CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS

  • Interview with Farbod, the BloomNation CEO Posted by Admin

    BloomNation

    The floral industry is a $34 billion dollar retail business, and BloomNation is claiming a piece of that industry. Based in Santa Monica, BloomNation is a platform that allows local floral designers to operate online. Three friends decided to embark on an industry they knew nothing about in August of 2011. Farbod Shoraka, Co-Founder and CEO, Gregg Weisstein, Co-founder and COO, and David Daneshgar, Co-Founder and Head of Sales and Business Development, put their skills together to help local florists across the country. Each of them having a passion to give florists time to be artist again as well as keep more money in their business, these friends soon found a creative way to earn their initial investment money. After having early success, they were able to acquire $1.65 million in seed funding to build a marketplace and e-commerce business in 2013. Two years later, the blooming company acquired another $5.5 million in funding from A Capital Partners. The team expanded from five to thirty employees with 2,000 florists on their site.

    MillionaireMatch got a chance to speak with the busy CEO, Farbod. We had to know more about what made three gents jump into the floral business and how their passion has changed an industry.

    MillionaireMatch: How did you get into the flower business?

    Farbod: Funny enough I didn’t really have a background in flowers or e-commerce. It was actually my aunt who was a local florist in Irvine, California. She was going out of business. She was having trouble with her flower shop and not getting any customers. She kept relying on these big brokers like 1-800- Flowers, FTD and Teleflora to get orders, but they weren’t really coming in at a profitable rate. Those guys take so much fees off the top that it was really hard for her to make any money, and a lot of people have stopped walking into flower shops. She was in a really tight situation where she didn’t know how to get her own orders from online. So, I was working in investment banking. I was doing mergers and acquisition advisory. I was actually helping a client in the floral space and I started learning a lot about it. I realized there was a big problem. I decided to quit my job and start this company that will kind of fix the floral industry, which is about a $30 billion dollar industry. Ultimately, I helped my aunt survive and keep her shop open.

    MM: When did you decided to quit your job? A lot of entrepreneurs have that moment when they have a day job, and they want to take the leap into doing the thing they love full- time.

    Farbod: I was working, because I was on a deal. The client I had at the time was in the industry. I was lucky. It give me enough understanding and fire power to leave and just dive in head first into the start-up. Some people start off with getting their feet wet, and doing it at night. I was lucky enough to be able to do it all in. At the same time, I was making enough money where I could quit my job and not have to worry about supporting myself or taking that risk.

    MM: I heard that your business partner, David, won $30,000 in a poker game to help get the company started. Was $30k enough to start BloomNation?

    Farbod: That was really interesting. We didn’t have the background to make this work. Three guys with no experience in technology, e-commerce or flowers should not start a flower company [Laughing]. It was a pretty rare instance where we took basically what we did have and leverage that knowledge and skill sets to make the company work. Like I said, I was an investment banker. I understood how to talk to investors, put together presentations and think strategically about how to build a business and grow it. David was a commercial poker player and my best friend. We went to Berkeley together for undergrad. We leveraged his skill sets to raise enough money to hire our first engineer. It was just enough for us to hire somebody to get the ball rolling and get investors to invest in the company.

    MM: Had you just made up in your mind that this was gonna work? Is that what kept you motivated?

    Farbod: I think what’s really important is you have to have an internal compass. There’s something that has to drive you that’s core to what you are doing. That can never change. The core thing for me was essentially knowing that these brokers shouldn’t exist. No one should be going to an online broker that shows fake photos and fake prices as an order and take 15% off the top before it goes to the local florist. That’s the old world. Today, we are in a new world where I can order a car to pick me up in two minutes or I can go on Yelp and see what restaurant I should eat at. That core, fundamental understanding that the flower industry needs innovation and technology that is happening in other parts of the country in terms of other sectors, like that was my internal push knowing that this needs to exist now. It was up to me and in my hands to make it happen within BloomNation. I know for a fact that this is the way, the direction that the industry is going to move. That was what really drove me the most beyond anything was just knowing fundamentally what needs to happen for this to be a great industry.

    MM: What was the most challenging part about starting this business?

