Scott Tannen: Founder & CEO of Boll & Branch

Episode 516

In this episode, Scott Tannen, Founder and CEO of Boll & Branch, shares what it takes to build a successful business in the soft homeworld of bed and bath products. Like other founding stories, this is one of grit and determination. Scott talks to us about the entrepreneurial journey, the motivation behind the idea, the importance of sustainability and transparency in the textiles industry and he discusses what Boll & Branch has built while establishing its position as a trusted brand focusing on product quality and customer experience. We hear Scott’s advice for first-time founders, as well as his own excitement for having built a company from nothing to something that is leaving a positive impact in the world. So much inspiration and wisdom in this episode. Now on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go Let’s go. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. I’m so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Scott Tannen, who is the founder and CEO of Boll and Branch and if you’re not familiar with Boland, branch boy, you’re going to be very excited to hear about this brand. And even if you are familiar with it, maybe you don’t know Scott Tannen, although I think I’ve heard his his voice on ads over over the years. So you’re going to be very excited to hear him speak about the brand, but it’s the world’s leading luxury bedding brand. And it was founded in 2014. With Scott’s wife, Missy and Boleyn branch was one of the earliest direct to consumer brands in the soft home world of bed and bath products, and is the first ever 100% Organic Fairtrade certified bedding company. So every product from their sheets to their down pillows is made sustainably, very excited to talk more about that with a very transparent supply chain. And today Boleyn branch is one of the largest e commerce first luxury home brands. And in 2019, I remember Scott and I were chatting, and he had just received a very large investment from a company called L catterton. And which is the largest one of the largest, if not the largest, consumer focused private equity firms in the world. So that was very, very exciting, for sure. And more than anything, I’m a huge fan of Boll and Branch, the sheets are amazing. The comforters, the pillows, everything is so amazing. So I’m very excited to do this interview, in case you haven’t noticed. So welcome, Scott.

Scott Tannen 2:29
I thanks so much for having me. Good to see you. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 2:33
absolutely. Very excited to see you. So first of all, I’d love for you just to catch us up on what brought you to become an entrepreneur. And then we’ll get into Boland branch, but I mean, what was it about your experience that said, I need to go do this?

Scott Tannen 2:53
You know, it’s funny, I think I started my career in bigger businesses and food and beverage, so is it Nabisco, which became Kraft Foods, and probably because I was the right age at the right time, and nobody else internally in the late 90s, early 2000s knew what the internet was. I became the digital marketing team for the company. So I became a bit of an entrepreneur within the gates of a multibillion dollar operation at an age that I was way too young for anyone to have actually that they should have given me any responsibility they did. And so you know, I spent the first decade or so working my way up the ladder, if you will, but but doing it by you know, first craft and then at Wrigley Building the global digital organizations, right. So this is a case where I walked into Wrigley in 2005. And they said, you don’t have a digital team. We’re not even doing anything from a digital standpoint. Should we just build some websites? I’m like, Alright, let’s pump the brakes. And let’s talk about this for a second. But so, you know, I was evangelizing I was doing a lot of the things that entrepreneurs do without having to spend my own money and and at a point at Wrigley, one of the things that we had developed way back at Nabisco was a gaming website, a gaming portal called candy And this was not just a small portal, this was something that was generating 20 to 30 million unique visitors a month. It was one of the 100 most trafficked websites on the internet and happened to have free games for kids that you know, the mini golf course had had, you know, lifesavers and things like that in it. So it was branded entertainment. And to make a very long story short, this thing got so big. That Wrigley didn’t know what to do with it because it was very expensive to host but with, with a partner, we ended up acquiring the business out of Wrigley and here all of a sudden, I went from, you know, corporate guy to one of 15 people at a gaming startup in New York City saying, Alright, we’ve got this asset, what do we do with it? And so, so that was sort of my first four way foray into to being an entrepreneur and once I got a taste of that, I loved it. I love the idea of sort of walking the tightrope with no safety net. And so that propelled me as I went along. You know, we sold that company and I realized that, you know, walking back into a big corporate environment a, I probably wouldn’t have the autonomy that I might have had back in the early days of my career, because everybody had caught up with that. So if I wanted to carve my own path somewhere, I was gonna have to start from scratch. Yeah, I

