Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

Behind the Scenes with Leah of Mother Snacker

April 12, 2021 Julie Ball Episode 69
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Behind the Scenes with Leah of Mother Snacker
Chapters
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Behind the Scenes with Leah of Mother Snacker
Apr 12, 2021 Episode 69
Julie Ball

#069 - In this episode, Julie is joined by one of her students from Subscription Box Bootcamp Leah Brushett of Mother Snacker.

Leah is the Founder and Chief Curator or as she likes to say, the "Head Hot Mess Mama" behind Mother Snacker, a dessert gift & subscription box curated for moms

Tune in to hear Leah's journey of launching Mother Snacker, the challenges along the way, and how she overcame them.

Summary:

  • Introduction of Leah (00:01:12)
  • Launch Story of Mother Snacker (00:04:38)
  • The biggest challenge in starting Mother Snacker and how she overcame it (00:19:21)
  • Favorite thing about being in the subscription industry (00:19:49)
  • Advice to new and aspiring subscription box owners (00:20:55)

Links:
https://www.sparklehustlegrow.com
https://mothersnacker.com
--use coupon code JULIE to get 20% off
https://www.instagram.com/themothersnacker
https://mothersnacker.com/pages/about
--box sample

Show Notes Transcript

#069 - In this episode, Julie is joined by one of her students from Subscription Box Bootcamp Leah Brushett of Mother Snacker.

Leah is the Founder and Chief Curator or as she likes to say, the "Head Hot Mess Mama" behind Mother Snacker, a dessert gift & subscription box curated for moms

Tune in to hear Leah's journey of launching Mother Snacker, the challenges along the way, and how she overcame them.

Summary:

  • Introduction of Leah (00:01:12)
  • Launch Story of Mother Snacker (00:04:38)
  • The biggest challenge in starting Mother Snacker and how she overcame it (00:19:21)
  • Favorite thing about being in the subscription industry (00:19:49)
  • Advice to new and aspiring subscription box owners (00:20:55)

Links:
https://www.sparklehustlegrow.com
https://mothersnacker.com
--use coupon code JULIE to get 20% off
https://www.instagram.com/themothersnacker
https://mothersnacker.com/pages/about
--box sample

Julie:

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! Hey everybody and welcome back to Subscription Box Basics, the podcast. I'm your host, Julie Ball. And I am here with one of my subscription box bootcampers today. I'd like to introduce to you Leah Brushett from The Mother Snacker. I love this box. I've sent it to team members. I've received it myself, and I cannot wait to share this story with you. So without further ado, welcome to the podcast, Leah.

Leah:

Thank you. Thank you, Julie. Thank you so much for having me.

Julie:

Absolutely. You have been around our bootcamp group for quite a while now and your box is amazing. It is. I can't wait to talk more and like unpack this because you don't use that custom box design that we talk about a lot. And so I'd love to share that story, but first tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your background.

Leah:

Great. So I'm Leah, I'm the founder of Mother Snacker. I'm California born and raised, but I've lived for the last 10 years in the Seattle Washington area with my husband, who's my high school sweetheart and my son he's seven.

Julie:

Nice. So what is a little bit about your background? Where did you work in corporate America before? Have you always had the entrepreneurial bug? What does that look like?

Leah:

So I actually previously worked in the video game industry, so I was in video game development and it was my dream job. Um, but it also is a very volatile industry. So there's a lot of growth, but then a lot of closures. So , I was in one of those studios that ended up closing and then found myself just kind of at a crossroads of what to do.

Julie:

Ooh, I can't wait to hear about this story before we get into the launch story, tell everybody what Mother Snacker is, who you serve specifically and how you like, what pain point do you solve for them?

Leah:

Yeah. thanks. So I like to say that Mother Snacker is like a sweet break from the chaos of motherhood, because I think we all need to be more honest with the fact that sometimes motherhood sucks and while spa days and girls nights out are all awesome and highly encouraged. Sometimes they're not always feasible. So sometimes, you know, self-care, it looks like a hot date with Netflix and indulging in a delicious dessert. That's where I go. That's my version of self-care. And so Mother Snacker sends that feeling to a mom's door every month, each box starts, or each subscription I should say, starts with a welcome box. And I start with what I consider the real survival essentials of modern motherhood: coffee, chocolate, and dry shampoo.

