Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

My Subscription Box Launch Story

November 21, 2019 Episode 1
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
My Subscription Box Launch Story
Chapters
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
My Subscription Box Launch Story
Nov 21, 2019 Episode 1
Julie Ball

#001 - The subscription box business that Julie Ball launched from home as a side hustle turned into a full-time income within nine months and it's totally possible for you to do the same. In this episode, Julie shares the Sparkle Hustle Grow subscription box launch story and how this is totally doable for you as well.

Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball was created to provide clarity for those of you who have an amazing subscription box business idea but don’t know where to start. Julie will be an open book, each episode, as she dives into the topics that you’ve been wondering about, that you’ve been googling. This podcast will build a solid foundation so you can bring your box idea to life! Stop sitting on that money maker idea before someone else launches it first.

Main takeaways:

  • Figuring out what to put in the box (00:07:39)
  • Getting startup money (00:10:09)
  • Hitting the 100 subscribers mark (00:14:16)
  • The value of attending events (00:16:02)
  • Scaling and getting the systems and support in place (00:18:52)

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Together Unplugged
Christy Wright's Business Boutique
Dana Malstaff's Boss Mom

Show Notes Transcript

#001 - The subscription box business that Julie Ball launched from home as a side hustle turned into a full-time income within nine months and it's totally possible for you to do the same. In this episode, Julie shares the Sparkle Hustle Grow subscription box launch story and how this is totally doable for you as well.

Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball was created to provide clarity for those of you who have an amazing subscription box business idea but don’t know where to start. Julie will be an open book, each episode, as she dives into the topics that you’ve been wondering about, that you’ve been googling. This podcast will build a solid foundation so you can bring your box idea to life! Stop sitting on that money maker idea before someone else launches it first.

Main takeaways:

  • Figuring out what to put in the box (00:07:39)
  • Getting startup money (00:10:09)
  • Hitting the 100 subscribers mark (00:14:16)
  • The value of attending events (00:16:02)
  • Scaling and getting the systems and support in place (00:18:52)

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Together Unplugged
Christy Wright's Business Boutique
Dana Malstaff's Boss Mom