Kara Goldin 5:24
totally relate to that. It’s hard to imagine once you’ve gotten the bug that you, you know, the autonomy of it, but also, the I loved your, your analogy of a tightrope, because it for sure, it’s a different feeling that maybe you get, even when you launch a business inside of a large company. I mean, you’re you’re kind of, you know, living with one foot off of a cliff at all times. And it’s, but it’s definitely the dopamine kicks. As you’re doing it, so tell us in your words, why did you decide to start Boleyn branch then? Where did this idea come from? Were you always a big sheet lover? Or what was the

Scott Tannen 6:09
key? I’ve always liked sleep. And I was always really good at sleeping better at sleeping the most things I do. But I mean, no, you know, yeah, it’s, it almost sounds like a joke, right? A guy from the gaming industry walked into a bar and started to sheets company. But, you know, so after I sold the business I was doing, I was doing some consulting and, and a little bit of investing, and just became enamored with, you know, look, this is this is 2013 2014, it was the early days of E commerce direct to consumer. And I was just enamored with how quickly people with unique ideas could come in and on one hand, disrupt big businesses like places I work these brands that had done the same thing for generations. And, you know, suddenly, the direct to consumer landscape, leveled the playing field, it gave equal access to the consumer, if you were creative enough and unique enough and had enough of a message for people to jump into. So I was really interested in that. And and also, you know, the truth is, as Missy said, You’re spending way too much time in the house playing video games, you gotta go do something. And so I had a ton of ideas, a lot of really, really bad ones, too. I had an idea for like, creating a luxury toilet paper, which, you know, you can imagine how proud my family would have been to say that, yeah, you know, my kids, oh, my dad makes toilet paper. But fortunately, I picked bedding. And the truth is, we were redoing our master bedroom, moving from a queen bed to a king bed. So you know, it’s often happens with entrepreneurs, something happens in life, that triggers an idea. And so you know, in this case, I thought about bedding, and I just became fascinated by the category. Like, we all participate in the category, every, every one of us, regardless of our socio economic status. And yet, when you think about it, especially if you look back to 2013 2014, when when we launched, there was no brand, right? The best that you could think of as a leading brand would be Bed Bath and Beyond Macy’s, right. And at that point, you’re talking about retailers and private labeling. And so I found that fascinating. And I was sort of thinking to myself, why isn’t there a brand? And when I kind of came to if you think about the categories, think about like laundry detergent, like why, why is tied, the staple? Well, they’re trusted and what makes them trusted? Well, you know, my mom used tide, and my grandparents use tide and whatever. So I’m just going to use tide. And the same could be said for Kleenex or Gillette razors, or you name this sort of staple categories. And I realized, as I thought about bedding, not only did I have no understanding of the category, as a consumer, the only thing I thought I knew was thread count, which you can google and in 30 seconds, you find out thread count doesn’t actually mean anything. And it was like what if you actually created a brand that could be trusted? What does it mean to be a trusted brand in this category, and especially when you think about a category like textiles? Nobody trusts textiles, the only thing most people that actually spend time to think about the textiles industry. The only thing that they really kind of arrive on is I don’t trust this industry, right it’s kind of slimy. And then when you start digging into it as I didn’t I know you’re an entrepreneur, you do the same thing. Like there’s no rabbit hole we won’t jump into. And I jumped into the bedding rabbit hole and I realized that the the reputation the industry had, which was sketchy at best was well earned. There were a lot of sketchy habits from misleading the customer to marginalizing the people that were making the product and all those things. And so I started to realize like it wasn’t just about trying to create a brand and create another bedding product like there were So many betting there’s so many bedsheets that have been around the world didn’t need another bedsheet. The world needed a better one, and the only one was going to make a better one was to start by making a better company. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 10:10
definitely. Well, you have absolutely done that. So where did the name come from?

