Today we’d like to introduce you to Doris Tan.
Doris, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After I got tired from working in a corporate world, I came across a cute little corner street flower shop in West Hollywood. Unbeknownst to me then, that flower shop was frequented by every Hollywood celebrity. I stayed there for 7 years, with a client list from Oprah to Tom Cruise, The Clintons to President Obama. Unfortunately, after spending 7 years at the flower shop, I have hit the ceiling, there was no way up further in the career ladder or salary. I have decided to exit and start my own company. During this time, I knew that I gained a certain soul-rewarding satisfaction helping people in love with their flowers. I wanted to do more. A seed was planted but I did not know how to capitalize on selling ‘love’. I want it bespoke, intimate, and staying far far away from commercialization and that pink hearts, a dozen red roses package people are familiar with. My journey to find footing and traction in the business seems to run parallel with my own journey of finding love. Since the very beginning, I was promised an initial investment to run operation but that fund was rerouted by my investor to Mexican tequila. I started my business with $200, and a minus $235 in my Bank of America account ($200 + overdrawn fee of $35). To pay rent, I had to stick to what I know and that was to sell flowers. I had to abandon the idea wanting to help people’s love life, when I didn’t even know how to pay next month’s rent. It took me 3 years to gain traction and to be ok. In these three years, the seed grew and sprouted. Still clueless about how to capitalize on ‘love’, I had gone to New York to connect with an old flame. While there, he made me breakfast in bed of french toast with my backdrop the sun-kissed New York skyscrapers. I remembered feeling good. I remembered telling myself, THIS is what love should feel like. I return to Los Angeles and I added a Saturday delivery of Parisian Breakfast in Bed (yes of french toast and pancakes) and started delivering to couples. Uber did not exist then. I had to deliver them in my freshly bought $1500 Mitsubishi Montero that is leaking oil into the engine and smoking. I remember going to Denzel Washington’s house up in Beverly Hills with a delivery and the security asked me if my car is going to blow up. I replied no. Fact is, I didn’t know if it would. I just hoped that it did not explode in front of Denzel’s house BEFORE I made the delivery. I didn’t care if it happened after. I was committed to deliver products as ordered and as I promised. Car did not explode. I have since switched to a 2015 Prius that I just paid off last Friday. To go from hauling 20 lbs of flowers on the Metro 733 line to DTLA, to the $1500 Montero, to a brand new Prius, using my own money, is one of the most humbling experience bestowed to a human and I consider being chosen to experience this, is one of my life’s greatest blessing.
As the seed grew, I knew that I cannot combine ‘selling love’ with ‘selling flowers’ under one company. Two years ago, I split the company into two: FLOWER BAR and ROMANTIC BEAST. Both companies are currently operating online, but I hope to bring the FLOWER BAR into a brick and mortar soon. ROMANTIC BEAST has forced me to look at my own understanding of what love is and what it is ought to be, not what Hollywood portrays it to be. I hope with ROMANTIC BEAST, I will be able to provide an avenue and platform to help people in love express love better with the products and services we offer, and those seeking for love, we hope to serve them with products and services that will remind them that life is not any less beautiful just because you do not have a partner. I hope that my company Romantic Beast will be able to be a guide that make them see beauty in themselves and find happiness within.
It is a huge undertaking it seems. But I am energized by the idea that my life is being used as a vessel for love to blossom. What an honor it is for me to answer this calling.
Has it been a smooth road?
I was naive. I started this business with $200! I had to face so many fears. I put all my eggs in one basket with that one investor and when that did not happen, I was left without a safety net. My rock bottom had a basement! The thing is, when you are all the way at the bottom, there is no way but up. Everything I feared (I was afraid of sales, I associated cold calling people asking them to buy flowers to be an embarrassment) I had to do. I was very self-conscious when I had to go meet people in Beverly Hills because I had to take the bus so I would arrive at the meeting sweating. There was no family money, no investment. The term Girlboss for me then was not hip and trendy, it was hustling every day splitting a bagel into two for lunch and dinner. Everything I made went back into the business. I stretched $1 into $10. Little did I know that every single experience I had with the flower business only happened to better prepare me for Romantic Beast.
I was attacked by a homeless so I was very vigilant and very afraid of homeless folks because I felt they might attack me. After 3 years on the bus at 6am on 733 that stopped a block from skidrow, you learned that not every homeless is out to attack you. And then you get to learn that they have names. And then I was not afraid anymore.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I have two companies. One is called FLOWER BAR. It is an online flower delivery service. The other one is called ROMANTIC BEAST, it is still new and is online.
FLOWER BAR is straight-forward flower-related business. We sell floral arrangements online (for birthdays, celebrations, sympathy) and we do events like weddings. We are raising funds to open a brick and mortar hopefully next year. We are raising funds this year.
ROMANTIC BEAST is a company that provides products and services to people who are in love and to single people looking for inspired living. Our products ranges from one-of-a-kind custom food deliveries: Parisian Breakfast in Bed (a box of breakfast items for couples delivered in the morning between 8am-10am as they are waking up), Green with Envy (an afternoon matcha latte delivery with pistachio macaron and green orchids – green, get it? hahahaha) to the office of the one you love so that the entire office can envy your relationship!, Morning After (people do not realize the importance of the morning after and how awesome you would feel to receive a little note after one heck of a wild night together!) consists of small gifts (it can be coffee and a bagel with a note thanking her for last night, or any custom items that we will discuss personally with the client. We are very intimate. We want to be part of our client’s love story. We also have Naughty! Naughty! … this will be a courier delivering a box containing naughty items. It could be one condom with a message “Busy, tonight?” or a negligee with a note saying “Thinking of you …. naked.” We also have a care package for when the love of your life is sick, that we call HEAL! GOOD GIRL! … it consists of something cozy and healthy to aid in the speedy recovery. We also have the most adorable line of greeting cards and people can hire us to stage a wedding proposals. Now for the singles, we want to host empowerment conferences and meetup over food or via group travel … we are still working out the details on this but we will launch it later this year.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I am reminded by my younger sister’s favorite quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
My city, Los Angeles, is a good place for businesses like mine because it is here that the seed was first planted and I feel strongly that I need to water it and watch it grow here in Los Angeles. Many will say that what I am doing is not doable in Idaho. No one would buy ideas like this. And to them I say this. If I had conceived this idea in Idaho, this idea would have been molded and would have evolved into something that will blossom in Idaho. Perhaps the Parisian Breakfast in Bed would become something else and it would appear later in the stage of the company’s growth, not in the beginning like how ours did.
If there is a desire inside of you to start something, the best place to start it is in your city, whichever city that is. And if the conditions are not ripe for you to start in that city, there will be a tug in your heart telling you to move, and you listen to your heart and you move with the flow.
When I first started this business, I thought once I register the business, I can be operating and I would be raking in money. I did not realize that there were so many people who are after your earning: your business income tax, your business federal tax, City of LA Office of Finance tax, Sales Tax, State of California Statement of Information payment, and if you pay yourself, your salary is taxed. There are a LOT of taxes!
Now that I have experienced life as a young, female, minority, entrepreneur in Los Angeles, I would love the City to give a chance for hardworking people like me to just get a head start in business and let us keep the most money in the first two years of operation.
1. Waive first year tax. Let us get a breather and make more money to pay you the second year. Let us be to take our parents to a nice dinner to celebrate their daughter’s success.
2. Make loans easier for young, female, entrepreneurs. Here, in order to go into debt (getting a loan) you need to be already in debt. It is easier for my friend who has over $100k in debt to get a loan than someone with clean credit and has zero debt to get a loan.
- Website: www.totheflowerbar.com; www.romanticbeast.com
- Instagram: @totheflowerbar and @romanticbeast