Julie:

Oh yes, the trifecta.

Leah:

Yes. That's what you need. And then I add in even more delicious treats and other bath and body products, paper goods, just really anything that makes a mom's life easier and sweeter.

Julie:

Oh, I love that. And so you ship a welcome box. This is different than most people. The welcome box is that always the first box that any new subscriber receives. And then after that they kind of get put in the rotation or how do you manage that?

Leah:

So that's exactly how it's done and it wasn't how I started, but it eventually ended up evolving that way after kind of being in business for about a year. So every subscriber starts with that same welcome box and it's just a really nice way to introduce people to my brand. And that's kind of why I changed it. Cause at first it didn't feel as natural to just say, Hey, here's a box of treats and you get why I'm sending it to you. I started to send this welcome box to really introduce them to this idea that every mom should have a stash of sweet treats all to themselves and reminders that they're amazing. And you know, the motherhood is hard. They're not doing it wrong. It's just that hard.

Julie:

And that stash needs to be hidden, right?

Leah:

Yes, absolutely.

Julie:

So I, I love your idea of that welcome box . I think that's super smart. I'm constantly telling people that you need to train their customers how to use their box and how to use their membership, how to make the most of their subscription. And it sounds like that's what you do with that first box. So bravo on that. I love it. Thank you. Let's talk a little bit about the launch story, you know, where did the idea come from and, you know , when did you launch, what were some of those first steps you took?

Leah:

Yeah, so to make a long story kind of short it was 2017 and it was kind of a rough year for me professionally and personally, like I said, I worked in the game industry and my studio closed and , um, I had several other life events that just kind of threw it all for a whirlwind. And one night when I was doing my favorite version of self-care , which was that magical 30 minutes when my son is already asleep and my husband's still in the shower. So it's like just me. My thing was digging into my stash of delicious treats. And I'm just the kind of girl that, you know, Oreos are great, but I was really the one that was searching that small batch salted caramel brownie. I'm the one that's going after the super decadent rice Krispie treat. Like not just your average grocery store snacks. I was scrolling online, you know , chatting, commiserating supporting my local moms group. And it hit me one day. Like why isn't this something that's delivered to a mom's door every month to just have this. And I think that, you know, I had a hard time with motherhood . So sometimes I think if there were more people telling me you're doing awesome. I am having a hard time too . I probably would have , I don't know, had an easier time.

Julie:

Yeah. You wouldn't feel alone.

Leah:

Exactly. Yes. It's kind of a nod and an "I see you". Let's just, you know, we're in this together.

Julie:

Yeah. And do you still put in the affirmations , um , in the box where I remember seeing some of the pictures that said, like "You're doing great" or, you know, whatever, those might be that little bit of encouragement

Leah:

That is also in the welcome box or six cards and they've got different quotes on them. "Mama, you got this", "You're doing better than you think", "Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best that you can", "You are enough". Those kinds of quote cards. And on the back, they specifically say, you know, "read this, feel this, know this." And then when you're ready, pass it on to a mom that you think might need it more than you. So let's just kind of thank you because that's what it's kind of all about and what the box has ended up evolving into.

Julie:

Yeah. And they say it takes a village to raise a child and the moms need that village just as much as those kids do. So you're kind of building this village with the common ground of these sweet decadent, luxurious treats.

Leah:

Yeah.

Julie:

Awesome. So tell us a little bit about that, that rigid or that beginning pre-launch and right into the beginning of your launch stage, what did that look like for you? Did you start to create social media and start putting the feelers out there? Or what were your big things that you did at the beginning?

Leah:

Right. Okay. So 2017, I came up with the idea, but I was actually a really slow growth and I kind of planned this business and build this business in the fringe hours. I was still working full time. I was a mom, an okay wife. And so I actually ended up launching, actually posting to social media and spreading the word about six weeks, eight weeks before I launched. And I, so that was April 2018. So it took me a while . And then my first box has shipped Mother's day 2018.