Scott Tannen 10:15
So if you think about if you could visualize a cotton plant, right, the white puffy cotton fiber grows out of a shell, and that shell is called the bowl, and the bowl grows on a branch. That was probably one of 1000 names that Missy and I had had tried out, ranging from like, you know, our grandparents names and things like that. But but you know, in truth, what really differentiates our company starts at the raw material. It’s how we deal with raw materials. It’s how we work with farmers. And so it felt really fitting to us that our name should reflect cotton. Because, you know, the biggest fundamental difference between us and everything that had been in the market at that point was the fact that we were going to we were going to source this stuff, grow this stuff, invest in the farming communities and do it really sustainably.

Kara Goldin 11:02
So, sustainability, you just mentioned that word is, and you’re very focused on that very focused on the supply chain, being transparent as well. Why is that important today to this consumer?

Scott Tannen 11:20
You know, I think, if you come all the way back to the point of building a trusted brand, right. And the notion of we’ve been talking about transparency for a long time, and transparency essentially means when it comes to a business where a business is going to tell you, we’re transparent, I’ll tell you everything I know. What often happens in this category is the companies don’t actually know that much. Because they weren’t able, they don’t really understand where the product comes from. So let me let me walk you through how any, any one of the department stores, even other betting startups, how they how they work. It right now, this week happens to be Market Week in New York City. So all the large manufacturers from all over the world come to New York City brands come in. And they walk into showrooms, and they say alright, model number 35 on the wall, I’ll take 500 sets of that, and 300 sets of this and 200 sets of that. And so they’re buying finished goods that their label is being sewn into and the same, you know, one department store versus another brand versus another brand. It’s all coming from the same like five or six factories overseas. And so like really simply when someone’s selling a sheet set that’s made from Egyptian cotton, and this is how I started my journey. I’m a history buff, I wanted to go visit Egypt. And so I was like our Egyptian cotton’s great, like, let’s go to the farm. And then we know we don’t they turns out, they didn’t know where the farm was. Turns out, the Egyptian cotton was grown in China, of all crazy things. And so, you know, that’s part of my my two year journey of figuring out this industry. And so I started thinking about, Okay, if you really want to create a brand in this category, you’ve got to earn the customers trust, which means transparency has to be core to what you’re doing. But transparency where you don’t know very much about the product or the process is worthless. So we decided to take transparency to a different level in that. We also partnered it with traceability. So every single product that we make, I can trace back to the raw material, literally, there is a tag inside of our sheet sets, every one of them. And we’re actually about to introduce something called origin track, because we just had this idea that why don’t we expose this to the customers who have been doing it since day one, where you can flip over that tag enter in a lot number, and I’ll show you this is the farm it came from this is where it was spun, that’s where it was woven, this is where it was dyed, here’s where it was cut and sewn and finished. And so as part of that, when we expose that to the customer, we can then say, Listen, we know everything about this product, everything from the the genome of the cotton seed, right through the finishing sticks in the packaging was an intentional decision that we made. And we stand behind that decision. And we’re going to be open about it so that you can evaluate whether we’ve made a fair and just decision on behalf of the people in our supply chain or not. And so that was the essence of how we approached it.

Kara Goldin 14:13
So interesting. So when you started when you decided, Okay, I’m gonna launch and branch How long do you think it took from the time you were actually thinking about it to actually getting the courage to go and do this because again, you were your last company was really focused on bits and bytes, right, that was a candy store versus physical goods. I mean, now it’s a massive, massive undertaking. So how long before you actually launched and how many skews did you have like, how did you think about you know, that that launch and I’d love to hear those those early days?

