Founder Spotlight of Bokksu: Danny Taing
Founded in 2015, Bokksu is the first subscription box that offers Japanese snacks. Aside from providing the world with delicious snacks, the company also operates Bokksu Grocery, an ever-growing e-commerce platform of Japan’s best snacks (100 products being added every month). Their mission? To make Asian groceries and snacks more accessible worldwide while supporting.
Another cause that is near and dear to their heart is the aim to sustain culture through food and media. To achieve this, The Tokyo and New York-based startup actively partners with local and artisanal makers, some with over a hundred years of history, across Japan. By supporting these family-owned businesses, they are also showcasing Japanese food culture, history, and craftsmanship to the world.
The mastermind behind this tasty startup is Founder and CEO Danny Taing, who after many years of living in Japan, couldn’t forget the snacks after returning to the States. We sat down and chatted with him about his experience founding Bokksu and the many lessons he learned along the way.
(Image courtesy of Bokksu)
What was the a-ha moment when you knew you had to start your company?
I started Bokksu out of my living room in NYC in 2015. Before that, I lived and worked in Japan for four years. After moving back to NYC, I had brought back a large suitcase full of my favorite Japanese snacks. After one housewarming party, the whole suitcase of snacks was devoured by my friends, which is when I had my lightbulb moment. I realized other Americans also loved Japanese snacks, but they didn’t know how to access them.
What began as a love for Japanese snacks grew into Bokksu: a premium monthly subscription box delivered directly from Japan.”
Can you share the story of how you met Headline and what your experience has been working with us so far?
I was introduced to Headline by one of our existing investors in Japan, Harizury. I enjoyed my initial conversations with Akihiko Okamoto as I was immediately impressed with his expertise in and deep connections with the Japanese startup scene.
I soon got connected to other members of the Headline team and really appreciated how helpful they’ve been since even pre-investment. They’ve introduced me to other founders with related businesses and to the press who featured Bokksu in their articles. I look forward to partnering with Headline for many years to come!
What’s something you’re trying to learn?
Because our scrappy, fun, and slightly weird company culture is so important to everyone at Bokksu, I’m working hard to learn how to preserve the close-knit Bokksu culture while continuing to rapidly scale our team size. For context, at the start of 2021, we had about 10 teammates globally. After just one year, we’ve now surpassed 40 employees and are still planning to hire many more.
What are your personal favorite items to receive in a Bokksu?
I personally love the exclusive maker collaboration snacks and teas because, in addition to being delicious and only available in Bokksu, these items represent the deep level of mutual trust between us and the Maker, as well as the hard work on both sides to craft the collaboration snacks.
(Image courtesy of Bokksu)
What’s something you were wrong about when you started “Bokksu” that you then had to learn and adapt?
As a first-time founder, I failed and learned many times over the past six years. The most notable for me early on was a month when we tripled our growth from 1,000 to 3,000 subscribers. At the time, we were delighted to experience such hypergrowth, but I soon learned that scaling too quickly without properly setting up the infrastructure for it can have rippling damaging effects.
For example, our warehouse in Japan was caught off-guard and could not staff up fast enough to pack and ship out the large increase in boxes. Consequently, our customer care team could not keep up with the increase in customer complaints coming in about their delayed shipments, which then led to poor reviews of our service online and so on. From that experience, I now know to prepare in advance the infrastructure needed to handle hypergrowth if we plan to scale quickly.
Your customer care team is called a Customer Happiness Team. Why did you choose “Happiness” and why is that emotion important to Bokksu?
We’re very passionate about bridging cultures and bringing the best Japanese snacks to our members! We’re very proud of our team and how they are able to quickly and efficiently deliver the best experience possible to our members.
With thousands of five-star reviews, we know we’re delivering happiness through food to over 100 countries. On the rare occasion that a shipment does have issues, our customer care team does everything in their power to guarantee our customers’ happiness such as responding to inquiries within 15 minutes and shipping replacement boxes free of charge.
“We’re very passionate about bridging cultures and bringing the best Japanese snacks to our members! We’re very proud of our team and how they are able to quickly and efficiently deliver the best experience possible to our members.”
Can you tell us about the curation process for each Bokksu? How do you come up with different themes?
We love to curate Bokksu boxes around themes like holidays and seasons in Japan. Our sourcing team scours Japan to find delicious snacks and sends samples to our office. Our favorite time of the month at Bokksu is having our employees sit around a table and try everything from mochi to cakes to senbei.
During these events, we’re always keeping in mind how well the treats fit into our theme, and of course, how they taste! We have direct relationships with 100+ snack makers (many of them as exclusive partnerships), meaning that you’ll find products in your Bokksu that you can’t find anywhere else. So each month of Bokksu is unique and crafted with care.
(Image courtesy of Bokksu)
What are you working on right now and what’s next?
For Bokksu’s subscription service, we’re coming up on sakura season: my favorite time of the year in Japan! We’re sending out a limited edition pink sakura-themed box with tons of sakura snacks.
Bokksu Grocery is adding hundreds of products every month to our nationwide service, and we’re excited to expand into other product categories as well.”