In the era of public health concerns, subscription boxes have grown even more popular.
The Harvard Business Review reported that nearly 90 percent of subscription businesses have remained flat or grown their membership during the COVID-19 pandemic. There seems to be a subscription box for just about anything, from clothing to toiletries to meal kits, all of which have become increasingly attractive as alternatives to shopping in person.
And there’s one particular box that even allows you to support local Mid- Missouri businesses.
The She’s Native box launched last fall, a group effort between local entrepreneurs Angela Bax, Laci Rains and Bethany Walsh. Each woman owns her own local business — Bax owns what used to be known as Goddess Fit but, because of trademark issues, has been rebranded as East and West Co., which focuses on fitness apparel; Rains owns Carver & Jo Creations, which has handcrafted jewelry; and Walsh owns Hello Belle, a mobile boutique. (Walsh has become more of a silent partner to the project.)
The three women often would meet over coffee to help each other brainstorm business ideas. It was at one such meeting that they began discussing subscription boxes, all encouraging the others to try it for their business.
“We all just kind of thought subscription-based businesses are very popular right now. … It’s guaranteed business, it’s guaranteed brand exposure,” Bax said. “We all kind of wanted to do it individually and we all just kind of looked at each other and said ‘Let’s do it together!’”
“And then we got real excited. … Our community could use this,” Rains added, noting the importance of highlighting small businesses.
The boxes are done seasonally, meaning about four per year, and are not yet on the subscription model, though Bax and Rains said that’s on the horizon. (Hopefully, it will be in place in 2021, they said.)
“It’s just not there yet,” Rains said. “Right now, we’re more of a seasonal surprise box.”
For now, people sign up for boxes individually, and they are either shipped or picked up at the She’s Native pickup party events. Each box has a different theme, often tied to the season, and always includes an item from Bax’s East and West Co. and Rains’ Carver & Jo Creations, which Bax said is essentially what customers are paying for in the box price. (The fall box was $50. Rains said Bax’s leggings are typically in the $40-$50 range while Carver & Jo earrings are around $20.)
Everything else in the box is a surprise — always local and tied to the theme. The result is a box with about $200-$250 worth of local products, Rains said, noting they made a change this year where any vouchers or coupons included in the box do not get counted toward the overall box value after receiving some customer feedback.
The summer box featured items from Ice Cream Factory, Ready Popped Kettle Corn & More, Unique Creations Candle Bar, Grace Designs and more. With each new box, Bax said they get more and more excited about the items, proudly exclaiming how THIS box is easily the best one so far. (Bax said the fall box is definitely the best one so far.) But that’s the goal — support local businesses, get people excited about different local products and expand potential partnerships between businesses (a wonderful aspect Rains said she’s noticed at the pickup parties).
“We all bring different things to the table. … Smart business owners, in my perspective, should want to partner with others, even if you’re similar, because you’re going to get a different demographic, a different group of people, to grow,” Bax said. “How cool is it that I can wear (Carver & Jo) earrings, (Hello Belle’s) shirt and my leggings and support three local women? It’s not expensive and it looks amazing. That’s fun. As a girl, that’s fun.”
Fun is the operative word. While there is obviously work involved that neither Bax nor Rains shy away from, it’s also evident how much fun they have working on each box, not to mention the pickup party that goes with it. When asked how enjoyable it is to plan those parties, Bax immediately laughed wholeheartedly.
“That’s pretty much what we love the most,” she said, still laughing and excitedly going into the delight that comes with watching clients open their boxes and seeing what’s inside.
“It was such a good moment to see people open the boxes and be excited,” Rains said, recalling the first pickup party last year.
The fall pickup party is set for Sept. 23 at Cork and Board, following the box theme of “Wine, Dine and Feel Fine.”
Each party offers the chance for owners of the businesses featured in each box to meet customers, answer questions and see first-hand the reactions to their products. Plus, it gets people to businesses they may not have otherwise visited. Rains and Bax said they heard from many customers who had never been to BarVino or Vines on Broadway before pickup parties were held at those locations. Rains said she hadn’t had the chance to visit Cork and Board before planning the fall box and party.
“We feel like the pickup party is really, really important for our businesses to get that exposure,” Rains said.
Rains said it wasn’t difficult to get local businesses interested at first, especially after explaining the purpose behind She’s Native. It’s been mostly positive feedback, she said.
“Most people, I think, are excited to participate in something different,” Rains said.
Bax said doing She’s Native has helped grow her love for Jefferson City as she learned more about the options available for everything from food to entertainment to shopping.
“I’ve always loved Jefferson City,” Bax said. “Don’t ever say there’s nothing you can’t do in Jefferson City.”
As She’s Native continues to grow, Bax and Rains hope to incorporate changes, such as expanding into other Mid- Missouri communities.
“I think the end goal is that this will be a Mid-Missouri subscription box,” Rains said. “Because we have people who buy in Columbia or St. Louis.”
Bax said they don’t see any real limitations on what they can do; it just depends on how far they want to take She’s Native, especially factoring in the fact that they each have a separate business to run. Maybe by this time next year, Rains said, they could fulfill 250 boxes each time, instead of the 150 that is typically the cutoff number.
WANT A BOX?
It’s too late to order a fall box, but anyone can attend the pickup party Sept. 23 at Cork and Board and pre-order the next available box there. Bax said the next box is the most popular one – the holiday box. Each box has a limit on the amount available, so they emphasize signing up early. Learn more by checking out She’s Native on Facebook or visiting shes-native.myshopify.com.