Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball

Sub Summit 2021 Recap

September 28, 2021 Julie Ball Episode 93
Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball
Sub Summit 2021 Recap
Show Notes Transcript

#093 - In this week's episode of Subscription Box Basics, we are going to have a little recap about Sub Summit 2021 held last September 21 to 23 in Dallas, Texas. Julie is joined by Renae Gonzalez to give us some highlights, and takeaways from the event. 

Sub Summit is an annual conference dedicated to subscription businesses hosted by SUBTA (Subscription Trade Association). It is a gathering of subscription brands leading the industry and the suppliers that support their growth.

Tune in to find out why you shouldn't miss the upcoming Sub Summit in June 2022. 

Links:

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. Welcome back to subscription box basics with Julie Ball. That's me. And I just have to start off by saying, sorry, this episode is late, but we've been a little bit busy. We spent last week in Dallas, Texas for the Sub Summit and we came back and it was packing week for Sparkle Hustle Grow. So you guys all know what that's like. So today I want to talk about the Sub Summit. This will be a little debrief and I have the one and only Renae Gonzalez on with me. Hey Renae.

Renae:

Hello, and hello everyone. I am excited to be here and finally feel rested after a couple of days being home. And can't wait to talk a little bit about Sub Summit.

Julie:

Awesome! So if you haven't met Renae before, she is one of the coaches, the marketing coach here at Subscription Box Bootcamp, but also the longest standing contract employee of Sparkle Hustle Grow. She's the Director of Customer Experience and my right-hand gal, my ride or die. Like I could not do this without her

Renae:

And I am so happy to be here. So let's chat.

Julie:

Yes, let's do it. So , Sub Summit 2021, I give it five stars. How about you?

Renae:

Oh, five stars. Always.

Julie:

We have been to let's see, what did we figure out? We've been to four Sub Summits now, right? So Denver , New Orleans last year, virtual last year and then Dallas this year , this was super fun. It was our first big event back since , most events went virtual. So I was really interested to see how they were going to manage things as far as like crowd control and people being, you know, new again to like shaking hands or high-fiving, or just like being around each other. So , I was pleasantly surprised at all the precautions that they took. They had the red, yellow, green lanyards, which just meant like your kind of like your emotional comfort level of , how comfortable you are around people. Like red means like I'm just here to be a spectator. You know, yellow was like, I'm here. I want to talk and network, but I need my personal space. And then green was like high fives I'm here, let's do this. So that was really cool. And everyone really respected all of the policies they put in place. So that all being aside, like, let's talk about the content because the content is a big part of why we go. So Renae, do you let's, let's just walk through day one, day two, day three. So day one day one was , they, they kicked it off at 1:00 PM in the afternoon, but we hosted our Year in a Day workshop that morning. What are your initial thoughts on how the workshop went?

Renae:

Not to toot our own horn, but I thought it was , I thought it went really well. The group we had, it was something that people had to sign up for , as you know, Julie, but for our listeners. So , the group that signed up for it was fantastic. We started off with networking, which me and Julie, you may have heard stories before, but we met at an in-person event. So being comfortable at events because when Julie and I met, we knew no one at the time. So that was something I think for our whole team that was really, we wanted to create an atmosphere where not only can you learn and get some work done, but also have a little fun and network. And I feel like that was accomplished with our workshop.

Julie:

Yeah. I agree. What I know that it's so important to have people to do events with no one wants to go to all the sessions by themselves or well , maybe some people do, but you know, we have found the most impact when we have accountability or a friend to go through sessions with and to have lunch with and dinner with and just hang with. And so it was so rewarding to see at the beginning, you know, we, everybody introduced themselves and we met all these people, some had the boxes already, but then some were in pre-launch with these amazing ideas and I felt so inspired, but then fast forward, two days later, I saw some of those people still together or like posting pictures on social media together that they met in our workshop. And that just gives me chills. It makes me so happy. It makes events, I think, more fun, more impactful. And yeah, I was really pleased with that. So we had breakfast, we had mimosas and coffee and tea and networking to kick it off. And I loved that and I think we'll definitely be doing a lot more of that in the future for , small group workshops that we host .