Scott Tannen 14:58
Yeah, so Almost two years, believe it or not. And so it could have taken four to six months. Because the starting point, once I had the idea will sheets would be interesting, right? I could have gone any of the usual suspects, created a logo, had them private, label it and shipped me five finished goods. And so at the start, I was kind of going that path. But I was learning about the category, the first thing I started to learn about was the cotton itself, and just how much safer organic cotton was for the farmers. Right? When you start learning stats, as you go through it, the life expectancy of a conventional cotton farmer in India was 36 years old at the time, and I was 36 years old at the time. And that’s because of exposure to the chemicals, pesticides, like we drive, if you ever drive cross country, you see these massive farms in the US with all this infrastructure. And it’s amazing. When you visit a farm in the developing world, it’s it’s a family that owns two to three acres. And they don’t, you know, they probably don’t have the educational background understand the dangers of the chemicals that they’re applying, which they’re doing with a backpack as they walk through their fields, and tending to it. They don’t have irrigation, they have rain, and the rain washes those chemicals into the groundwater. They drink it, it’s it’s horrible. And so there’s massive cancer rates. There’s all kinds of, there’s just so many issues that would depress your listeners if I got into all of them. But I just felt like that’s a system, there’s got to be a better way to look at the system. Everybody I talked to that was in textiles like, well, the customer doesn’t care customer doesn’t care about organic, they don’t care about this. And that may or may not have been true. But I you know, missy, and I care. And we’re like we’re consumers, too. So if there’s a better way and something we could care about, then we’ve got to figure out a way to wait to make it work. And so true story is that when we started thinking about this path of sustainability, and truly like we weren’t thinking sustainability, we were thinking about, let’s just make the right choice, the human choice at every opportunity that we felt was best for everybody involved. I met someone that worked at the cotton board. And he was sort of a friend of a friend and was like Scott, I understand what you guys are trying to do, this is never going to work, your customers aren’t going to pay for it, your pricing is going to be a mess. Like trust me, you know, friend of a friend savior, save your energy, save your money. And so I said to Missy, I’m like are we’re gonna we’re gonna go down this path. And I’m gonna write a book, man. Because if we can’t do this, the book is going to be called, like, why the world sucks or something like that. And so it was amazing. And this story of, of traceability came in the fact that we were documenting every single thing that we did every conversation everyone we were learning from, and we were approaching it like a research project. But when I started to discover in that process is that the traditional supply chain, we think of like the DTC language of cut out the middleman, right, as you know, okay, well buy it and basically wholesale it to a consumer cut off the retail is what that means. But on the backside of a textile supply chain, there are so many middlemen that at every step of the equation, and when I started to be able to figure as wow, if we could actually build and control a supply chain, we can suck all that cost out. So what we were ultimately able to do in building a supply chain is we built a supply chain, where we are paying two to three times the price for raw materials that that most of the conventional players are are doing, we’re paying more to every worker, we brought in fair trade to ensure that we’re pairing paying every worker above the living wage, right and the minimum wage is below the poverty line in India as an example, so we’re paying again 3050 100% More, we’re reinvesting into the communities we’re doing those sorts of things. And by cutting down transportation and by keeping that chain of custody ourselves, we’re we’re working directly with the farmers when they’re not paying interest because we’re going to be their bank. And we cut so much costs out that we ended up with a cost of goods advantage on the category. So here we had a much higher quality product, complete traceability and transparency that’s unheard of in whether it’s apparel or anything. And I was like this is gotta work like somebody’s gonna care because it’s a better product better price point. And everything about it is substantially elevated beyond the status quo so so you know about a year and change in was when we needed to place our first PIO and it’s like, All right, I’ve figured everything out. I found all these different, you know, none of the traditional factories. We’re working with an apparel factory that we convinced to make bedding for us a cent. I mean, literally, and we brought in Fortunately, we’re smart enough to bring in some experts knew what they were doing because at the time we didn’t. And so, you know, but I spent sent my life savings to a random dude in India, you know, and hope eight months later a boat would show up sheets on it. Thankfully it did. But but that was the that was the truth. I mean, I just I felt so strongly and I thought, like, worse comes to worse. I have bedsheets, they don’t expire. Someone will buy these off me, and maybe I’ll get some of my money back. But you know, I think like the typical entrepreneur, you get so focused and become such a believer in it, that you, you, you just have that drive to make it happen takes over everything else I felt it was I felt that went beyond Hey, this is a great business to start to, this is a really necessary business to start.