    Farbod: I guess the most challenging thing about starting the business was just starting the business, taking that leap. That’s probably the biggest thing was that mental hurdle. Okay, I am gonna do this. Once that happened, you are kind of just running up and down the hill. It’s kind of out of your hands, because you are trying to make things work. It becomes your child, in fact. It’s almost like having a kid. You don’t think you are ready until you have that child. Then you just raise a child and become a father or a mother and all the instincts kick in. It’s the same way starting a business. The hardest part of it is actually deciding that you want to start the business and doing it. Once it happens, you kind of become a survivor through all the ups and downs.

    As the company grows, the biggest challenges are around your team- the people you hire and how to keep them motivated and excited. Always bring on top talent and make sure people hold a really good culture around what kind of company you want to build. It’s very easy to hire people that change the culture if you don’t have a strong culture. It can usually shift your culture and it becomes a very different company internally which also makes it a very different company externally. I don’t think people appreciate enough how important it is the type of people you bring on to your team. They need to be hand selected in the early days.

    MM: I love that. What has set you apart from the other companies in regards to marketing and promotions?

    Farbod: I think the big difference is, we don’t spend money on marketing. Our products speak for themselves. Our biggest differentiator is that each florist is listing their own unique, creative design. It’s almost like eBay or Etsy. Etsy is a great example because it’s a marketing place for handcrafted artistic goods. You even get to see the florist you are buying from and the florist gets to see who is their customer. It’s almost like walking into a flower shop.

    MM: Kind of gives it that personal touch that everyone loves today.

    Farbod: Yeah, it’s an expression of your emotion. When you are sending flowers it is a very emotional point in time and you try to express your emotions through that gift. So, to be able to connect with the artist directly and help express that emotion is a very powerful thing. Our mission here is we are strengthening the communities, relationships and artistry. That’s really important for us.

    MM: Most start-ups don’t survive past the first year. What would you say is your staying power?

    Farbod: The biggest thing that keeps us growing and makes us successful is that we focus on the experience versus focusing on spending money on marketing. For us, it’s how do you create a great experience for the florist so that they can create the best experience for the consumer. We empower the florist with technology. We say okay, now you can list your product. You can take a photo of the arrangement before it goes out for delivery so that the sender can see it. You create tools for the florist so that they can make the consumer really happy and that consumer keeps coming back. Then the florist stays with our platform, because they see the consumer keeps coming back. It’s a virtuous cycle that happens when you hone in on the experience and not on how you are gonna spend money on marketing.

    MM: I really love that. How were you able to get florists interested in BloomNation?

    Farbod: In the beginning, it was the three of us walking around the flower shops all over Los Angeles and getting a ton of parking tickets [Laughing]. We created a lot of one on one bonds with the florist. Showing our faces, shaking hands and making a lot of eye to eye contact were really important in those early days. Today, we do a lot of talking over the phone, telephonic sales and we hold some events across the country.

    MM: If you were sending flowers to a girl that you really liked or your wife, what kind of flowers would you send?

    Farbod: I think women like the most…so, this is really like LA typical thing. Women love peonies. They go crazy over the peonies and that’s because it’s such a rare flower. It’s only in season for about a month out of the year. It’s a very special flower when you get your hands on it. They open up so beautifully. It’s really magical.

    MM: They are so romantic. I love peonies.

    Farbod: One of the most beautiful flowers.

    Head over to www.bloomnation.com for more information on the company or your next order for that special moment.

  • Bella Magazine’s Beauty Issue cover party was hosted last week by Jaime Pressly Posted by Admin

    Jaime Pressly

    Bella Magazine’s Beauty Issue cover party was hosted last week at Lisa Vanderpump’s Sur Lounge by the Emmy award winning actress, Jaime Pressly, who appears on the June cover. This was the first West Coast event for the New York-based magazine. Celebrities Allison Janney and Beth Hall who work with Pressly on the CBS show Mom, were in attendance to show their support. It didn’t stop there. The venue was full of beautiful women and handsome gents who came to support Pressly, including Sophia Pierson (E! Wags), Gabrielle Dennis (Fox’s Rosewood), Cynthia Bailey (Bravo’s RHOA), Sasha Gradiva (Pop artist), Candace Patton (The Flash) and Kim Hawthorne (OWN’s Greenleaf).