Renae:

I love it. And I was going to say along the similar line to not only did on day three, we see those people still together, but unexpected perk for me was I knew we had our team and I felt comfortable being there, but us making new friends, right from the get go, or having familiar faces the whole event made it easier, especially at being our first event back in person to see all those familiar faces and to have already met them before the official event even started.

Julie:

Right. I agree. So then we dove into the content we taught the Year in a Day framework, which is our framework to basically plan an entire year's worth of box items and themes and categories for all of 2022. So we did training sessions, we did small group implementation. So you actually got stuff done. We didn't want to send everyone off with an entire to-do list because we know how it can be after an event. It can be really overwhelming when you go back at all your notes. And you're like, "Oh my gosh, it's so much to do." So we got a lot done at the event. And then we set them up for success to host their own planning day.

Renae:

And they were able to get to the opening ceremonies on time and already jazzed.

Julie:

Yes, exactly. And so let's talk about that. Like, so openings ceremonies, this was what Tuesday afternoon, the SUBTA team always over delivers. They have so much on Chris chambers onstage cracks me up year after year after year. He's so goofy and silly and just like naturally comfortable on stage. He had us all cracking up. They had the virtual thing going simultaneously so that if you weren't there live in person, you could be watching at the same time, which I thought was brilliant. It wasn't like, "Oh, you know, we're going to record this. And two days later you get to enjoy it." So , shout out to the substitute team for such an amazing event and such amazing app. They have this app that had opportunities to network and meet all the speakers and people that are there. It had the , exhibitors from the expo hall. It had the schedule. So you knew exactly where to go at what time. And it allowed you to set up reminders to like do a push notification, like 10 minutes , till this session starts. And , that's where you could watch virtually. So I was really, really impressed with the app.

Renae:

Yeah. The SUBTA team just knocked it out of the park. I think as entrepreneurs you're you are always looking at whether it's like walking into a store or going to a live event, you're always looking for things to take from it or on the flip side, things to critique and the SUBTA team, just like you've said, all of the technology was amazing. It made it seamless, whether you were virtual or not, or like us for a little bit to escape up to your room to recharge, you were still able to see the things you needed to see and not miss out on the events. Cause you're, you're able to watch it on the app or watch it on your desktop. So the SUBTA team did fantastic making, not only the virtual attendees feel included, but allowing us to go recharge if needed to.

Julie:

Oh yeah. Let's, let's pause right there for a second and acknowledge how much I did have to recharge. So if you guys know me, I'm very extroverted. I call myself an ambivert. So I'm like really, really extroverted. And then I hit a wall and I'm like, "Oh man, I need to recharge." So on the second day there was just a lot of big group energy. You know what I mean? Like I, hadn't been around big groups of people for a very long time. And if you followed along before, I'm not shy that I have anxiety and it's definitely a battle that I have. And so I went up, I don't know it was like noonish or so on the second day. And I told my team, I was like, "I'm just gonna go up and recharge for a little bit." And I started watching the , sessions virtually on the app and it was great. I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything because I was, it's kinda like I was still there, but I ended up staying in my room for what, like a good solid three hours or so, because I just needed to decompress not only from the travel, but from the big group energy. And it was just so nice to have that opportunity to do so. And so again, that app, man, I loved it. Well and so let's paint a picture of like physically what it looked like. So it was in this massive convention center next to our hotel, the Sheraton Dallas and downtown. And there was when you came down the escalator and you entered the actual event, it was the expo hall. So gosh, there was probably what like 10 rows of vendors. And so there was everything from crinkle cut to fulfillment agencies to marketing agencies to , what else?

Renae:

Hold it, holding up all my swag.

Julie:

She's got her mug from Shippo , a shipping company. We, I mean, there was a little bit of everything. There as far as like vendors, things that you would specifically need for running a subscription box business. And so , you could walk through, talk to people in person , set up appointments with them. It was really, really great. And then after that they had a couple of different rooms. So they had like, what did they call it? The grand hall or something like that.

Renae:

Yeah, main stage or I can't remember what the big one was called but yeah.