Speaker 1:
0:02
So you want to launch a subscription box, don't know where to start. Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball, a subscription box coach and your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs that want to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper and let's have some fun. Hey everybody! Welcome, welcome, welcome! I am Julie Ball. I am the founder of Sparkle Hustle Grow a monthly subscription box and online community for female entrepreneurs. And I'm also your host here at Subscription Box Basics. And here we are episode one. I'm so excited! I've been thinking about starting a podcast for about a year now and I've had to actually take some of my own advice. Just start. So often we have big goals and big dreams, but we're just paralyzed with fear: fear of being judged, fear of failing, fear of the technology required.
Speaker 1:
1:00
But I'm putting that all behind me and I am moving forward. And I'm so excited! So my goal here is to provide some clarity for those of you who have this amazing subscription box business idea, but you just don't know where to start. Girl, I got you. I've been there and I'll be an open book each episode as we dive into the topics that you've been wondering about, that you've been googling and trying to piece together, because I know the information is scattered all across the internet and pulling it together is so overwhelming. I'm here to help you bring your idea to life. So stop sitting on that moneymaker idea before someone else launches it first. That would be the worst. So, things that I plan to cover on Subscription Box Basics. We're gonna talk about things like how the business model works, how to source your products.
Speaker 1:
1:52
That is the question I get asked most often. We'll talk about things like what you need to start, you know, just the basics. Plus I'll pepper in some great stories like how much I'm a Shark Tank reject and how my grandma is the O G the original grandma of subscription boxes. More on that later. But things that I won't cover on this podcast are like how to get investors and how to be the next mega box. Why? Because I want to show you-the boss babes, the side hustlers, the mompreneurs- how you can build a subscription box that works for you and your family on your terms. That doesn't mean you have to be the next FabFitFun. I certainly don't want to be that. In fact, we've capped the number of subscribers at Sparkle Hustle Grow, the number that we allow on a monthly basis, so it fits a model that works for us. A model that supports our family and our team well, but without taking over and making us lose our minds because it's just too much.
Speaker 1:
2:53
Now don't mistake that for lack of ambition. Understand that it's intentional and it means just so we have clarity on our values and goals. So what I launched as a side hustle turned into a full time income within nine months and it's totally possible for you to do the same. I thought it would be helpful to share the Sparkle Hustle Grow launch story here in episode one so you can kind of see that progression and how this is totally doable for you as well. But before I do that, a few things about me so you can get to know me. This past year my husband and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Whoa! Fun fact, we met on match.com. Our daughter McKenna is eight and we live together in a small town near Asheville, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge mountains. It's just so beautiful here and I'm so grateful every day to get to live here.
Speaker 1:
3:43
And so while I run Sparkle Hustle Grow, Kenny and McKenna run Together Unplugged, which is a subscription box to help families unplug and play together so you can kind of call us the subscription box family. Other things about me as I love to travel. I love sports like Penn State football, my Alma mater. I like to do outdoor sports like stand up paddle boarding and hiking and I love music- all kinds. And prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I actually got to work in the music industry. I'm sure I'll get to share some of those stories later, but I'm a little bit hippie, a little bit hood and especially love Stevie Nicks, 1990s gangster rap and boy bands. Yep! New kids On The Block came out when I was a preteen and I was there for it. Side note that I recently got to see New Kids On The Block in concert for the first time this past year. It Was like 30 years in the making and let me tell you, it was life changing. But that's another story for another episode. Okay, so now for the launch story, let's take it back to 2011 when I started my first business. I had been working in corporate America for 10 plus years and mostly in some sort of marketing or sales role. So when I got pregnant with our daughter McKenna in 2011, she was born in August of 2011, I started side hustling. At that time I was in a leadership role in a very male-dominated industry, which was radio. It was high stress and I get anxiety on Sunday nights before starting the new week and one day, um, when I got in trouble for wearing Chucks to work, I knew I wasn't meant to be there. It wasn't for me anymore. I mean it was a radio station even though I had on black slacks and a button-down blouse to be considered business attire.
Speaker 1:
5:29
I just tried to bring a little personality to the outfit with my Chucks and apparently that didn't fly. So corporate America, I digress. So anyhow, in my second trimester I started freelancing on the side doing website design, SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, social media, things like that for small businesses because my background is in internet marketing. But I had this mindset shift when preparing for McKenna's arrival that I didn't want to commute to the city anymore. I didn't want to work for somebody else anymore. And I was planning my exit strategy. I kind of saw the birth of McKenna as kind of my out. So I started this side hustle business and all I needed really was an internet connection, a little bit of time to do the work that I needed to do and eventually that side hustle group. I hired some women contract workers to do the design, the photography and the copywriting.
Speaker 1:
6:23
And when I think back and reflect on that time, it really laid the foundation for Sparkle Hustle Grow. I still work with and hire most of those women that were part of that agency. We called Grow Web Marketing. In fact, they're my business besties and, and my ride or dies to this day. It's, it's super fun! So fast forward five years to the summer of 2016 my web design firm was humming along and since the work was location independent, we decided to make a big change and moved. The mountains we're calling. I'm sure you've heard that before, but it was so true. So we moved to the Asheville, North Carolina area the summer before McKenna started kindergarten and Asheville's in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It's absolutely gorgeous and we love it here. But as we were getting settled in our new home, I was kind of just getting a bit unsettled in my work. I was in a new area, a new home.