Julie:

Oh, perfect timing.

Leah:

Yeah. Yeah. It really worked out.

Julie:

Nice. So, so many of us that are listening today are new and aspiring subscription box owners. So they want to know what were some of your challenges at the beginning there? What were the hardest things you had to overcome?

Leah:

Um, so I had a lot of, kind of the random roadblocks that were small that ended up getting solved. Like me realizing that I wanted those delicious small batch artists and treats, but they don't have a long shelf life. And there's a reason for them . You can't, and I've heard, you mentioned this on a couple other episodes. You can't ship chocolate every season to all parts of the country. So those are things that like I had to realize that I can't ship half my ideas that have these beautiful products that I found can't be shipped half of the year. So just product sourcing was kind of a hiccup that I didn't anticipate at first. I went fully customed with my box at first and thought, well, if I'm going to buy a custom box, I'll just buy the biggest one I can. Well, that means that your shipping costs are more expensive. That means that the products that you add, aren't always going to fill the box. So it feels like you're like, I don't ever want my customer to feel like they're opening a box and it's empty. So that was a hiccup.

Julie:

So wait, stop there for a second. What size were you at and what size do you?

Leah:

Okay, so I was at ten by eight by four. Okay. So that's a pretty big box. And now I'm eight by eight by two and three quarters. So significantly smaller and not as deep, which is what I really needed was before I wanted the big depth. Cause sometimes I'll send mugs, sometimes I'll send, you know, so I thought I'll get the biggest box which was, you know, ended up being a roadblock, but I hammered it out and now we're at where we are now.

Julie:

Okay. And what made you decide to go from that custom box to a non-custom box? So tell everybody what your box looks like too . Cause I want to make sure they can get paint a picture and we'll make sure to include an image in the show notes so they can see the actual box.

Leah:

Oh, great. Okay. So my box is a craft box and it's the tab tuck . So it's the kind of goes fully inside. And then I stamp my logo in black on the front of the box. And then because all of my boxes or all of my subscriptions start as a welcome box. It's wrapped with a black and white strike , cross screen , ribbon or cross green ribbon and , um, you know, tied with the boat.

Julie:

I love that it's such an underrated way to do your box with a stamp and that bow it just, and it looks sharp too . Cause you , your brand colors , uh, tell them about your brand colors and which ones that you use on the actual box.

Leah:

Yeah. So my brand colors are like really monochrome, so black and white and then touches of like a pale aqua. And so then in my box, it's really just the national craft, black, black, and white with the ribbon. And then my crinkle paper inside is within ivory. So just really muted monotone, but I feel like it, I mean, it works for me and I like to encourage people to think that they don't have to go fully custom at first, but also on the flip side, understand that this is not necessarily cheaper or easier because I have to stamp all the boxes there's mistakes sometimes. So there's, you've got to have a percentage that just didn't work out.

Julie:

Yeah, I never thought about that.

Leah:

But then also one of the things that works out really well with the craft box is that I get to change my sizes and still keep the aesthetic and not have to pre-order custom boxes. So a craft box, I can kind of order in different sizes and get the same look.

Julie:

Yeah, that's a really good point. And the reason why I wanted you to talk about your colors is because it is so like you , you called it monochrome like it classy and chic. Like you don't have to go the loud route, like Sparkle Hustle Grow where we're bright pink and you know, golden white crinkle cut. You have to really build your brand and decide what those colors look like and how you can translate that brand into an experience with the actual box. So I want to circle back on the product sourcing question real quick. Now that you realize that you can't send certain products in certain months in the United States because let's face it California, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, they're hot a lot longer than some of the other States. So what, how do you, how do you handle that with product sourcing? Are you just very intentional about what you buy during those months? Are there certain types of products that you kind of gear towards in the summer months?

