Lovepop is an exciting company that uses hand-crafted 3D paper sculptures to create intricate paper gifts that are more art than greeting card. The creators, Wombi Rose and John Wise, came up with their idea after traveling to Asia and discovering the beautiful art form called Kirigami. The duo originally began their partnership 10 years before the company’s creation. Both entrepreneurs were studying ship design and naval architecture, which involves three dimensional design, as well as maintaining structural integrity in applications that constantly experience outside pressure. This knowledge was instrumental in their ability to apply the art of kirigami to their business idea, stunning greeting cards with three dimensional art.
Wombi and John pitched their idea on Shark Tank on December 11, 2015, looking not only for an investment, but for a Shark that could grow their business, open doors to new retail outlets, and most importantly, to help them touch peoples’ lives with their designs.
The card engineering duo entered the Shark Tank seeking an investment of $300,000 for a 10% interest in their company. They began their pitch by explaining just how dedicated they were to their business. Both Wombi and John culminated their careers by graduating from the world renowned institution, Harvard Business School. They knew they could easily get high paying jobs in marine engineering, but even with a mountain of student loans, they chose to invest all of their money in Lovepop. For them, they knew had something special, and more than that, they loved knowing that they were creating a company that helped people make meaningful connections.
Wombi’s explanation of their business, to the Sharks, continued with a story that is all too familiar for the average person. You got to the store searching for the perfect card for a loved one. You hunt and you hunt, searching for the card that really gets across just how much you care about that person, but after spending way more time than expected on your quest, you are forced to settle on a card that is just “okay.”
Well now, according to Lovepop, you never need to settle again. For the Lovepop team, today’s cards and digital greetings have become too impersonal. Conversely, Lovepop cards create a unique, emotional, and tangible connection between two people. With that promise, the sharks were intrigued with the entrepreneurs’ conviction, but they were also anxious to get their hands on the cards and see just how breathtaking these cards could be.
Lovepop was happy to answer the call, and presented the sharks with special edition cards that demonstrated the versatility of their three dimensional designs. With impressive compositions like a 3D racecar for Robert Herjavec, or a three dimensional landscape for Barbra Cochran, the Sharks were willing to believe that the product was desirable, but things took a turn when the Lovepop team explained their equally unique business model.
To acquire customers, Lovepop had sidestepped the direct to consumer website model, and instead had chosen to utilize mall kiosks. The idea was to have costumers, that frequented malls, come to their Lovepop Kiosks. There, the customer will make their selection, get a hands-on with the product. Later, the customer would need to go the Lovepop website where additional services are offered; like having Lovepop employees hand write your message and send the card directly to the recipient.
Barbra Cochran, a Shark known for investing in companies that are in the early stages of development, wasn’t pleased with the kiosk idea. For her, she could tell that the business had two smart guys at the helm that clearly know how to make money. That said, the kiosk idea was scary. For a company so young, splitting the business into online sales and kiosk locations was a sign that the team wanted to do too much, too fast. She was out.
Mark Cuban also wasn’t sold on the kiosk model for acquiring customers. For him, it appeared to be a “get wide, instead of a get tall strategy.” Meaning get a wide amount of exposure by getting in front of customers at the mall kiosks, instead of focusing on just making money in a single location. The problem for Mark was the unpredictable nature of future costs. For Mark, the company would be at the mercy of the malls that they would be renting space from. Plus the prices for that space are continually rising, with the kiosk spaces getting more and more expensive. He thought they could do it, but he wasn’t willing to take on the risk of the real estate industry with them.
In a surprising character reversal, Kevin O’Leary, known for often telling struggling businesses that they won’t succeed, was captivated by the company. With several other romance related investments, he immediately knew Lovepop would fit quite nicely in his portfolio. O’Leary, the self-proclaimed Mr. Wonderful, created the “Something Wonderful” platform to aggregate businesses like Honeyfund for planning your honeymoon, Wicked Good Cupcakes for delighting the taste buds of wedding guests, and even Bottle Breacher as clever groomsmen gifts.