Speaker 1:
7:17
I was always behind the screen with the digital work that I did. I wasn't getting that personal interaction that I really craved and I really thrive in community, so I was missing that personal interaction. I was looking for my tribe and it was looking for people in person, but also online, trying to find people that I could connect with. While we moved into this new place, I started dabbling in the product-based business world. I needed something to kind of fill that emptiness I had inside and this new idea that I had really kept me busy. So I started doing research and thought, this might be something that I want to get into. This is all before I launched. These were just kind of where you might be right now with the thoughts, the ideas of something big in your head. So I thought about what type of product would I want?
Speaker 1:
8:08
I knew I still wanted to serve female entrepreneurs, which is the audience that I had been serving with my web agency. I wanted to serve that same audience, but what could I sell them? What pain points could I solve? How could I be of value? And it just dawned on me that I love getting subscription boxes. I love getting happy mail. And that's really where it started. One day, I started putting some of my own items in it and I kind of thought, okay, this might work. So that's kind of where my next train of thought was. Like, I really love getting subscription boxes. So maybe if I created a subscription box that had business tools in it and trainings that that would help the female entrepreneur thrive, then it might be a good business. It might have legs. Of course, I wasn't sure.
Speaker 1:
8:56
So in looking at what I wanted to put in the box, I literally looked back at my own expenses at my receipts. Because I'm a female entrepreneur and I thought, well, if I figured out what I'm spending most of my money on, that's what I can put in the box. So I looked back at my receipts and I saw tons and tons of books. I read a lot of books, I read the physical copies, I listen on Audible and I get them on Kindle. Whether it was self-help, personal development, or just fun reading, I read a lot of books. Then I noticed I bought a lot of online courses. As a fairly newer entrepreneur, I needed to ramp up my skills in so many different places because as an entrepreneur, specifically, when you work mostly solo, you have to wear a lot of hats. So I did a lot of online trainings and then of course I buy lots of office supplies.
Speaker 1:
9:49
I'm kind of an office supplies junkie. I don't like just a basic black pen or blue pen. I really want something that's going to inspire me and it's going to bring joy to me when I'm using it. So I thought, well, let's put office supplies in there. And that's how I figured out what I was going to put in the box. And of course that changed throughout the years as I got feedback from my subscribers. But that's where it started. And so now we're looking at September 2016 this is when I started my pre-launch. I did about a six week pre-launch at that time, you know, back in 2016 subscription boxes. Yeah, they were popular, but the training, the business training to learn to launch one, it was just scattered. I mean it was everywhere. And so I didn't have a background in product-based businesses.
Speaker 1:
10:34
I didn't know what I was doing. So it was kind of piecing all these parts together as I went and I figured it out on the fly. So here we are in September 2016 and I launched my landing page. And a landing page, if you don't know, it's just a one page website that has a goal. And the goal of that website was to gather email addresses. Those email addresses were what I called my VIP list. Those were the people that I was going to launch to first. They showed that they were interested already in the box and I wanted to give them information, nurture them, get them excited and prime to buy. So I asked them questions. They helped me make decisions about this new business and on the landing page in exchange for their email address, they got entered to win an annual subscription to Sparkle Hustle Grow, which was super exciting.
Speaker 1:
11:24
That's really what got everyone motivated. Now in hindsight, I probably could have done a shorter link subscription as my prize as the prize giveaway, but it worked and I didn't know what I didn't know, so I went with it. So I'm gathering the email addresses and sending them regular emails to nurture them to make them excited. And then I launched a one week pre-sale. This pre-sale was just to my VIP list. I launched it only to them, not to the public and why I did this is one, they were primed and ready and excited to buy. Two, I wanted to give them first access because they were showing interest early on and they were the early supporters. And three, I wanted to give them something special. I wanted to make sure that they either had extra product in their box or they were going to get an extra discount. And they were really excited when I emailed them and gave them first dibs because I only allotted for a hundred founding members.
Speaker 1:
12:22
So that sense of urgency, like I want to be a part of those 100 founding members gave them the motivation to subscribe early. So in that pre-sale I got 42 sales. Yes, 42 sales! 42 people wanted the box that I was curating. Now keep in mind that my goal was a hundred boxes for that first month. So 42 is way under a hundred but I didn't care. I was just so excited because I got sales. 42 people really liked my concept and they were willing to put money down for it and they were willing to wait six weeks because those people that signed up in the first week of pre-sale, it was literally going to be about six weeks before they got their first box. So those 42 sales equated to right around $1,500 in what I call my startup money because I didn't have a budget.
Speaker 1:
13:14
This was a side hustle when I launched it. I didn't know if it was going to work. And so I really didn't have any sort of budget to put towards it. I used my credit card to register the business and buy my domain name and I figured I'd make my money back if I went for it. So that $1,500 that I earned in my pre-sale was so important for me because not only was it validation and it gave me that confidence to move forward, but it also gave me the funds to buy custom boxes and to buy that first month's products. And so that was super important. So if you're thinking that you don't have a budget or you don't have the funding to start, don't let that stop you because you can have that pre-sale and you can earn that money to get you started.
Speaker 1:
13:57
