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How to Start a Subscription Box

Elizabeth Chappell

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First things first: Know that there is room enough for everyone.  There are a few quilting related subscription boxes, and it's wonderful!  Each one is unique and offers something different.  Don't be scared if there is competition.  Your box will be unique because you will be behind it.  And you will bring something no one else has, because you are different from everyone else.
Second: Do your research!  Here's where I can help a bit.  I'll share with you some tips I have learned along the way.  Here are a few things to look into:
1. What will make your box different from other boxes?
2. How will you let people know about your box? (Marketing)
3. What will you charge per box, and how much will you earn per box?
4. How will you mail your boxes & where will you get the actual boxes?
5. How often will you send out your boxes?
6. What website will you use?
Wow!  That's a LOT to think about.  But it's a good place to start.  Let me go through each one and share what I have learned and what I think will help you the most. 
1. What will make your box different from other boxes?
        No one can answer this but you.  This is where your signature style comes in.  But one thing to consider is this: boxes that are the most successful reach a niche audience.  For example: quilters!  Other examples of successful niche groups are: boxes for Young Adult book lovers, knitters, cat owners, people who do Yoga, and these are just to name a few.  So first, find a niche audience you want to reach.  Then look around.  See what boxes are already out there.  What do they offer?  How can you offer something unique?
       For Quilters Candy Box, I knew I wanted to have a treat to eat in the box.  I wanted something people could enjoy right when they opened their box. I also knew I wanted to find unique items from small business owners, things you won't find at a big chain store.  So reaching out to Etsy shop owners and the like has been great for me.
2. How will you let people know about your box? (Marketing)
      You could have the best box out there - but if no one knows about it, it won't do you any good.  Marketing is KEY to success!
      There are SO many options for marketing.  There are Facebook adds, Instagram adds, Magazine adds, having a booth at a craft show, the list goes on.  I tried a few different venues for marketing, but for me, the most successful marketing tool has been Instagram.
      Thankfully, the quilting community is the friendliest community!  I reached out to some influential Instagramers when our first box was in the works.  I asked if I could send a free box to these people, and if they would post about our box.  They did, and their followers were interested!  We had a good product, and people were excited to get in on the action.  So right off the bat, for our first box, we had over 100 subscriptions filled. 
       To keep the excitement and marketing going, I offer one free box per month.  To be eligible for this, all anyone has to do is post a photo of a Quilters Candy Box on their Instagram feed or Facebook page with the hashtag #quilterscandybox.  Each month, one person is selected who posted a photo with the hashtag, and they receive a free box.  It doesn't matter if they subscribe or not. I want everyone to be posting and I want to reward everyone, subscribers or not.  This has been a great way to encourage people to share about the company.  And every month since the company started, there has been one free box given away.
3. What will you charge, and what will you earn?
       This is crucial.  Too many companies start off not charging enough, and then not earning anything.  To make sure I was earning money for each box sold, and making sure it was worth the time I was putting into ordering, cutting fabric, bundling, and packing, I had this nifty calculator to help.
                                                        CALCULATOR
4. How will you send your boxes & where will you get your boxes?
       Before I was ready to commit to a custom designed box (there is a much bigger price for all that goes into this), I used boxes from Uline. This is a great way to order boxes without paying and committing to mass amounts of boxes.  You can also order stickers or stamps to add to your boxes to make them more personal and decorative.
      Once you have your product marketed, subscribers signed up, and boxes ready to go, you'll need to actually print out shipping labels and get these large number of boxes shipped.
     I have used ShipStation for my shipping from day one.  I purchased a thermal label printer on Amazon along with label stickers.  I HIGHLY recommend this after you have a large number of subscribers on a consistent basis.  This saves you from cutting and taping labels on each box. 
       I also have used USPS from day one because they are the cheapest way to ship.  WARNING: with that said, shipping is not cheap!  Be sure to look into how much, on average, your boxes will weigh, and how much it will cost to ship your boxes to different locations.  (More about this in number 6 - What website will you use.) The cost will most likely shock you - so make sure to decide how to incorporate that cost into your product so you don't lose money on this.
      One great thing about USPS is that you can schedule a mail carrier to come to your door (business or residential) and pick up your packages.  And guess what?  This service is FREE!  Anyone can do this for any number of packages.  But how wonderful is it when you have hundreds of packages and you don't have to worry about bringing them to the post office?  Let me tell you, it's a game changer!
5. How often will you send your boxes out?
     This is just a decision of having a weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever amount of time you choose, in between each box that goes out.  There's no right or wrong answer.  I would just consider how likely your audience would be to want the boxes, and how often you want to be packing. 
6.  What website will you use?
     This is where I feel like I can be a BIG help!  I tried a few different websites, and a few different ways of having people's payments auto-renew.  The research alone was exhausting.  I can not tell you enough how amazing it has been to use CrateJoy.  I avoided it at first, and I can't even remember why.  I wish I hadn't!  They have multiple web page layouts for you to choose from.  You can add your own pictures and words and it looks completely custom.  They take care of all of the hassle of the renewal charges (and trust me - this can be a real headache!).  There is customer support if you need it. 
      Remember when talking about shipping costs, I said I would mention more?  CrateJoy has a nifty feature where you can put the weight of each subscription box, and it can figure out automatically what the shipping fee will be.  All you need to decide is if you want the customer to pay for shipping, or if you want to incorporate that fee into your box price. 
     So yes, if you are considering starting a monthly subscription box, do yourself a favor, and go with CrateJoy!
There you have it!  Is there anything else you want to know?  If so, feel free to leave a comment or you can email me at quilterscandybox@gmail.com.  If I have an answer for you, I am happy to help!  I can't wait to see what boxes you come up with!

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2 comments

  • Dear Elizabeth – thank you so much for this information – I have been working on some boxes for subscription and this information is very helpful. I would like to send you my first box at no charge! Thanks again, Bev

    Bev Remillard

  • Hello, i would like to subscribe to your Candy Quilting box. How do I do this? PS I love reading through your blogs.

    Elizabeth

    Elizabeth

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