I Started My Own Subscription Box Company + Here’s What Happened
I love, and I mean ALL CAPS LOVE a subscription box. It’s like your birthday, Christmas or you’re-so-cool-you-deserve-a-present-for-no-particular-reason delivered right to your door on a regular basis. Even though there are a gazillion subscription boxes to choose from, like a monthly delivery of undies to the Cat Lady Box to one curated by Rachel Zoe, there is always room for one more! That was our thinking when my partners and I launched our own mystery box subscription service Wonderful Objects last year. While we’re not rolling in the dough (yet) and we still all have our day jobs, it’s pretty much the *best* side hustle ever. So, if you think you could put together mystery box magic, here’s what you need to know to get the ball rolling.
1. Find your niche. Do your research and see what kind of box is begging to exist that doesn’t already. Or maybe there’s a genre of box that’s already out there, but you know you could do it way better with your own unique spin. Regardless, have some kind of focus, and then it’s not just a bunch of stuff in a box. If you’re under the impression that a makeup or beauty product box would be an oh-so-great idea, think again. Birchbox,Ipsy and Sephora (their box Play is so new and popular that it has a waitlist) have the genre more than covered. For us at Wonderful Objects, we opted to create a whimsical luxury box that’s based on storytelling through physical objects. Our tagline is to the point, “Unbox a Story.” Each quarterly box is uber curated and themed with a “what if” question like “What if you could fly?” or “What if you unlocked a spellbound garden?” So, you can’t take our idea (or I’ll be very cross with you), and you probably shouldn’t do a beauty box (‘cause there are too many already), but there are TONS of ideas out there which could and should work.
2. Consider ALL the biz stuff. This is a company — even if you’re itsy-bitsy, it’s still an organization selling goods to the public. Make sure you think up a unique name, create a logo, secure that URL and all those social media handles. Then sign up with a company who can help your sub box dreams come true, companies who will simplify the whole process; both Cratejoy and Subbly offer an online storefront website, coding, hosting and billing. That way you can focus more on what goes in that box of yours.
3. Order ALL the boxes. Okay, not all of them. You’d be out of business before you even start. But you still need to do your research. Since you’re drawn to the whole subscription box thing in the first place (proof, you’re reading this), that probably means you’re already pretty familiar with all the things involved in what makes a good box. Regardless, you need to get a feel of what works and what doesn’t. There are many deets you might not have thought about, from branding on the mailing boxes to what kind of cushioning to use to protect the items inside. Plus, that box research is tax deductible. Cha-ching!
4. Don’t go it alone. It’s totes true. It does indeed take a village. While it might be tempting to think you can create, run and manage a subscription box all by your lonesome, 98% of the time, you’d be wrong. There are three of us keeping the Wonderful Objects boat afloat, each with our own super power. Megan can figure out how to make a great big affiliate campaign; Sara Sophia can charm a vendor into making 100 extra handmade doodads for us; while I can find a super stylish this and/or that (I’m petitioning to have Treasure Hunter added to my business cards). Find people who you know will “get” your vision. Maybe they’ll merely help with one little cog in your machine, but any help is help regardless.
5. Find your people. Now you’ve gotta sell your completely original and carefully curated box of wonder. Start with friends, family and co-workers. Then widen your net through social media and online groups, whenever and wherever you can. But make sure to go where your people are, the kind of people who want and/or NEED your box. If your box is all about designer dog duds, then go to a dog show. If your box is focused on handcrafted cocktail garnishes, hit up your local bars. Whatever it is, you’ve gotta find your audience. As for sales, the sweet thing about the subscription box business is that you can do pre-sales. Before you even ship your first box, you’ll have the capital to buy all the things for said box. You’ll also know exactly how many items you’ll need. Since there are three of us at Wonderful Objects, we all reached out to our circles to promote the box. It helped that some of our pals not only loved the box but shared their experience on Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat and Instagram. WE LOVE OUR FRIENDS. Now we’re at the stage of widening our circles through outreach and various marketing efforts.
6. Here’s the nitty gritty (or: There’s always a catch). Until you can afford a fulfillment house, a staff or your own crew of Oompa Loompas, you’re going to have to put all those boxes together yourself. Hello, paper cuts and carpal tunnel. You’ll also really, really get to know the local post person (think of them during the holiday season; gift cards always make a nice gift). Since you’re in the selling stuff biz, you’ll also have to deal with customer service issues like, “The finger on my wax hand melted,” or “Can I trade in the red scarf for a blue scarf? It’s just not my hue” or “Can you send me a free box? I want to try it out.” (Short answer for that last one is “no.” But you can get $10 off any plan with the code: WHIMSY10).
The hours will be long, and you’ll be exhausted, but just think about what joy you’ll bring when your people (AKA loyal subscribers) open up your epic bundle of awesome. Plus, maybe you’ll become the next LootCrate, Graze or BarkBox. You won’t know until you try!
What’s your fav subscription box? Let us know @BritandCo.
(Photo via Wonderful Objects)