Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

4 Year Anniversary - Then vs Now

October 26, 2020 Julie Ball Episode 45
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
4 Year Anniversary - Then vs Now
Chapters
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
4 Year Anniversary - Then vs Now
Oct 26, 2020 Episode 45
Julie Ball

#045 - We are celebrating Sparkle Hustle Grow's four year anniversary this month. We have sold over $2.35 million in revenue and shipped over 43,000 packages. We are excited and we are grateful.

Some of you may still be in the idea stage or in just launched stage and we want to encourage you because where we're at now, we were not at four years ago. If we can do it, you can do it too with a gentle reminder that you can never, ever compare your day one to someone else's one hundred.

In this episode, Julie takes us to a trip down memory lane and breaks down Sparkle Hustle Grow then and now in different areas of the business, from shipping less than 50 boxes a month to just under 1500 boxes.

Summary:

  • Capping subscribers by intention (00:02:14)
  • Email software (00:03:47)
  • Product sourcing and box curation (00:05:00)
  • Fulfillment (00:07:39)
  • Marketing (00:11:49)
  • The team (00:14:44)

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Cratejoy
Flodesk
12 grid cube shelf for planning
Catering shelf

Show Notes Transcript

#045 - We are celebrating Sparkle Hustle Grow's four year anniversary this month. We have sold over $2.35 million in revenue and shipped over 43,000 packages. We are excited and we are grateful.

Some of you may still be in the idea stage or in just launched stage and we want to encourage you because where we're at now, we were not at four years ago. If we can do it, you can do it too with a gentle reminder that you can never, ever compare your day one to someone else's one hundred.

In this episode, Julie takes us to a trip down memory lane and breaks down Sparkle Hustle Grow then and now in different areas of the business, from shipping less than 50 boxes a month to just under 1500 boxes.

Summary:

  • Capping subscribers by intention (00:02:14)
  • Email software (00:03:47)
  • Product sourcing and box curation (00:05:00)
  • Fulfillment (00:07:39)
  • Marketing (00:11:49)
  • The team (00:14:44)

Links:

Sparkle Hustle Grow
Cratejoy
Flodesk
12 grid cube shelf for planning
Catering shelf

Julie (00:01):

So you want to launch a subscription box and 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!

Julie (00:20):

Hey there, everybody and welcome back! I'm so excited to have you guys here listening to Subscription Box Basics today because we are celebrating our four year anniversary this month. That's right. Four years of Sparkle Hustle Grow and I'm so excited and I'm so grateful. And I thought this episode, it might be fun to talk about then, and now because we have a lot of listeners that are either in the idea stage or just the launch stage. And I want to encourage you because where we're at now, we were not at four years ago. You can never, ever compare your day one to someone else's 100.

Julie (01:05):

So I thought it might be fun to break down my business in a few different categories and tell you how things were then and how things are now. So just to give you a little bit of perspective over the four years, we have sold over $2.35 million in revenue and shipped over 43,000 packages. When I first figured out those numbers, it literally blew my mind and it really gave me something concrete to look at and be like, "Wow, this is what we've accomplished in four years". And I certainly didn't do it alone. And we're going to talk about that too. But in fact, our first month we sold under 50 and that was when I was a solopreneur, running this all on my own. but within nine months I was able to replace my full-time income. So I know you can do it too.

Julie (01:54):

I hope this episode gives you some inspiration to do that. So let's just start breaking it down then versus now. As I mentioned in the first month we sold under 50. I think I sold like 42 or 43, and then I shipped some extras as influencers. So that first month I remember shipping 60 boxes and now we send just under 1500 packages a month and that's by intention. A lot of people ask me, like, are you trying to shoot for 5,000 subscribers or 10,000 subscribers? And no, that's simply not in my game plan. We have figured out that somewhere between 1200 and 1500 subscribers is our sweet spot. Not only to keep the business manageable and, to keep the joy in it and to make sure it's not taking over my life, but also because we have an online community, the larger, an online community grows, the more, the more difficult it is to manage it and to keep it focused and to keep it clutter-free.

Julie (03:01):

And we found that right around the 12, 13, 1400 member mark is that sweet spot where people are still engaging how we want them to, talking about business ideas, asking for advice when it comes to their business and engaging with us when we post prompts about business. So we by intention keep it around that number. And some people may think of this as lack of ambition, but trust me, friends, it's by intention. This is where we want our business to be. And it allows me to bring home a salary to pay my team generously and to provide a really great safe space for our community. All right. 03So let's talk about software. When we first launched, I used a mix of Cratejoy, which is an all-in-one subscription box software. And I used it in tandem with MailChimp, which is an email marketing service provider, and that worked really well for us.