Kara Goldin 20:43
Yeah, definitely. So your direct to consumer first. You know, you launched with that. How many skews Did you launch with and like, what was what was sort of the thinking behind that. So

Scott Tannen 20:58
we launched with white and ivory sheets only, and three colors of throw blankets. So we had five items. And the sheets obviously came in a few different sizes. And the thought process when we had done some research is that white and ivory was about 70% of the market. It’s actually lower than that today. But at the time, it was about 70% of the market. And the throw blankets. We were just like, well, that would be a nice thing. So we could style the bed with it. We didn’t have duvet covers, we don’t have pillows or blankets. We didn’t have anything we just had white and ivory sheets. That’s and and three throw blankets. When we launched and the you know, I wish I could say there was a lot of scientific thought behind it. It was just, we were like, we only added the throw blankets because we felt like well, only having two colors of sheets doesn’t seem like enough. And when when I was one of the factories in in New Delhi, I saw the weaving machine. I was like, can you make us some blankets? And Missy quickly designed a cable net? And, you know, away we went?

Kara Goldin 21:57
Those are the best stories, right? I

Scott Tannen 21:59
know, it makes my planning.

Kara Goldin 22:02
Yeah, I know, we have so many factories stories, for sure. Those are those are really the best. So being an entrepreneur, there’s, I don’t even like the term ups and downs. I feel like there’s massive spikes, and everybody talks about it in every industry. You when you have a when you’re on a high note, maybe you know you’re excited. But you’re also worried, right? Because you know something’s gonna happen. The business is gonna go away something like this, I’d love to hear a story where maybe you felt, you know, a really like challenging time that you weren’t sure you were going to make it out? Maybe in the early days. You know,

Scott Tannen 22:47
I have a great one for you. Yeah, so we launched January 20 2014. And, of course, as what happens with most startups, your foot soldiers, which is your family, friends, you know, kid you were in nursery school with or whatever, everybody comes in and wants to support your business and buys the product and is chatting about it on on Facebook. And so we get into sort of like mid to late February, and we’d sort of run through those people. And so, we had gotten a little bit of press Pick up of the press release. But each day I’m watching, you know, like, if we got to $1,000 in revenue, I was like, That was a great day. And we started getting to the beginning of March. And we were gonna go visit Mrs. Parents in Florida for spring break. And it had been like two or three days and we didn’t have any sales. And we got down her parents had to be out of town. So we got to their place like two days before they got there. And I’m watching them still don’t have any more sales like the next day Mrs. A, don’t tell my parents, they’re gonna lose their minds. Don’t tell them. And I’m losing my mind and freaking out because I’m like, I don’t have any money left. I’m not sure. Like, I’m trying to like, do what I can. I just can’t like I’m not sure what to do. And, you know, meanwhile, anybody that called that wanted to talk about the brand. I’m like, hey, I’ll talk your ear off all day. And an amazing woman whom I admire so much named Christina Binkley had called me a few weeks earlier. And she she’s a writer for The Wall Street Journal. And I had talked to her about the business. And she was she also taught a class and she sort of didn’t believe what I just said about how we could find this cost of goods advantage. She’s like, it doesn’t make sense that you’re really selling as high of a quality product at this price point. You must be losing a ton of money. And I’m like I’m not. And she said, you know, gosh, I wish you could prove it. I was like, why don’t I just open my books I’ll show you. And so I opened the QuickBooks file. I sent her you know, a PDF and to make a long story short, she calls me a week later. She’s like, if I ever wanted to publish this, could I as if my pricing and my cost of goods She’s like, Yeah, I was like, No, we’re not sure. And I didn’t think anything of it. So anyway, Mrs. Parents come into Florida, we’ve had no sales yet another day. It’s like six straight days, no sales. And I’m in full freakout mode. And they surprise us because it was our anniversary and they said, We’re sending you guys, they live in Naples. They’re like, we’re sending the two of you to Miami. We’re gonna watch the kids. You guys just get an idea. Wait, you’ve been working so hard in this business. So we drive from Naples, and we go across Alligator Alley, which has no cell reception is literally it’s like out of a movie. As it come out of no cell reception. My cell phone starts blowing up. And most of the texts are from my meathead friends. And they all just say dude, or something like that. And it turns out, Christina had posted a video on Wall Street, about Boleyn branch and our pricing model and said, I’m going to actually run a story about this in the paper tomorrow. Right? Then we had like, I don’t know, $5,000 in sales, something that I was like, This is the greatest day of my life. By the time I got to the other side of Alligator Alley, wake up the next morning, I run down to the news cafe. On the front page of the Wall Street Journal is a banner across the top that says what goes into the price of luxury sheets. The back of the front section starts a two page article about us. We sold out of everything in our warehouse by noon that day, and I didn’t retire a waiting list on product for almost 18 months after that.