Julie:

So that's where like the biggest events where they had tables in there, plenty of space for everyone. And they would have people on stage, but it was really neat because some people, some of the presenters weren't even there in person, they would dial in virtually and they would be on the big screen. But when they had their conversations, it was still seamless. It was so neat because you'd see people on stage and then people on the big screen having this big round table conversation. So that was really neat. And then they had two smaller rooms and let's be honest, they were still large rooms, but they were called track one and track two. And they would have sessions going on in both rooms at the same time. So maybe in one room, it was about PR and the other room. It was about selling your business or maybe in one room, it was about collaborations and another room that we're talking about TikToK. So you got to basically choose which tracks you wanted to go to , choose the sessions and then you'd go into the different trap rooms. And then they had the last area they had was the snack and learn area. And I thought this was a really cool idea. This was on the outskirts of the expo hall. So like all the vendors were there and this was right next to it. It was kind of like this mini stage and they'd have just some chairs there. And then behind the chairs, they had a table with like some green juice and some snacks and things like that. And I thought it was a really smart idea because it would, you know , draw a crowd because they're offering free snacks, but to just to have another space, to get more people on stage and cover more topics and another place.

Renae:

And another place I think too, it was a good place to got to. If you, weren't going to escape up to your room or go for a little walk and leave the area just to kind of recharge. Cause there was a couple of times where individually, or as a team, we would go out and get some green juice and then we would not even think we were there to hear the speakers, but we would end up staying for the presentation. Cause it was captivating too.

Julie:

Exactly. Okay. So we're still on day one, they had their opening remarks. They had a couple of the, like a couple of keynotes actually that day. And we listened to those, we talked , they talked about the subscription journey, had some networking breaks and essentially, you know, that was day one. Like they ended day one with the pitch competition. And I think that was really cool because they were giving away what, like, was it $10,000 I think in like cash and services to help a new subscription box business get off the ground. So that was fun. They had the , the final round of the pitch competition and then they announced the winner and the Cube Awards , the next evening.

Renae:

Yeah. And I think something on day one that we did that wasn't necessarily on the schedule, but shows us practicing what we preach is our team gaped a little early. And we started to actually plan out our 2022 for Sparkle Hustle Grow. And that was something we do every year. And it was a good opportunity since we were all together to actually get going and start planning. Cause you had brought your whole suitcase of stuff anyways.

Julie:

That's right. If you've heard some of the other episodes, I talk about this, I'm aware. I basically traveled to meet my team and I check an extra piece of luggage. That's just filled with books, office supplies and tech gadgets. And this time it was 42 pounds worth. And what we do is we get together and we unpack all of that. We put together the next year's themes and then we take all those books, review them together. And then we pair them up with the office supplies and the tech gadgets and you know, the other things that we're going to put in the box, it gives us a really, really great headstart on the next year. It's what we taught in the workshop and we do it every year around this time, either September or October. And then when I come back, I can start putting the pieces into place. Like I can start contacting the vendors and I can start putting in purchase orders for those items so that they know, you know, Julie's going to need X amount of these in February or August or whatever. Now that all being said, we planned about 75% of our year. We still have some gaps that we need to fill in, but I mean, it's only September. We've got plenty of time to fill in those gaps. And I like to have a little bit of flexibility because sometimes new opportunities arise and we have to move things around and you can, you have to be flexible too , if there's things like , supply shortages or shipping delays. And so I feel really good about where we're at. We took pictures of each of the months, we've got our themes ready and I'm going to carve out some time now to like map that out in , a calendar Amy's probably going to put it in a project management software. And so we will walk into Q4 already knowing what to expect in 2022, as far as like the work that needs to be done to curate the boxes. That's such a good feeling.

Renae:

And I think we came home with like an extra sense of like, ha Like not only did we go to a live event, but we accomplished something really big for our subscription box business too. And I think that's a good lesson or a good takeaway from any anyone listening, even if you're not going to get together with your team, we always in some way, shape or form, we'll piggyback whatever we're traveling for, for business on something else. So last year, for example, we did our planning day, but we also got professional pictures taken and that was something we were able to use for marketing and just kind of get a refresh. And I think that's something our team does really well, but something that's a good takeaway from any, for anyone listening to is you can check off multiple things that are big to-dos. And we always, we always joke. We're like, oh, we're gonna make reels or , and maybe come with extra things. And then whatever you accomplish is just bonus because not only did you go to this live event, but you got other things off your to-do list too .