Julie (04:04):

And honestly, we used that pairing Cratejoy and MailChimp up until only a few months ago, we still use and love Cratejoy. But now we pair it up with an email marketing service provider called Flowdesk and flow desk just is, it's kind of newer to the scene, but what really drew us to them was one we were able to integrate it with Cratejoy using Zapier, but two, it has this beautiful, beautiful user interface to create landing pages and to create forms and to create really, really beautiful high-converting emails. And it is super affordable. I'm going to put my referral link in the show notes. So if you're interested in trying Flowdesk, you can use my referral link and you'll get a special deal. So we use the same cart software, but since the beginning, we've switched over to a better fit for us when it comes to email marketing.

Julie (05:00):

Now, when it comes to product sourcing, I used to look at just one month at a time because literally that's all I had the capacity to do. I would look at December and say, "Okay, what's going to be in the December box?" And it was probably 30 to 45 days out. Well, fast forward a couple years, and I was planning say 30 to 90 days out. I like to plan a quarter at a time and now believe it or not, we planned out all of 2021 already. My team had a meeting. We brought together all kinds of product samples, theme ideas, book ideas, and we literally laid them all out on the floor, planned out all of 2021. Now of course we had to build in some flexibility because things happen. Sometimes new books become available that we really want to include.

Julie (05:52):

Sometimes we get an opportunity by building a relationship with a guest expert that we really want to feature. So we do have some flexibility, but for the most part, we have 2021 all built out and planned. So you can do this a couple of different ways. We did this again, physically put all your products on the floor, lay them all out. When I came home from our team meeting, I have a 12 box grid. You know, those grids you can get from Ikea or Target. Maybe I'll put a picture in the show notes, but it's four across and three, vertically. And so I look at everything quarter by quarter. And so I put an empty box in each of them. And then I put all of the products that we're planning for in each box.

Julie (06:42):

So I have this huge visual of what is planned out for the entire year. And it's just so super helpful. I don't place the orders necessarily all upfront, but I do reach out to vendors and I talked to them about, you know, "I have three products in 2021 that I'd like to buy from you. Can you cut me a bigger deal or can I get free shipping?" Or, you know, it just gives me leverage when I'm able to talk to a vendor and say, "This is my commitment. I'm going to buy X amount of products throughout this year" gives you a little bit of leverage. So that's how I do the product sourcing. It used to be at just one month at a time. Then I moved to, basically quarterly. And now we are planning out all of 2021. And if you can't plan out an entire year at once, at least look at your themes. Plan out your themes all at once.

Julie (07:33):

And it's really going to give you a head start and it's going to give you some serious focus when you're product sourcing. Let's talk about fulfillment next. So when I first started, my office was in the laundry room and we packed our boxes on the dinner table. I had catering shelves-they were just from Target these tall catering shelves. I had those in our sunroom and that's where I would put all of the products and I would put all of the boxes. And when it was time to pack everything, we would put the leaf in the table to make it extra well. And like you do at Thanksgiving. And we would just line thing, things up, packing them out of my house. Now there became a point when we physically ran out of space for all the boxes. And that's when I knew I needed to find a warehouse and to start outsourcing this.

Julie (08:23):

And quite honestly, that was a huge move for me because getting that physical work out of the way and getting the products out of the house gave me so much space to work more on my business, to work on the marketing, to work on the product sourcing rather than the packing. So I tried out one warehouse, the first one was a bust. It just, it wasn't and didn't end up being a good fit for us. But shortly after, I moved quickly and started with a warehouse here in Asheville, North Carolina, and they were just a mom and pop shop warehouse. I had everything shipped there, including my flat packed boxes. And every single month, they'd carve out a couple of days where they'd grab a few staff members, build the boxes and then pack them. And then I would provide them with my labels that I would buy from the postage from Pirateship.

Julie (09:14):

And so they would print out the labels and then pack and ship everything. And it worked really well. It was like I said, it was a mom and pop shop. So it wasn't anything fancy. We had a shared Google spreadsheet, that mapped out what's in each box. So each tab was a different month. And then I had an inventory tab and a receivings tab as well. So the inventory tab, they were able to keep track of my shipping supplies, for example, flat packed boxes, boxes of crinkle cut, stickers if we use stickers, poly mailers, that type of thing, things that we were going to use on a regular basis that I might have to replenish. The receivings tab was a running list of the items as I ordered them. Say I ordered a thousand books, then I would add that to my receiving's tab so they would be aware that that shipment was coming in and they could let me know when it arrived. And then again, each other tab was simply what's going to be in the box. So I listed all the products, I listed how many to put in each box. And then my team at the warehouse had this easy reference point. So again, Google spreadsheet make it super simple. Now we use a warehouse called Shipmonk, and we recently moved to them because I needed some more automated capabilities. Previously, when I was using the mom and pop local warehouse, I would go there once a month and bring home all of the excess inventory. I would manage that inventory from home, just listing it in the shop and then shipping it out a couple of times a week, as orders came in. Well, I got to the point where I didn't want to manage that from my home anymore.