Leah:

Yeah, definitely. That's absolutely what I do. So I won't ship chocolates past February and I won't ship them any earlier than November. And even in November they're like chocolate dipped versus like a straight up chocolate bar. And then I just changed my focus over the summer. So they're more temperature friendly, you know, short breads , chocolate covered pretzels, things like that. Or like the rice Krispie treats handle really well. Yeah, so just really being really intentional in finding the right vendors, taste testing everything which is the best

Julie:

I bet that's such a bummer to do no , like sign me up for that. So I imagine that the conversation is just very candid with your vendors saying I will be shipping this to all of the United States or wherever you're shipping it to. What like how long what's the expiration date, how do they ship from a temperature perspective and you, I guess you have to think about too storage. I'm not sure. Do you fulfill from home still or do you have a warehouse?

Leah:

Yeah, I fulfill from home.

Julie:

So you can really keep a handle on where you're placing those products in your storage. Whereas if someone has a warehouse, you need to make sure that it's temperature controlled and humidity controlled because you don't want your products to go bad before you've shipped them out.

Leah:

Yeah, exactly.

Julie:

So I guess, I guess it's just a , you know, when you're using products like food products, especially those that are perishable, you really have to have your finger on the pulse and have those conversations with the vendor in advance.

Leah:

Yes. I have to ask a lot of questions and clarify because you can't, sometimes I can't even just ask it. This is a mistake that I made in the beginning is what is your shelf life, but what is the shelf life from when I'm going to get it? So I want to make sure I get the newest batch if I'm ordering advanced and ahead. Cause they might have, you know, a 60 or 90 day shelf life. But the one that I get is, you know, batch that expires 30 days from now. So you have to be very specific. I ask, how are they shipping it to me? You know, how any recommendations for how I should ship them? Are they all individually labeled and packaged all of that.

Julie:

That's a really good point because if you're buying, you know, 30, 60, 90 days out and you receive those products in advance, how long does that product last beyond your ship date?

Leah:

So there's a lot of logistics with that. Like thinking about when things are coming in, when I'm shipping them and then some things they, because I, you know, I'm picking the small batch mate, they're only good for 12 days, let's say so I need them to ship it to me the day or the couple of days before I pack it, I need to pack quick. So like, you know , if you're packing 200 boxes and everybody else can kind of do them over days, let's say, if you're doing them at home, you're doing a fringe hours because you're a parent or you've got a full-time job. You can do paper goods slowly, but the food items, they have to go last quickly and then get up the door.

Julie:

So do you ship in batches or do you ship as orders come in.

Leah:

I shipped my welcome box as orders come in and then in batches. So everyone starts with the welcome box within two to three days of ordering. Then everybody gets there , you know, second, third, fourth, etc . On the 15th.

Julie:

Gotcha. Okay. Yeah . This is like rapid fire questions I have .

Leah:

Yes. And then Julie, I did want to share that actually my biggest roadblock. But it ended up was a negative, but turn into a positive was that I actually had trouble getting recurring, getting traction with recurring subscribers.

Julie:

Is, I was going to ask about gifts.

Leah:

Yeah. So that's actually where I ended up pivoting my model, how I ended up with the box that I do and how I ended up with the welcome box that ships immediately versus on a recurring cycle or the 15th, the traditional model. So I actually had trouble getting moms to subscribe for themselves. I was selling boxes, you know, left and right that were gifts sometimes. Well , often they were prepaid three, six, twelve months, but I had trouble getting people to subscribe for themselves. So about a year into my business and after, you know , diving into a lot of the operations in my numbers through like the bootcamp, just really looking in , honing in on who my customer was, what my product messaging was. I found that over 80% of my sales were as gifts. So I had a choice about a little after a year into business. Should I try and change the habits of moms and get them to subscribe? Or should I just dive deeper into what was working? So what I did was I ended up pivoting and changing my copy, changing my messaging that like, this is the gift that you send to moms. So it's moms buying gifts for moms and almost thank you. And they almost end up, I have recurring subscribers just in a different way. So a mom will buy a gift for their mom friend that just had a baby that mom falls in love. I've even had moms that have cried when they've got their boxes and then they go and buy a box for another mom and then so on and so forth. So it just it's recurring in a different way. And it's, you know, made the process different from a lot of the traditional subscription model but it works for us.