Julie:

Right. Well, and we were supposed to record this podcast episode while we were there. Oops, we got a little busy doing other things. So that's why this is late. But yeah, we are doubling up next month two in Nashville, we are attending Christy Wright's Business Boutique. It's one of our favorite annual events for women in entrepreneurship. And we are doubling up and having a five-year anniversary party.

Renae:

With our families, too.

Julie:

Their families, to what a bucket list item I had. This has been something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I know we're getting off topic here, but , to bring my leadership team together, but with our families so that we can all be at the same place at the same time and like celebrate all the things that we have accomplished. So this just is so fitting, our five-year anniversary is happening.

Renae:

It's happening.

Julie:

All right! And before we close out the day one activities, I just have to give a huge shout out to Lo Hixon , founder of Passion and Growth subscription box and The Subscription Xox Womenpreneurs Facebook group. She organized a little meetup at a Mexican restaurant that was so delicious. So any invitation we get that has Mexican food and margaritas , we are so in. So we had a really great time meeting some new people to us who now we get to consider as like in real life friends. So that was super fun. Thank you so much Lo for coordinating that. Okay. Back to the summit , day two was like the big, long day. That was the day where you had the most sessions that you could go to the most panels. Let's just talk about some of the highlights, some of the panels that we really love. How about that TikTok session. It was Crystal Lewis from Aisling organics. This is right up your alley with marketing.

Renae:

Yeah. She did such a good job and it was something that's so interesting for our whole team to listen to because Tik TOK is a platform that we are not on. So it really got our brains turning and deciding where we are going to go. And if we are going to explore that platform in the future, and even not, if we decide not to go on TikToK, somebody good takeaways for incorporating it onto other platforms too, like Instagram. But yeah, she really put up a good case for getting on TikToK.

Julie:

Good. Yeah. I really, really liked that one. And then another one that I really liked was our friend, Dr. Ebony Bell. She did a session called Take Your Box Outside the Box: The Power of Collaboration. This speaks our language. We love to collaborate, but her specific topic was about how to do social good through collaboration. And I guess I get chills thinking about it. Like she has taken her box, Dream Girl box so far, like to the ends of the earth. You know what I mean? Because she's working with nonprofits and other countries and I was just so inspired by the, the success that she shared, but also the action steps she shared and how to bring social good into your box business.

Renae:

Yeah. Not only what she was saying was, was so moving, but like you said, how she was saying, she was just, I think she was just inspiring us. You left really fired up and wanting to do good in the world.

Julie:

Exactly. And we all should feel that way. Okay. I'm looking at my list here. Another one of my highlights was our friend, Jill from Kids Baking Club. She hosted one called How to Get Your Brand PR Exposure. And you guys know we are huge fans of going the PR route. We have a lot of features over the years for Sparkle Hustle Grow that have really helped us gain street cred, but also gain customers help with that. When someone comes to your website and they see that you've had that PR exposure, they see those logos, it helps them convert to a buyer faster and with more ease. And so that was a really fun conversation. And I agreed with so much of what they were talking about, about using HERO the help a reporter out , to submit things. I actually was just before we're recording this, I was , I'm a student of Selena Soo's Impacting Millions program. And I was just referring back to her training in Impacting Millions about how to pitch gift guides. I want to just like a little refresher, and this is the time of year that you should be pitching your subscription box to gift guides. And so that's definitely on my to-do list over the next couple of weeks, I'll be pitching some on my own, but I'll be pitching any opportunities I can find through Help A Reporter Out. But , I just loved that topic with PR and I thought they did a really great job.

Renae:

They really did. And it was so timely, and it was, we touched on this earlier, but such a cool thing, speaking to how SUBTA was running it, it was one of the ones that you listened to virtually Julie and Amy and I heard in person and then seamlessly without missing a beat. When we were talking, we were able to talk about it, even though we were either watching it virtually or in person. So just a credit to the SUBTA team for making it an experience, no matter how you were watching it, that you would have takeaways.

Julie:

Exactly. Exactly. I love that. Okay. So the last one I want to talk about from day two, that you and Amy were like super pumped about. it was called How to Grow a Brand Without a Single Discount Offer. Now that topic alone, I think just drew in a crowd because it's like, wait, what? You can run a product-based business and not offer a discount code. And so the speaker was Kayla McKinley, the Head of Marketing from Dry Farm Wines. And so what did you think about that one?

Renae:

Her conversation with Paul Chambers was fantastic. She had a very similar humor to Amy and I too . So we were, we were giggling but had takeaways. I have now continued to stock Dry Farm Wines because I will, I will try it out soon, but yeah, it was such an interesting perspective because I think especially in the subscription box industry, you think to acquire a new subscriber, you have to do that discount possibly even a deep discount and to really hear their story and their why behind why they don't discount because they really value their product and where they get their wines from. It's usually sourced from wineries in Europe and just hearing that it was a families that, and they didn't want to discount that because of that. I think it really helped , get my wheels turning on the Sparkle Hustle Grow side to think, wow, we really do have a product that, that doesn't have to always be this deep discounted and get my brains on the marketing side really turning.

Julie:

Yeah. And , I think it was important was she kept saying about, she wanted to make sure people understood that this was quality , that they weren't going to, and I don't want to say cheap in themselves by discounting, but in the eyes of a consumer, if you do a deep discount, you can cheapen your product because that first interaction they're paying for so little. So it's really like this dance you're trying to do. You're trying to figure out perceived value. You're trying to figure out your profit margins, making sure you're able to pay your vendors. And I don't know about you Renae, but you know, I have noticed that since we raised our prices for Sparkle Hustle Grow back in, was it March of this year, March, April of this year, 202. I noticed that we have fewer customer service problems. We have fewer complaints. Now acquisition is a little bit harder because it's a higher price point. But the point I'm making is when people are happy , they have a little more skin in the game. They were more likely to actually use the product, make the most out of it and be there to quote Bachelor, "to be there for the right reasons."

Renae:

Totally. And these , our average lifetime per subscriber has increased too. So they stick around longer. I I've , we've had found that with our business and we still give the discount sometimes. But even with increasing that price, it really is attracting the right people for us and people that know that it's, it's like we say, not just a box of stuff that you have to , do the work, to grow your business. And it really has helped us attract the right people and something interesting, bringing it back to their discussion is she was saying how with Dry Farm Wines, they're profitable from their very first box. They sell. So as soon as they acquire a new customer, they're already profitable with them. And I think it's a really good lesson in something, especially when you're starting out a subscription box, you're just trying to acquire sometimes. And you're like, oh, like , I'll make it up. I might not be profitable, but to see that you really can be profitable from the first time you have that customer. I think it's important too to see where you put your dollars and where you discount, because you are in this yes, to change people's lives, but really it's a business and you want it to be able to keep going. So you want to be profitable as soon as possible.

Julie:

Right. So if that's something you're interested in, don't scope them out. Dry Farm Wines is the name of the company. Go sign up for their email lists , go follow them on social media. That's one really good way to kind of hack it backwards, like hack their marketing backwards and see, okay, what's their messaging like, what does their website look like? How are they positioning themselves as this premium wine? So that's what I would recommend if you are looking for an action item on this. Okay, so Wednesday the 22nd.

Renae:

Oh wait rewind, it was your birthday!

Julie:

It was so fun that I was amongst so many friends and colleagues for my birthday. And we had a reason to like, get dressed up because Wednesday night was the Cube Awards and we were nominated for the Thrive award. We did not win, but we were so honored just to be nominated. But man , they fed us well, they played fun music. They had all kinds of fun activities going on that evening. The SUBTA guys always throw a good party and I wouldn't miss it anytime we're at the event that the Cube Awards is definitely like high on our list. It's just so much fun.