Julie (10:49):

I didn't want to spend the time shipping anymore. Those are things that I could easily automate. So I went with Shipmonk. They're actually based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but we ship out of their Pittston, Pennsylvania location. And so what I like about them is that they have warehouse management software. So all that stuff that I was putting in the Google spreadsheet now goes into their warehouse management system. And it automatically integrates with Cratejoy as well. So as a new one-time product order comes in, they can fulfill that for me. I no longer have to do that from my own home. So of course there is a cost of fulfillment, but when you look at it, the cost analysis, you'll find it probably right around that 250 mark, you're going to be able to budget for it because that's when you need to get out of your own way so you can scale your business.

Julie (11:49):

Next, let's talk about marketing then versus now. So when I first started Sparkle Hustle Grow, it was all about relationship building, which is still super important to me now. But I was able to use Facebook groups to really grow relationships and get to know people in my target audience. And I'm in my own target audience. I'm a female entrepreneur as well. So it was just a very natural fit. And those relationships really paid off. I also used event marketing. So this was October of 2016. When I launched my second month in business, I went to Christy Wright's Business Boutique in Nashville, Tennessee. And I got to set up in the marketplace where there was an event with 3000 women entrepreneurs, my exact target audience. So that was super impactful. And then fast forward a couple months, January of 2017, I went to a Boss Mom retreat in San Diego.

Julie (12:45):

And while it was much smaller retreat, there was a ton of relationship building there. I ended up hiring so many people from that event. I've got so many subscribers from that event. And so that's how I did my marketing. When it comes to my marketing now, I still use a relationship building Facebook groups and events all day long. These tactics have been tried and true, and they are worth spending my time and my money in, but now in order to scale, I've also added Facebook ads and we are dabbling just a little bit in Pinterest. So hopefully I can, do a podcast episode on Pinterest in the near future. But if you didn't catch it, the last episode I interviewed Becky Burgess, who was our Facebook ads strategist here at Sparkle Hustle Grow. And she focuses specifically with subscription boxes. So you guys got to go listen to that episode and snag some of her free resources.

Julie (13:43):

All right. The last thing I wanted to talk about, what for then versus now is my team. As you guys know, I was a one woman show when I first launched and it was tough, man, you wear a lot of hats. It was definitely a season of hustle for me, but it has all paid off. Slowly, I added new people to my team. And the first thing I added was a virtual assistant. So at the time I needed some help with customer service and just kind of, community-building some things here and there. And I hired Renea Gonzales, who is now our Director of Customer Experience. She was my first hire and it was the, one of the most impactful hires I've had, because that was the moment where I was able to step back from my business a little bit and figure out where I needed to spend my time, how I could step into that CEO role and not have everything fall on my shoulders.

Julie (14:44):

And I'm the type of person that when I'm working in my customer service or responding to reviews, whether they're negative or positive, I would carry that weight with me. So if there was a negative review, it would physically make me ill. And I was just getting too emotionally attached. So if you're like that, having a virtual assistant or having someone to help you in your customer service may very well be one of your best first hires. So since then I've hired a lot of people, mostly contractors. So we've got the warehouse. I hire a photographer as a contractor. I have an ops director. I have an executive assistant. Now we have upwards of 15 women who play a role in the success of both Sparkle Hustle Grow and Subscription Box Bootcamp. I am absolutely so super grateful for each one of them. They each have this zone of genius that I certainly don't have.

Julie (15:43):

So hire people who know how to do the things that you don't know how to do. So I hope this little breakdown of then versus now four years in helps you give a little frame of reference. If you are not doing everything right now, it's okay. I don't know if you know this, but we've had custom boxes from day one, but it wasn't until this past summer, four years in that we were able to budget in for internal printing, where when you open it up, there's beautiful printing, there's confetti and some information about the box. It wasn't until four years in. So don't sweat it. If you can't do everything from the start, you guys, this is a business where it's definitely not a get rich quick scheme. As you scale your business, that's where you can build in your profits. And that's where you can hire people and really grow your subscriber base.

Julie (16:45):

So again, I hope this was inspirational hearing the, you know, where I was then versus where I am now. If you'd like this episode and you want to get more free resources, head on over to SubscriptionBoxBootcamp.com, make sure you get on our email list. So you're the first to know when things happen, like very exciting things like the book that's coming out very, very soon. And we will soon be launching, Sell More Boxes, which is going to be a coaching opportunity where you have access to me and my entire team. We've not done anything like this before. So make sure you get on the wait list. You can get more details over at SubscriptionBoxBootcamp.com and thanks as always for listening. And I'll see you in the next episode.