    Pressly, who is from a small town in North Carolina, has been in the entertainment business for 25 years. She started her career as a model working for Teen Magazine, Liz Claiborne and Stuff Magazine. Pressly is most recognized for her role as Joy Turner on My Name is Earl which she was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe.

    On the best beauty secrets, the women had lots of tips to share. Pressly says, “My trainer Mike. He’s an ex-NFL player who doesn’t entertain excuses,” on how to snap back after having a child and staying fit. As far as beauty tips, she’s pretty simple. The actress does her own hair and make-up before she goes on-set. Janney said she owes her youthful looks to dancing. “I love old school hip-hop and dancing. That’s my beauty secret,” Janney said. Other celebs said it was more about happiness and positivity that keeps them looking beautiful. “Having the right energy around you is so important,” said Tilda Del Toro. “It’s more about what is on the inside that is important. Making sure you are a beautiful person on the inside. It’s hard with social media. You can look on there and start to think bad thoughts about yourself, but social media can’t show you the inside of a person,” stated actress Elizabeth Guest.

    Exercise was also on the list of ways to staying beautiful in Hollywood. “Eating healthy, drinking water and regular exercise are what I do stay looking great,” says Darnell Cox who looks 22 years old even though she is 48 years old.

    Pressly could have focused on it being her night, but she was most excited to see women in the industry supporting each other. “I love seeing women support other women. This is a tough industry. So this is really beautiful,” Pressly said. The evening was filled with people connecting and talking over champagne with everyone leaving with beautiful gift bags by Naked Princess which were filled with blue and tan moleskin journals and luxury beauty products from the store’s line. We at MillionaireMatch are happy to share this beautiful evening with some of Hollywood’s best stars.

  • Jason Derulo Gets A Wax Figure at Madame Tussauds Posted by Admin

    Jason Derulo

    Madame Tussauds Hollywood welcomed a new wax figure last week. The famed tourist destination introduced Jason Derulo’s wax figure as the newest addition to their third floor A-List party room. With high anticipation and the longest countdown to a reveal, Derulo was ecstatic. “Are you serious right now? That’s a handsome guy,” Derulo said as the curtains revealed his wax figure twin. “Oh my goodness! I just definitely want to say thank you. Thank you so much to Madame Tussauds. This is legendary. This is a place you always past when you are driving down Hollywood. To be part of the family now is unbelievable. I couldn’t be more excited,” Derulo expressed.

    Making a perfect wax figure is no small thing. Derulo had over 250 measurements taken. “Jason’s figure is our most dynamic yet! It made for a very interesting sitting, which took almost three hours. We had to ask Jason to recreate one of his signature dance moves numerous times to ensure a perfect recreation, “ said Colin Thomas, Senior Manager of Madame Tussauds.

    To dress the figure, Derulo was happy to donate a pair of Golden denim jeans and a pair of red Nike Air Force One sneakers which are valued at $350,000.

    After the unveiling, Derulo headed to the rooftop of Madame Tussauds for a special concert. He sang many of his hits, including “If It Ain’t Love”. Industry guests were thrilled, but the most excited were those from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Children as young as two years old who suffer from a life-threatening medical condition had their dreams of meeting Jason Derulo fulfilled. They were able to take photos with Derulo and sing along as he took over the stage.

    With all the excitement, MillionaireMatch was able to speak to Jason about his career and love. He gave us a few tips for a successful relationship.

    Click here to watch the video on Youtube.
  • Charles Michael Yim,CEO of Breathometer “Innovating Within a Market” Posted by Admin

    Charles Michael Yim

    In 2013, Charles Michael Yim appeared on the popular show Shark Tank hoping to get an investment of $250,000 in exchange for 10% of his company. Yim became the first person to have all five sharks invest into their company. He left with $1 million dollars in exchange for 30% of his company, Breathometer.

    Yim, who grew up with Silicon Valley in his back yard, started Breathometer in 2012. A year later, he launched an Indiegogo campaign hoping to raise $25k. Luckily, the device was so popular it was 600% funded with $138k. So what is the Breathometer? It’s a device that plugs into your smartphone and transforms into a breathalyzer. Measuring blood alcohol content, it helps the user make an informed decision whether to drive after drinking. If you are thinking about jumping into your car after a night of cocktails, Breathometer will inform you whether or not that’s a good idea. If it happens to not be safe for you to drive, it connects the user with local taxi services in the event that their BAC level is over the legal limit. Each unit sells for $49 at retail stores and online.

    Yim was no stranger to being an entrepreneur when he launched Breathometer. He was the Founder and CEO of Chatterfly and ProBuddy.com. Chatterfly, an online rewards platform, was later acquired by Plum District, a Kleiner Perkins funded company. He led the company from inception to acquisition. Yim was able to team up with a senior engineer at Facebook when creating ProBuddy.com and prior to stepping out on his own he worked in development at Fortify Software which was later acquired by HP.

    MillionaireMatch wanted to know how does a kid from humble beginnings grow up to be a three time serial entrepreneur.

    MillionaireMatch: Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?

    Charles: Yes, I had it from the very beginning. When I was a kid, I was the lemonade stand kid. My mom was pretty much a single mother. We didn’t have much growing up. It was me and my older brother. I did the lemonade stands, fundraisers and built a collection of basketball cards without spending a dollar. I would just trade. It was a $10-20k collection in the end including Michael Jordan’s and Dennis Rodman’s rookie cards.

    When I went to college, I started reselling electronics. I was able to pay college tuition and buy a bunch of fancy cars. That continued into the corporate world with start-ups. Silicon Valley was in my back yard, so I grew up with it.

    MM: How were you able to create a medical device without experience working in the medical field?

    Charles: I came up with three ideas and chose Breathometer in the end. I chose it because I hadn’t done hardware before. I didn’t realize it was a medical device. I hadn’t done anything in that space in terms of analysis or sensors. It was very interesting to me. I thought, ‘hey, this would be challenging. Why not?’ I went into it and pulled my brother in. My brother is an engineer. He helped me with the hardware and I took care of the software. In three months, we had a prototype. Then we killed it on Indiegogo with 4,000 customers and got the attention of Shark Tank.

    MM: What made you confident this product would be a hit?

    Charles: Breathalyzers have been in existence since the 1960s so technically you already have a concept. What I did was innovate within a market. People bought breathalyzers. It’s a half a billion dollar market. In that sense, it was really innovation within a current, existing market. That gave me enough confidence. Being that I could make it smaller, tinier, less expensive and more compact, I was able to go out to the market super confident.

    MM: What makes a great pitch?

    Charles: You need to be passionate about whatever you are doing. If your passion doesn’t come through, it doesn’t matter if you are pitching the most awesome, coolest innovation or idea it won’t come across well. Second, the format. I’m releasing a book at the end of the year. It covers the formula of a pitch. It’s very formulaic. I’m very much a believer of a problem-solution thing. You have to state the problem. What are you trying to solve? What is wrong with the product or service you are currently using? What do you wish existed? Once you can nail down a problem it’s up to you as an inventor, founder to come up with a solution that’s innovative enough to either reduce cost or make it more seamless. If you create a pain killer for pain, you will have a business. I guarantee you that. If you can pitch that in a very simplistic sense, very clearly and articulately to the right audience, you will have a very compelling pitch. You have to make it relevant and hit home for the audience.

    MM: What can we expect next from Breathometer?

    Charles: We are launching Mint in about a month along with a white label version in partnership with Sonicare. It will come independently or in a bundle with a Sonicare tooth brush, tongue scraper, breathe spray and solution. It can tell you how much bacteria is in your mouth, how long and often you should brush and floss. You can keep your mouth as healthy as possible throughout the day and evening.

    Another product we are coming out with at the end of the year will be able to measure weight lost. It will measure fat burning ketones off of your breathe. It will be a limited amount of units, but we are going to be sold out in a heart beat. There’s currently in the market urine strips and blood tests people use for tracking ketones. With a few breaths, Mint makes it convenient. Low ketones looks like you’ve been getting a lot of bread lately or having too much beer or rice. Mint gives you a personalized meal for the day to get you back at the right ketone level that will get you burning the fat so you can lose weight.

    To get on the list for the new Mint Breathometer and to learn more about the product, log on to www.breathometer.com.

  • Enza Hibler,CEO of IncrediPops “Whatever Happens in the Gut Happens in the Brain” Posted by Admin

    Enza Hibler

    Most inventors say they created the next big thing out of passion. Many would deny their business was created out of desperation, but that’s exactly how Enza Hibler would describe it. Enza is the CEO and creator of IncrediPops, which are non-dairy and organic frozen pops made with 100% raw, unprocessed food. Not only are they delicious but it will only cost you 50 calories a pop.

    So how does a stay-at-home mom with no experience in the food production business create a sought-after product that is now in over 75 stores nationwide? Well, luckily, Enza described to MillionaireMatch the story of how she was pushed into this business. In 2007, her daughter who was 15 years old at the time was suffering an illness that could not be accurately diagnosed. Over the course of three years, Enza’s daughter saw a total of 7 doctors with each one prescribing pain medications that did not work. Enza decided to stop everything. No more 8-hour testings at a gastroenterologist, endoscopies, colonoscopies or meds. She started researching and learning everything she could about digestion. After many nights and early mornings, she came to one conclusion. The food you eat affects everything.

    With this new found information, Enza began blending ingredients. She also paid attention to food labels making sure she understood everything that was in the food she was buying. “If you can’t read it, you shouldn’t eat it,” she says. “I would spend three to four hours in the grocery store reading labels,” Enza continued. The blending allowed the nutrients to go directly into the bloodstream. She experimented with her combinations of whole fruits and veggies to make something that would taste good and was good for her daughter’s body. Eventually, her daughter bounced back.

    Not only did her daughter, who is now a healthy 21-year old, get healed, but Enza created a thriving business for herself. Schools started asking her to speak to parents and students about the benefits of eating healthy. She went from speaking to small classrooms to speaking to 900 kids! This all sounds like a dream come true, but MillionaireMatch decided to dig a little deeper and find out how the everyday person can launch their own dream business.

    MillionaireMatch: Without a business background, how did you know how to start IncrediPops?

    It was difficult making it from home. I would have to get up at 4:00am and go downtown to get organic produce, come home, drop my son off at school, wash and sanitize everything, prep and make everything. I would be up from 4:00am to 11:00 pm at night making pops.

    MM: How did you get on the show Hatched?

    Enza: I sent them the worst video you have ever seen in your life. My husband is a director of photography. He said, “you sent them that video?” [insert laugh] It was dark and I did it with my iPhone. I said, whatever and they contacted me. After I signed the paperwork to be on the show, I got contacted by Shark Tank. Shark Tank! I thought, why me? Who am I? I did Hatched. Whether you know business or not, when you get an order from a store like Kroeger, you make it happen.

    MM: Did you run your business alone?

    Enza: My husband is my backbone. He’s the biggest supporter and investor. When I was doing this for free and buying organic food for 900 kids, it was his dime and my time. He never told me no.

    MM: What has been your biggest hurdle or failure?

    Enza: Financially. I know why people give up on business now. Most people in my world would have a co-passer, someone who could produce your product for you. There was no one in the United States that I could find. No one deals with food. They deal with juices. They refused to do it, because it was too labor intensive. Also, machinery is so expensive. I say I’m drowning in my own spit. There’s not enough water, but I’m still drowning. You only have so much savings. Every machine cost you $87K! Do I want to give up? Never. Financially is where the burden lies.

    MM: What advice would you give others who want to create a product?

    Enza: Never give up on a passion and do your research. Find out what’s out there. What the world needs is your gift. Everyone has a gift the world needs. When you can figure it out, it’s like a web of connection. You have something that can serve me and I have something that can serve you. Then we link. When the world comes together and starts linking, we’ll find harmony at some point. We’ll stop competing.

    They gotta find what makes their product unique and focus on their path Don’t look at anyone else’s stuff. Just focus on themselves. I heard that there were some vegetable pops on the market. That could have crushed me. ‘ Oh well, why do it? That’s already on the market.’

    I don’t want anyone to lose hope in themselves. Everybody has something unique.

    For information on IncrediPops and where you can find them in a local store, visit www.incredipops.com.