Q&A with Sisters and Co-Founders, Hannah and Ariel
HappyBoxStore.com is a sister-owned online gifting platform that allows users to build-a-care package tailored to their recipient, with affordability in mind. It’s simple: pick a box design, choose gifts to include, pick a card and write a note, and the HappyBoxStore.com team packs and ships directly to your recipient for free.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
We’re two sisters with similar, yet complimentary backgrounds. I am a marketing strategist and an MBA, and Ariel is a creative mastermind--she’s our Creative Director and designer. We both have been working in advertising and marketing agencies for years, and started HappyBoxStore.com as our side hustle which we hope to grow to be full-time.
What inspired you to start your business?
The thought behind our business started in college. Ariel had a bad break up, and I wanted to send her a care package, since we lived in different states and I couldn’t give her a hug. So, I curated a “Break Up Box!” I realized that I had to run all over town to find all these items and then had to wait in line at the post office. While worth it, I thought it was super time consuming and expensive, so I looked online to see if anyone had created a more modern gift basket company. What was out there was super expensive or not personalized, so I pitched the idea to my sister and we together started brainstorming and ultimately built the site and launched our business!
Where is your business based?
We are based in Hoboken, NJ. But we’re an e-commerce company that ships globally!
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
First we did started our “proof of concept” stage, which was a small website and a ton of user surveys and interviewing people to find out what they wanted out of a gift experience. Then we launched our minimum viable product, our curated box collection, which had pre-created gifts for various occasions. Finally, after learning a lot about our customers and their desire for ultimate customization, we launched our “build a care package” offer last July, which was a major but great pivot for us!
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Word of mouth and our local startup community. We feel so honored that people enjoy working with us and creating fun gifts for their friends so they spread the word for us.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Balancing our full time jobs, social lives, and Happyboxstore.com is hard. We set deliberate goals for each time we work together, and have accepted that we won’t be able to accomplish everything at one time. We overcome our challenges by celebrating each win and taking real breaks from our work lives with spa days and vacations to refresh ourselves. It’s much needed!
Our second major business challenge is trying to learn while doing. This is our first ever attempt at e-commerce, so we’re starting with zero experience. We have business advisors and mentors who are invaluable to us; they are successful entrepreneurs who constantly challenge our hypotheses and make us think bigger when we get stuck in tactics. One of our mentors is constantly emailing us ideas and research he does for fun to help us out, it’s amazing.
How do you stay focused?
An on-going to-do list! We try to stick to accomplishing simply 2-3 things in every meeting. Our list is a LOT longer, but we get sidetracked and don’t get very far if we try to do everything at once.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Price point and free shipping. We try stay approachable and affordable so gifting is never a hassle and never breaks the bank.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Search advertising by far, followed by influencer marketing. Search drives the most conversions in a direct and trackable way, but influencers on social media who talk about our business drive so much peripheral benefit in addition to conversion - they provide SEO benefits plus the credibility we need as a small company.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Use every opportunity to learn. Seek advice from seasoned entrepreneurs and attend entrepreneurship events. Inhale entrepreneurial books, blogs, and podcasts. Every car ride my sister and have together, we’re listening to a Ted talk, or an audiobook about growing and scaling our business. You have to be curious and constantly want to learn and improve.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has taught us a lot of important lessons about measurement and approaching a startup with true deliberation.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
There are so many great books, podcasts, and blogs, but to be honest earning my MBA was such a great experience that not only taught me a lot but also connected me with such brilliant professors and people who definitely guided the way for us to start this business. They are still mentors of mine to this day.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Sara Blakely. Her stories of shipping boxes out of her apartment are too, too real. We love her because she is so open and honest about not really knowing what she was doing but being confident and going for it. That’s how we feel - lost sometimes but always learning and staying true to our aspirations. Also, Tony Hseih. His approach to customer service really resonates with us and we think about it every single day and with every customer interaction. It can really set a company apart, as he has proved at Zappos.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
For the next six months, we have some PR aspirations since we haven’t really done too much proactive PR. We also are focused on perfecting the user experience and creating some features that will make our “build a gift” care packages even easier!
How can our readers connect with you?