Kara Goldin 26:19
So Miami was not a relaxing.

Scott Tannen 26:23
No, I mean, first of all, like we ended up there, we didn’t know we were there. It was Ultra Music Festival. And we’re the nerdiest people in the world. And it was like, but it was crazy. And it was one of those things where you, you, you know, like that tingly butterfly feeling you have around and you’ve put like, been two plus years, and I put everything in my life and forget about money, but just all my emotions into this. My friends, my family, everybody knew we were doing this. And I felt like we were failing. I just felt like we were failing. And all of a sudden, with no warning. I felt like we were succeeding. And I wish I could say it’s been smooth sailing, since it certainly hasn’t. But that was just a moment that kind of reminded me that that, you know, look, there’s some higher power up there that is driving everything. And in this case, like, you know, when good fortune happens, and you you you roll with it, like it’s, it’s amazing. And that’s that’s the drug that’s the dopamine hit of being an entrepreneur is that like, they’re really, you know, I was just missing an eye. And we’re sort of looking at each other, like, holy cow, did we do we kind of do this, like, are we doing this? Like this is happening? And it was? Yeah, it was an amazing feeling.

Kara Goldin 27:35
So what did you do at that point? Like, how long did it take you to be I would guess you told everybody you were out. But you would be back in stock soon or

Scott Tannen 27:44
so I started by doing that. And that day, people are literally customers, first of all, our 800 number would ring my my cell phone. So I’m sitting there trying to like like in a hotel room in Miami, like answering phone calls. And people are like, I don’t care, you know, just just put me on the list put me on the waiting list. So we started letting people preorder when they were in stock, and people didn’t mind waiting six, eight weeks for the product. And what was amazing is we actually got, you know, several $100,000 in interest free financing from our customers. It was like Kickstarter before Kickstarter exists, right? And so right, that enabled us to really invest in more product supply. And so we went from five skews. In January, when we launched by September, we launched 87 New skews, which was also stupid. But um, but we just went we just went for it. And it was yeah, it was incredible.

Kara Goldin 28:39
That’s such a great story. So how has Boleyn branch been able to succeed when many of your peers have not? I’m sure, you know, you’ve maybe been surprised by other brands, maybe not all surprising, but sometimes you see competitors, you know, they look like their true competitors. And then all of a sudden, they just go away or something implodes in the company, like how have you guys been able to do it the right way. And while you’ve seen others, obviously, you don’t know, their whole backstory, it could be their financing. It could be, you know, lots of different things. But I’m curious what you would say to that. Yeah,