According to Mr. Wonderful, what’s exciting about the wedding business is that it is a time in people’s lives where they don’t care what they spend as long as it’s beautiful. That said, the other side of the coin is that it is also a time in people’s lives where they demand a large quantity of product at non-negotiable dates. With that in mind, O’Leary’s next question was about production. So, he asked them what they would do if he sent them 3,000 orders a month, fearing that they may not be able to handle a surprise demand. Fortunately, the Harvard super team had considered the production dilemma. To prepare, they already established an overseas production facility, and that facility currently has the ability to produce over 20,000 cards per month! With that level of production, Lovepop was able to reach an impressive $300,000 in total sales.
Kevin was sold, but it turned out he wasn’t the only one that was interested in a card deal. For Robert Herjavec, he was pleased to see the company’s focus on service and customer satisfaction, but he felt their were still unknowns with execution, since the company was too young to prove that it could operate on the large scale. With that risk, Robert increased his equity, asking for 20% of the company for $300,000. Kevin wasn’t willing to let the valuable opportunist slip away, and quickly matched Robert’s offer; however, O’Leary boasted that he would also be bringing heaps of new customers from his already successful Something Wonderful platform.
Wombi and John were thrilled to have two offers, but were also confident in the value of their business. So they countered back with their original offer $300,000 for 10%. Robert quickly re-countered and offered to meet them in the middle with $300,000 for 15%, an offer that Kevin O’Leary quickly matched.
The entrepreneurs quickly talked amongst themselves, and then came to the same conclusion, the wedding connection was too much of an opportunity to pass up. So, they gave a big yes to Kevin O’Leary!
Lovepop Now in 2018 – Recent Update
After Kevin O’Leary’s investment of $300,000, Lovepop’s sales actually have become something wonderful. With an impressive $300,000 in sales before entering the Tank, the company didn’t just double their sales, they more than tripled their old numbers with a staggering $1,000,000 in total sales. They also took Mark Cuban’s advice and moved away from their Kiosk model, focusing their marketing and sales on the online market and working to get their cards into big box retailers.
In uplifting new, even with all of Lovepop’s success, they have still found a way to give back to the community. Recently, Lovepop entered into a deal with an organization called The Possible Project. At The Possible Project, high school students learn how to start and run their own businesses through multi-year after school programs.
For the Lovepop entrepreneurs, innovation is at the core of Lovepop’s mission, so educating young people on how to take action and bring their dreams into the real world has been an amazing opportunity. And while teaching the students about business, the Lovepop team also taught them about 3D modeling software. From those lessons a new line of cards has unfolded on the Lovepop website, all of which were designed and inspired by the high school students the Lovepop team has mentored.
Another new opportunity after Shark Tank was a partnership with the lovably unusual Keytar Bear. In Boston, home of Lovepop headquarters, one of the quirky landmarks is man in a bear costume that goes around the city, and sometimes performs at concerts, playing a keytar (a combination of a keyboard and guitar) while wearing a bear costume. The goal is to be fun and spread some smiles to local Bostonians. This year, Keytar Bear joined forces with Lovepop for Valentines Day. 20 lucky lovebirds were greeted with not only a beautiful Lovepop card, but also a playful serenade. The event was a huge success, and a great way to get the Lovepop name on the minds of more customers.
The Lovepop team also received some great exposure recently. Wombi and John, as well as their newly acquired Shark Kevin O’Leary got the opportunity to demonstrate their product and what makes it so magical on the national TV show The View. Hosts, including Whoopi Goldberg and Michelle Collins, were dazzled by the special moment that arrives every time a Lovepop card is opened for the first time. The television appearance was great for the company and the team was grateful for the chance to be introduced to a new audience.
Today, Wombi and John are grateful for their experience on Shark Tank and all the success that followed. Mr. Wonderful has been true to his name, and truly provided the guidance and direction the Lovepop team was looking for. Seeing only greater success in their future the card company couldn’t be happier with their deal!