Julie:

I'm really glad that you shared that story because I would see that as a trend in the mom box kind of world, because you know, I'm a mom myself, I would think twice, oftentimes before treating myself to something decadent or, you know, checking the family budget to make sure it fits in there. And then almost feeling guilty sometimes like, "Oh, I shouldn't have spent that money on myself." And that's all a mindset thing. I've been working a lot on that over the years. I'm in a much better space than that, but I see a lot of other mom boxes saying the same thing. Like how do I let a mom feel like she can spend money and time on herself.

Leah:

Right. Yes .

Julie:

So that's why you shift shifted your brand messaging and kind of your first foot forward. Do you run ads too?

Leah:

Um, I don't run ads right now. I think it's that to me is a beast that I'm not ready to tackle because I really think like you have to really be intentional and know what you're doing or lean on experts on which I'm a big proponent of that. I'm just not ready for that stage yet. Or that amount of budget I think can really make a difference. I'm just not there yet.

Julie:

The reason I brought it up is I can imagine that could be a challenge to run ads at , to gift givers because it's not exactly. Well , I suppose you could, you know, target lookalike audiences of the buyers that you have, but the messaging has to be the right kind of, this is the gift that you give to your mom friends. So, Oh, I'd love to talk to you more about that when you go down that path of testing out ads. So, okay. So what is one of your favorite things about working in the subscription subscription box industry?

Leah:

That's such a good question. I have so many favorite things about having my own business. But since we're talking specifically about the subscription box industry, I think something that's completely unique to our industry and something. That's my favorite thing is that on a consistent basis, I get to discover, support, share, and buy from other small businesses. And you know, I'm not huge, but I love the idea that I'm helping them grow as my business grows. And I mean really in some ways I'd like to think that, you know, the cookies that I source from South Carolina, the chocolate covered pretzels from New York. The, you know , coffee from California would never get into the hands of a mom in Texas if it weren't for my box and now they're on her radar. So I just love that in my own small way and helping other businesses grow too .

Julie:

It's such a win-win and I like to think of it as the ripple effect. Like you said, it's introducing people to new brands and they're going to fall in love with it and then send and introduce it to new people. And it's just this beautiful ripple effect. And it's based around in your case specifically small businesses. I love that.

Leah:

Yeah.

Julie:

Very cool. Okay. So what is one piece of advice that you would share with our audience for, you know, if they're about to start their own box?

Leah:

So I think an important piece of advice and it's, I kind of l iken it to motherhood and I think a lot of your listeners and people that are in our b ootcamp i n our community are moms as well. But I think just like motherhood, your journey i n entrepreneurship can, will and should look different than other p eople's and that's okay. And that if one person is doing something to become successful and that's not for you, that doesn't mean that the version that you do can't also gain success for you. So I think that's really important. And then on the flip side, like you said, it takes a village. So find your tribe, find the people that understand what you're talking about. The people that you can celebrate with commiserate with g et ideas from. It's so important.

Julie:

I would agree with that. I have a handful of women that I get on a call regularly and they run high level , very successful subscription box businesses. And we do all of that stuff together. We cry to each other, we complain to each other, but we celebrate with each other and congratulate each other too . Everybody needs a box bestie. So there you have it.

Leah:

Yeah.

Julie:

Right on. Okay. So if you are interested, if you're listening and you're like, okay, I need to get my hands on this box. Where can people find you online and feel free to include your website, your social media, wherever.

Leah:

Yeah. So , thanks Julie. I am, you can give a gift or treat yourself at MotherSnacker .com and I set up a special discount code. If anybody is interested in getting one on my website, it's 20% off. And the discount code is Julie. So really easy to remember and I'm on Instagram. That's where I'm on the most, but I'm @themothersnacker on Instagram.

Julie:

Awesome. All right. You heard it use code Julie and you can treat yourself or gift it to someone. And you know, Valentine's day is mother's day is coming up like all kinds of great opportunities to gift it to a mom friend. I love it. Leah, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been fun chatting with you and everybody check the show notes. If you want to get those links and we will definitely put a picture in there so they can see your, your specifically your box design that we talked about and your pretty purple hair. I love it .

Leah:

Thanks Julie.

Julie:

Yes. All right, everybody. Thanks for tuning in as always. And we'll see you on the next episode.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .