Talented entrepreneur and businessman James Middleton and brother to the Duchess of Cambridge, is the creator of a hugely successful marshmallow gifting company called Boomf. Offering products such as DIY marshmallows which can be personalised with your own images, customised wrapping paper, gift boxes, cards, and even personalised biscuits, James has set his sights on Hong Kong as the next city to open its first retail shop outside of the UK. Hong Kong has definitely proved itself to be one of their biggest markets with the most online orders compared to other cities globally. Boomf products are all manufactured in the UK including the high quality materials that are used to make the personalised, edible treats.
James Middleton talks to us about his love of personalised gifts and shares with us his opinions on the Hong Kong gifting industry and what to expect from Boomf in the very near future.
Why did you choose to start a business in the gift industry and what inspired you to do it?
I absolutely love personalised gifts, I always have. I wanted to launch a product that was fun, personalised and quirky with the added benefit of being scalable so that I could make people smile across the globe! My previous business was in the cake industry, after experimenting with different foods I stumbled across marshmallows as a delicious treat. They were exactly what I was after - and I was delighted by the positive reactions.
What do you find is most challenging about having your own brand?
My greatest challenge is always being on time. There are so many exciting things planned for Boomf in the coming months and I am really excited to get them fully launched for our customers to enjoy. I am lucky to work with an amazingly creative team that shares my passion and goal to grow and delight people with personalised products.
Why did you name it Boomf? Is there a special meaning behind this?
We joked around when we were deciding our company name about what a marshmallow would say if it could speak and the noise a marshmallow makes when coming through your letterbox. Boomf just seem to fit beautifully.
Although marshmallows are your main products, are any of your other products becoming increasingly popular?
The response to our personalised wrapping paper has been amazing, so much so that we have branched out from having it as an add-on with the Boomf Box to being its own standalone product! It adds an additional element of personalisation to gifting and renders a great response (with people more impressed by the wrapping paper than what's inside!). We have just launched the Boomf Card which is essentially a one-up on a traditional greeting card. On the face of it, it looks like a personalised greeting card, but when you open it you receive a fun little gift - my favourite has to be the personalised biscuit with tea. There can't be much better than dunking a biscuit with your face on it into a cup of tea to help kick the Monday blues!
Which ready-made marshmallow collection is the most popular with your customers?
We collaborate with some fantastic illustrators which we feel really portray the personality of Boomf. We love working with Mr Men & Little Miss, the range of characters means that our customers can choose a character for every occasion. I love analysing people's favourite designs as it always changes from season to season - with Mr Grumpy being extremely popular for Father's Day and Little Miss Naughty being a favourite Valentine's day design!
Could you give us any sneak peeks on potential new products you might be introducing to Boomf?
What we've been working on for a while is vegetarian marshmallows. We've had numerous taste tests to ensure the marshmallow remains delicious as well as having the correct surface to print on - it's a delicate balance. I'm super excited that these will be on the market in the next month or so. Boomf's mission is to give people gifting super powers and we are always innovating and coming up with new ideas to make this a reality.
With Christmas around the corner (feels weird saying that in August) we will have some new exciting products launched in the next few months - but you'll have to wait and see until they are released for the full down low!
What are your thoughts on the Hong Kong confectionary and gifting industry?
What I love about Hong Kong is how generous everyone is when it comes to gifting. It's such a dynamic city where celebrations take place for both eastern and western festivals so there is always a reason to celebrate! Boomf fit into the gifting culture perfectly. As a personalised gift they can be tailored to the specific occasion or recipient, and are a unique way to say 'Thank you', 'I love you' or 'Kung Hei Fat Choi'.
Are there any trends or certain types of designs that you feel are more popular in the Hong Kong or Asian market compared to other countries?
Boomf have a character called 'Dofushai', it's extremely cute and brings our marshmallows to life with different facial expressions. This is very popular amongst our Asian customers (and a personal favourite of mine).
Another popular design is Mahjong, printing the design on marshmallows looks amazing (and is surprisingly similar to the actual tiles!) These are extremely popular in Hong Kong and the Asian market, however as it is not readily played worldwide we don't see many Mahjong orders to the rest of the world.
Although right now Boomf is largely an online retail business, will you be opening any other shop fronts in other countries?
It is definitely something we will look at doing again in the future. We loved being a part of Selfridges and having a physical presence where people can personalise their order in store and have it printed and ready within a matter of minutes was fantastic. Hong Kong is one of our biggest markets and we have been looking at a few sites in Mid-Levels where we hope to set up base sometime soon.
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