Scott Tannen 29:22
I think some of it is good fortune. We were very fortunate not to need to get financing out of the gate. So we never had to think about shareholder value. In the beginning where we had somebody else telling us grow faster than you feel appropriate to grow, spend more money on advertising than you feel is appropriate. So we’ve been profitable from the get go. We have been profitable every year of existence for 10 years. We actually broke even our first year but but other than that we’ve been profitable. And that’s just a core belief I have which is that if I want to build a sustainable supply chain, then I need to make sure this business is around for people for a really long time. So We’ve grown really, really fast. But, you know, there was, you know, like Casper is a great example in our category of somebody that grew super fast. And you know, and they obviously they’re a public company, they’ve had their challenges as a result of it. So I think that’s number one. I think the second thing is, it’s really the fact that we are incredibly focused on our product, Missy and her team design, every single product we make. So why that’s important is the customer is at the heart of what we’re making, we don’t make something without thinking about the customers use and how they’re how it’s going to wear, how it’s going to last and all of those things. And so it’s hard to say whether or not other companies prioritize things in the same way. But I can tell you that that we stand behind every product we make, because we’re not just going to launch a pillow, our pillow took two years of engineering to get to. And so every product we make, whether it’s our newest product, or the first one we came out with, we we hold that same sort of standard, which says this may be the only or the last touchpoint we have with a customer and it’s going to be the last if it’s not great. So it has to be as great as the first touch point they have. And so we’ve been able to build our business, not just on new customer acquisition, but really on retention, we’re when you look at our metrics, relative to our category, we see two to three times the annual consumption on number of items they buy versus traditional players in the category. And so we have great loyalty, we treat our customers really, really well services. I mean, I take customer service calls all the time. It’s the backbone of our business. And so I think that having that consumer mindset match with this real intention for how we design and develop products. And what we do and don’t do, is has certainly been key to our success. And you know, given that others have, you know, struggled to be a successful, I would think that maybe they spend more time on just advertising and growth rather than the core of their business.

Kara Goldin 32:07
Has there been a SKU that you’ve launched that like you’re like, Well, that was a really bad idea?

Scott Tannen 32:13
Yeah, bed skirts was one. We launched bed skirts, like the second year, because we had a bed skirt on our bed. And literally, I don’t know how many we sold, but it was like, not many those lasted for a long enough time. You know, and the, you know, there were times again, it’s in the early days, you benefit from hiring much smarter people than you as you grow. But before you can afford to hire anybody. You make some really boneheaded mistakes, and I made them all you can, you can count on that we, we we even I mean, this isn’t a product launch. But one of my favorite stories is and you’ve seen our packaging, we’re kind of known for this, this really explicit beautiful packaging. So we make it from an incredible, an incredible company in Vietnam makes makes our signature boxes. And when we first had them sent to us, I was like, This is great, and they’re preassembled. And all they have to do in the warehouse is throw the stuff in. And I ended up shipping, like eight container loads full of boxes. And someone’s like, why wouldn’t you ship them flat? I was like, oh, man, good idea. We were, you know, there was a few times where we lost a couple of bucks on that. On those sorts of things. But But you learned right and yeah, I’m sure we’ll have some more stinkers coming out there. But but we’ll try to avoid it. Do

Kara Goldin 33:31
you know? Do you know Shawn from Lovesac? Yes. Yeah,

Scott Tannen 33:36
he’s great. He’s,

Kara Goldin 33:37
he’s awesome. He was on our show a couple of weeks ago and talked about a very similar he didn’t, he figured he’d go and buy a truck at bat. And little did he know, you know that. You have to have allowances for different types of measurements on on things. So he talks about that, too, that you know, you make these mistakes, and hopefully you only make them once, right.

Scott Tannen 34:02
That’s the key. You can make make as many mistakes as you need to just make each one once. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 34:08
definitely. So what’s the most challenging aspect if you were to talk about talk to another founder? Like, no matter what industry they’re in? It seems like there’s a lot of similarities. I think there’s definitely some differences between physical goods and and the service business. But what would you warn somebody about starting their first company like make sure to

Scott Tannen 34:34
Yeah, I think make sure to be really thoughtful about who you listen to. Because no one’s no one is short of advice. And look, advice is a wonderful thing. And I am very lucky to have more mentors than I can count. But, you know, it’s a little bit like, everybody becomes an expert. Well, you should do this or you should think about that. And I think I think at times, you know, the thing about being an entrepreneur is about having a Vision and staying true to that vision. And so being able to have that filter on where you can sort of write down someone’s idea, and as they leave the room, you throw it in the trash, like, you need some of that discipline to be able to stay true to your vision, or you’ll feel like a ping pong ball all the time. And, and so you know, you can it’s sometimes there’s like a very loud voice in the room that feels very passionate and you want to listen. But there’s times not to. And I think, you know, by the same token, you also can’t be so headstrong, unsure of yourself that, that you quit listening to folks, because we all we all drink enough of our own Kool Aid. But but, you know, by the same token, if you’re honest with yourself and honest with your gut, and you can block out some of the noise, I think it can be really helpful.