Renae:

Absolutely. And even, and we're both someone you'll find us in bed sometimes earlier than others, but we have to make an appearance at the after party. They've the last couple of years. So I feel like it's safe to say they always have a photo booth that we said , so we acquire some really fun pictures too. It's always, yeah. The Cube Awards and their little after party is always , a must, if you are attending the Sub Summit

Julie:

Yep . I'm your ride or die till about 10:00 PM. Right? And then I'm tapped out, but we had so much fun. We had so many great conversations with old friends and new friends, and that was just, you know, an opportunity to get dressed up too. And they, they definitely outdid themselves as usual. Okay, so then that leads us to Thursday, the 23rd, which is the final day, this day, a lot of people use as their travel day. So the crowds were thinning, but we stuck around and we went to a couple of different sessions and we went to the closing ceremony, which is always super fun because they announced the location for next year, which go ahead , drum roll. Where's it going to be? We're going to Disney! Orlando, Florida is Sub Summit 2022. And we're already marked it on our calendars. Yes. What is it June 1st through the third, I think, right?

Renae:

Yes. First through the 3rd of June.

Julie:

Yes. And it is going to be at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. If I said that, right. Or the Swan and Dolphin Resort, I believe it is it's right on Walt Disney World properties. And rumor has it that you can even just walk to Epcot from there. I have not confirmed that, but that's the rumor I heard. And I'm really, really excited about this. My family is very excited. We're going to try and extend our trip and have a little Disney fun pending that everything is open and safe. And I'm really excited. My best friend since kindergarten lives in Orlando. So any chance I get to go there, I am just thrilled to. Shout out to Lisa. We'll see you next year in June.

Renae:

And it's just to make note too . So they moved it up to June, which is the normal time that it usually is. So they had , gone virtual last year, then pushed it back to September this year. But the June first through third, they typically do it that week after Memorial day. So if you are planning for future events , from here on out, it'll typically be either that last weekend May, first week in June, depending on when Memorial day falls to.

Julie:

That's right. And I get asked all the time, should I go to Sub Summit? And the answer is a resounding yes. Whether you go virtually or whether you go in person, this is our one non-negotiable event every single year, just because we can learn, we can network, we can meet vendors. We can support our colleagues all in the same place. This is our favorite event for the subscription box industry. And I highly recommend that you mark it on your calendar for next year to. Get involved with SUBTA. If you can, SUBTA stands for the Subscription Trade Association, there are a lot of different ways that you can get involved. You can become a member. They have some networking online and they host events throughout the year. You know, last year they did a Women in Subscription event. they had the obviously the Sub Summit virtual, then they had some different , like one-off events. So if you join, then you will make sure that you can go to all those events.

Renae:

Yeah. And I know they do a lot of on their YouTube slash Facebook page too. So definitely follow them on social media as well. And you don't have to wait a whole year if you miss this year's Sub Summit 'cause now what is that? Just nine months away.

Julie:

I can't wait . Ah , well guys, if you went to the event or if you attended virtually, we would love to hear your stories about what your highlights were, what your favorite session or panel was. anything you are willing to share DM us. We are @SubscriptionBoxBootcamp on Instagram. We want to hear from you. We want to know what, you know, if you're going to Orlando, if we should plan to see you next year. So make sure that you DMS , we love having conversations there. So you're welcome to do that at any time, Renae, in closing, anything else you wanted to say about Sub Summit, other than a big virtual high five to the whole SUBTA team?

Renae:

Oh, I know SUBTA team, you're amazing. And I think anyone listening, whether it is this event, whether it is another event, whether it's virtual or in person, I think to continue your learning both as a business owner and , consumer slash everything, just definitely get outside your comfort zone and , continue your learning. I think it's something we tell our subscribers to do at Sparkle Hustle Grow, but it's so important for a subscription box owners to do as well. So find those events that your people are at, and this is one of them for the subscription box community. And put yourself out there.

Julie:

Well said, and you don't have to do it alone. There's these amazing communities of people that you can get involved in, meet your box bestie , get accountability and just have fun. This is supposed to be fun and you know, doing it alone, that's not fun. So yes. Very good. Well, thank you so much, Renae, for doing the little debrief with us. I hope you guys enjoyed hearing about it. Again, message us and let us know what your highlights were and we'll see it in the next episode. Bye!

Renae:

See you guys soon. Bye!

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .