for us at Mixergy–he sent me a text message with a photo of an airplane he’s about to get on. He says, “I forgot to tell you. I’m going to Bangkok.” I said, “What do you mean? What happened that you’re going to Bangkok?” I’m going to read his text message literally. He says, “It was cheaper to do that, to go to Bangkok than to get an Airbnb in San Francisco for two weeks.”
Nasim: My brother, he was joking around. He saw an article. I forgot if it was in–it might have been in 7×7, I’m sure you’re familiar with them or it could have been TechCrunch. I wasn’t sure which one. It’s you save more money if you rent an apartment in Las Vegas and commute from Las Vegas–I swear to god, commute from San Francisco to Las Vegas.
Nasim: Did you see that article?
Andrew: No, but I could believe it.
Nasim: It was trending. It’s cheaper. You could commute to Las Vegas every single day by plane and save more money than just renting in San Francisco.
Andrew: Yeah. But I’m here frankly because I was always curious about the city. I always was an outsider who had a chip on my shoulder for not having funding, for not being in the in crowd. So, I said, “Let’s check out and see what it’s like.” So, I’m here. I kind of dig it. It is kind of a pain in the ass if you’re just scraping by.
It’s not just the fact that it’s cheaper to fly to Bangkok and live there than to be here. It’s that there are people around also who are driving Teslas like it’s nothing, like I have this Tesla for Monday and this Tesla for the weekend, right? Tesla is not even an expensive thing. It’s huge stuff that they’re going through in their lives. That’s also a barbell effect over here, I feel in the city.
Nasim: I do too. I’ve been a Bay native. I was born in Houston. I moved to the Bay when I was four or five. I’ve been in the Bay Area ever since. I lived in San Francisco earlier on. This was like late 80s, early 90s and then I moved to the East bay. What’s happened over this period–there are the pros and cons.
The pros is that there’s a lot of–this generation that’s coming to the city, especially, I feel wants to do more good than bad. What’s happening is that I feel that there’s a lot of bad coming along with it because you have–I don’t want to call it bad. But everybody wants to be a part of something or do their own thing. I feel that it could potentially cause some kind of effect in the economy in general because you can’t–you can’t have this many companies. It’s too much.
Andrew: And here’s the cool thing. You’re actually making money. You’re generating sales. You’ve got customers that are happy enough that they’re on Instagram posting photos of themselves with your flowers and nobody gives a rat’s ass here. What they want is for you to not be making and have an app that will not make money but could get more likes somewhere.
Andrew: But you’ve done it. You were really hitting the bottom, scraping the bottom. And here you are today, the business is not turned around. It’s doing really well. It’s growing. As a guy who used to listen to Mixergy, how do you feel about all those old interviews? Do you look back? What do you think looking back on all those interviews you were listening to?
Nasim: Dude, I swear to god, this isn’t just–I’m not blowing smoke up your ass or your viewers–for me at least, when you’re–I must have in the past four or five years to this point, I’ve probably had five to seven different jobs, most of the m were startups in the city or somewhere else. I’ve always needed motivation. My partner, he’s a little bit older in age. We motivate each other. But there’s something that your show provides that I can’t necessarily go out or I didn’t have the money to go out and network like that and get stories from other people.
So, I always constantly need that motivation to understand that it’s possible. As long as you put the action in, it’s very possible to create something that people want. Even if you try and it doesn’t work, you don’t–I swear to god, you cannot give up. You can’t give up. As soon as you do that, you don’t know what the next day is or what the next month is. So, you constantly have to just feed yourself that, “I’m going to make this work.”
There’s a reason why… Andrew, I’m telling, I’m not bullshitting you. To the day of our launch, people were laughing at me. Some of my closest friends were like, “I don’t know what you’re doing.” My parents, everybody was laughing at me. They weren’t laughing. They didn’t take me seriously. Nobody took me seriously.
Today, now with what they see, it’s like they’re kind of speechless because they almost want–I don’t want to say that they’re hating on me or the product that we created, but they don’t know necessarily, I don’t know if they’re out of tune with social media or it’s the younger generation purchasing from us, but it’s just funny, the way the course of life has changed in this past year, past two years, three years. I can’t explain it. I don’t know how to explain it.
Andrew: That’s a ton of hard work and you’re still doing the hard work right now. It’s good to see that it does pay off. It’s good to see this kind of story. I feel like your story is the kind that people need to here but isn’t told enough. I challenge anybody listening to me if not this story, go find a story like this on TechCrunch. This is not what people care about. They care about who’s raising money. What Lyft is getting for their valuation compared to Uber. Those are fine. But this, there’s something here that’s much more useful.
Nasim: Yeah. And again, I was telling you before the show that to this day, not one investor. It’s not that we are not looking for funding. We’re looking to raise money. We have money, but we’re looking to raise money. Nothing. Like, it’s as if they don’t–almost as if they still don’t believe in it.
Being in the Bay Area–and you’re seeing a plethora of these companies. They’re getting based off of the idea itself. This is a real working business. This is just to tell anybody that you don’t–I actually told this in the pre-interview and I don’t know if you’re okay with me saying it now. You do not need money to make an idea work. You don’t need it.
Nasim: You don’t.
Andrew: No. You’re proof that when you had money, the idea didn’t work. When you didn’t, you found a way to make it work. You got the box. You got it on credit. You didn’t have the money to pay it and you still managed to work out an agreement with them. You found the partner. This is an incredible story.
The website, for anyone that wants to see it–I actually just love the video on top because that shows what’s different about your product. The website where you can see the video, you can see the box, you can see the whole thing, it’s Roseshire.com. I don’t know why I’m spelling it. We actually link it in the show notes.
If you’re listening to me on a podcast player, which you probably are, all you have to do is slide up on my face or the cover art or whatever and you will see it. You’ll see a link to it. You’ll also see a link to my two sponsors. The first is Toptal. If you need a developer, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. And if you want to grow your audience, increase you user acquisition through email, check out CloudSponge.com/Mixergy.
Nasim, thanks so much for doing this.
Nasim: Thanks, Andrew. I appreciate it, man.
Andrew: You bet. Congratulations. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. If there’s someone out there listening to this story right now hustling, building a business, I urge you, when you’re at the right time, when it makes sense for you to come back here after you built your business and tell your story the way Nasim did. It will have dramatic impact the way his story has on you. I want your story to have it on other people too. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Thanks for listening. Bye, everyone.