Kara Goldin 35:44
Yeah, no, I think that’s, that’s great advice. So what are you most excited about? This is our last question, unfortunately. But what are you most excited about for Boleyn branch moving forward?

Scott Tannen 35:56
I mean, look, we’re 10 years in and I still think we’re just getting started. You know, and I was talking to somebody the other day, I was like, Look, the first decade is, is a proof of concept is really what it is, like, you know, so we’re, you know, we were $200 million business today, which is, you know, finally some scale which, which, you know, which to me means I can I can, from an ego standpoint, I can I can run bump into people, they’ve actually heard of my company, which never, ever, ever gets old. It is amazing. But, you know, I think I don’t plan on going anywhere, I didn’t build this business to be sold. We do have investors at some point, they’ll want their money out, and maybe I’ll buy them out, maybe they’ll we’ll find other investors to take them. Who knows. You know, but, but Missy and I are incredibly passionate about this business. And I feel like I really finally have my team in a place where I have an incredible team that I love and trust and learn from. So, you know, I think about what do you do when you have this big starting point, and I look at all the things we’re not doing today, we don’t sell anything outside the US yet. We only have six retail stores. We’re only just now fully starting to like at a high pace, rollout our partnerships with Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. You know, there’s a lot of meat on the bone, and we still play in a pretty narrow category, we launched furniture, but that’s not we’re not intending to be a furniture business. You know, we we are we are but you know, are we are we yet? You know, we we live in a lot of master bedrooms, Are We Living in the whole home? Yeah. You know, so I think there’s a lot of excitement to me ahead of what happens. And, and the truth is, I mean, we’ve now contributed almost $2 million back into the communities from which we source our products. And so every time we place a PEO, we placed anywhere from one to 4% of the cost of goods back into account that that each group or each union, if you will, they call them a committee, fair trade committee, they can choose how they wanted to play that money, right. So they can, they’ve used them in the past by induction cooktops, which gives people the ability to have hot food in their homes for the first time, clean water supplies, medication during COVID, things like that. And so when I look at what we’ve been able to do, growing from a very small scale to where we are today, and I think about what that’s going to mean, as we become a $500 million business, a billion dollar business, and the impact we can have around the world. That’s that’s the kind of thing like I lost my mom right before I started this company. And I think what was in the back of my head was the the thought that she gave me, which is, you know, how are you going to leave the world a little bit better place, and, and I’m still not sure how that happens. But I feel like, you know, when you could create a business that’s doing really well, but but more importantly, is making just a super significant impact and creating an example for hopefully other entrepreneurs or even established businesses to know, look, you know, transparency is important. You know, the people, the cotton board, the Toby, nobody cares, they do care, a customer loves the fact that they can, they’re not just saying, you know, we don’t want to just talk about our sheets at a cocktail party. But if you talk about a company that you’ve gotten involved in which frankly, the customer has enabled all this goodness to happen, that’s powerful. And that’s the kind of thing that you know, that’s why I love Patagonia. That’s why I love brands, like that, that do so much good in the world. And so, you know, there’s so much that has me excited, it’s a long answer to a short question, but but um,

Kara Goldin 39:21
I love it. I love it. So such a pleasure. Scott, thank you so much for your insights and a great conversation. We’ll have all the info in the show notes, but Scott Tannen, founder and CEO of Boleyn branch. Thank you.

Scott Tannen 39:35
Thank you so much, Kara.

Kara Goldin 39:36
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. I would love to hear from you too. So feel free to DM me and If you want to hear more about my journey I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my Wall Street Journal, best selling book undaunted where I share more about my journey including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for listening and good bye for now.