So in the end, well not in the end, but after that pre-sale I launched to the public and I ended up sending right around, I think around 55 or 60 boxes in that first month, which I was super happy with. I didn't quite hit my a hundred box goal, but that's okay. I was really happy with it and I was moving forward. And it took me three months to hit that 100 box mark. And to me that 100 subscribers was kind of this milestone. If you get a hundred subscribers you got to keep going. And if you're struggling to get that hundred subscribers pivot as Ross and friends would say, "Pivot!". What do you need to change? Ask your subscribers, what would they rather have? What would make them come back for more? And at the very end of the year I hit that 100 subscriber mark.
Speaker 1:
14:45
So now I want to talk about those first six months for a minute because I made a lot of mistakes in those first six months. And I think too with everything so scattered, all the resources scattered, trying to determine my vendors and trying to determine which software platforms I was gonna use. I had a little bit of analysis paralysis, decision fatigue. Have you heard of it before where it's hard to move forward not knowing what you're going to use? So throughout those first six months I did a lot of pivots. I changed the pricing within the first six months. I changed my referral software in the first six months. And I changed my mindset and so much else. Just know that it's okay to make mistakes cause I sure did. And it's okay to change things along the way. This is your business so you get to call the shots.
Speaker 1:
15:37
So there's a couple of milestones that were really instrumental in taking it to that full time income. As I mentioned, I was able to grow my box into a full time income in under nine months. And so let's talk about some of those milestones for a hot second here. So looking back at those first six months, that hundred subscriber mark, that was key for me as I mentioned, that was clutch. It was validation, which coincidentally is one of my top love languages. In month two, I went to an incredible event. I went to Christy Wright's Business Boutique. It was an event in Nashville several days long and I went as a marketplace vendor. Let me paint the picture. This event year after year attracts thousands of women business owners--3000 female entrepreneurs. So the reason I'm telling you this is because in month two of my business I was able to physically get in front of 3000 of my ideal target audience to show them my product, to speak to them in person, have them interact with me.
Speaker 1:
16:41
And to this day I still have people tell me, "Oh, I saw you at Christy Wright's Business Boutique. That was the first time I saw your business". We go there year after year at this point because it is such a hit for us. So I'd like to encourage you, if you're thinking about starting a subscription box business, look at events, whether those are local events or whether they're regional or you have to fly somewhere. Get in front of your target audience, not only online but in person. So that leads me to another event that I went to in my first six months. The next milestone for me was month four of my shipping and I was right around, somewhere around 115 to maybe 150 somewhere around there and I was finally in the green all my books and making a little bit of money. Can I get an amen?
Speaker 1:
17:29
And I went to an event in San Diego. It was Danna Malstaff's Boss Mom retreat and it was more intimate retreat. It was about a hundred women there who were mom entrepreneurs and they were all there to learn to grow their business, to network with like-minded mamas. Going to an event like this was so important for me. This was definitely one of those moments where I had aha moments and made some changes in my business based off of feedback. And I got validation. And I got support. The women were buying my box after they met me and they learned about the concept. So based off of that event, I learned so much about my target audience and I learned so much about business in general. I changed my box price, I got a better game plan for how to market to my audience. And it was just so important, such a pivotal moment for me.
Speaker 1:
18:21
And so the point of me telling that story is I really want to encourage you to get in front of not only your target audience, but also colleagues, people that can help you in your business and support you along the way in a safe space. And to find a business coach that is going to help you make those big decisions that are scary, you know? So then through this combination of these two events that I went to, so I'm doing some online marketing and being genuinely active in Facebook groups, not being spammy, but genuinely building relationships in Facebook groups. That's what led me to my next milestone. It was when I launched a referral program. With this combined with those tactics that I just mentioned, I was able to hit the 350 subscriber mark by month six. I think that was another milestone for me because that's when I started researching, outsourcing my fulfillment-using a warehouse in a fulfillment center.
Speaker 1:
19:16
At the time, I felt like I had grown as much as I could in the physical space that I was fulfilling in. So we were basically packing all the boxes in our house. At the time we were renting a small home. It was probably about 1200 square feet and there were boxes and products everywhere. There was crinkle cut that would end up in the washing machine. I mean, it was everywhere. And so I felt like I was in my own way. And what I needed to do once I hit kind of that 350 subscriber mark, I really needed to get the systems and support in place and allowed me to scale to get out of my own way and to grow that full time income that I was telling you about. And so fast forward to now when I'm recording this in 2019 here we are over 1200 subscribers and growing and I get to inspire and lead women every day in their own entrepreneurial journeys.
Speaker 1:
20:11
I get to call that my work. I am so so grateful for that. And to wrap it up, I wanted to share a little bit of inspiration. Remember that I was just like you. I had an idea that I was excited about but unsure about. I didn't have startup cash. I was overwhelmed trying to put the pieces together and I had a lot of fears. But girl friend, I got you. That's why I started this podcast. I want to help. If you want clarity on the subscription box business model, if you want to hear my war stories of starting a box business so you can learn from them and and if you want to answer that question you keep asking yourself, "Now what?", then make sure you subscribe to this podcast. This one right here, Subscription Box Basics so I can continue to show up for you and coach you through it. I cannot wait to see your amazing subscription box hit the market. Thank you so much for spending this time with me and I'll see you in the next episode.
Speaker 2:
21:19
[inaudible].
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