Episode 11: How to Start a Subscription Box Business with Julie Ball
How many subscriptions do you have? Most of us are no stranger to these!
I am joined by one of my favorite people, Julie Ball, to talk all about how she created a subscription box from scratch and how she now teaches others to do the same thing!
We are continuing along the theme of talking to business owners who have business models other than just digital products because I think it is so important for you to hear other ways that you can grow an online business.
Julie Ball is your Subscription Box Business Coach! She is the Founder and Chief Sparkler of Sparkle Hustle Grow, a multi-six figure subscription box and online community for female entrepreneurs. Julie leads thousands of women through personal development and business training in a way that’s fun and supportive. She is an author, speaker, community builder, and your business cheerleader, featured in Forbes, Business Insider, USA Today, POPSUGAR and more.
In Today’s Episode We Discuss:
- Physical products versus digital products
- The benefit of subscriptions
- How to stay unique
- Setting expectations with your product
- The importance of developing the experience
- Why you need to teach people how to use your product
- How to plan for hustle and rest
- Different niches of boxes
I think it’s so important for you to hear different ways that you can grow an online business so that you can find out which one is right for you.
No matter what type of business model suits you, I hope you found that the topics we covered in this episode were helpful!
Make sure to take advantage of the coupon code Julie gave us for her Subscription Box Bootcamp! Use code “MONICA” for $100 off the pay in full option! You can also reach out to her on Instagram if you have any questions about subscription boxes!
[00:00:04] You are listening to the Empowered Business podcast, I’m your host, Monica Froese, a mom of two and your secret weapon to creating a six figure digital product business.
[00:00:16] I’m on a mission to help 1000 women make 100000 dollars a year. That’s right. One hundred million dollars towards financial independence for women. As an online business expert, I am teaching you everything I know right here week after week so you can join us on the journey to 100 million dollars. Sound good? Then let’s jump in.
[00:00:47] I am so excited for today’s episode because we are continuing along the theme of talking to different business owners who have different business models other than just digital products. We’ve learned about agency models and memberships and service based models and today we’re talking to Julie Ball, who is a subscription box business coach. She is the founder and chief sparkler of Sparkle Hustle Grow, a multi six figure subscription box and online community for female entrepreneurs. And Julie leads thousands of women through personal development and business training in a way that’s fun and supportive. She is an author, speaker, community builder and your business cheerleader featured in Forbes, Business Insider, USA Today, PopSugar and more and Julie is going to impart her wisdom on us and how she built a subscription box from scratch. With no previous history. She didn’t know how to source products. She didn’t have any of that knowledge and she bootstrapped it, developed this amazing box for female entrepreneurs, and then went on to teach other entrepreneurs how to build their own subscription boxes. She’s truly one of my favorite people, and I think you’re really going to enjoy today’s episode. So let’s dive right in.
[00:02:03] Julie, welcome to today’s episode I’m so excited to have you! Yes! I’m so happy that you started a podcast. And thanks for inviting me.
[00:02:12] Ok, so I want to hear a little bit about your background and how you got started on the entrepreneurial journey.
[00:02:20] Yes. And this is so exciting, actually, as we’re recording this. This is my 10 year anniversary in entrepreneurship.
[00:02:28] I’m not sure I knew that you’ve been doing this for that long to be OK. I know I’ve known you for several years.
[00:02:34] I know. OK, so let me take you back. I was a corporate girl climbing that ladder in a very male dominated industry. I was working in corporate America for about 10 years and the industry was music. So a lot of music marketing. I worked in getting sponsorships for live concerts, that type of thing. My last job before becoming an entrepreneur, I was the digital sales manager at CBS Radio in Charlotte. So very high stress, very corporate on, although you would think, oh, working for a radio station sounds like a lot of fun. Yes, they did have some great perks, but it was much more corporate than you had expected. And it was one day when I walked in to my job and I was in a manager position and I had on a button down shirt and some pinstripe slacks which fit the corporate mold. That was fine. But I had on my chucks and I got in some trouble that day there. Like, you can’t wear chucks to work. You are a manager. And I was like a manager at a radio station? Come on! And that just really flipped a switch in my mind that I don’t want to be told what to wear. You and I have this conversation about not being told what to do. And it just made me realize that corporate America is no longer the place for me. But the problem was when I when I look back in this in hindsight, this was definitely a weakness of mine.
[00:03:55] But I felt like I needed an out. I needed a reason to leave. I didn’t have the gumption to just say I quit or I’m moving on somewhere else. I felt like I had to have something lined up. Well, my out came as having my daughter in twenty eleven. I had McKenna, who is about to turn ten, which is crazy to think about. But when I was pregnant with her, I was experiencing a lot of morning sickness and I had a mindset shift where I was like, this is not what I want for my life anymore. Like I do not want to be commuting to the city every day. I do not want to be that far away from my child if we were to put her in daycare. And so I started freelancing on the side. My background is marketing. And then I have a master’s in Internet marketing from Full Sale University, which is like a digital media arts school. And I figured out all I need is an Internet connection and a few clients and I can work from home. Well, it’s not that easy. You know, it takes time to build up that book of business. And while working full time and being pregnant, I wasn’t able to build that business quite yet. However, it gave me my out and I decided to put in my notice after I had McKenna.
[00:05:01] And so fast forward, you know, we didn’t know if it was going to be this leap of faith. It was going to be like three months or three years or forever or whatever. But it just gave me that out and that reason to leave my job and I’d figure it out as I go, you know what I mean? I didn’t feel at that point that I needed to have something else to step into because what I was stepping into was being a stay at home mom. And that was never my intention. Like, that was never something where I was like, oh, when I grow up, I want to be a stay at home mom. I know some women are built for that and I love that. But I went through an identity crisis. I lost my identity of being that corporate girl, that manager position. And I struggled for those first few years. And what I did was I was running a Web agency to help small businesses build their brand online. So it was about I had a few, a handful of other women that would help me with branding photography and that I’d build their websites, help them with SEO and all the things I was wearing a lot of hats. And I ran that business successfully for about, oh, gosh, it was five or six years.
[00:06:06] So fast forward to twenty sixteen. We moved from the Charlotte, North Carolina area to Asheville, North Carolina, which is in the western North Carolina mountains. It’s true, but the mountains were calling and we decided to make that big move before McKenna started kindergarten. When things start kind of firming up with her friendships and soccer or whatever she’s going to be involved in. And so we moved here and all of a sudden found myself in a very lonely space where I thrive in community. And I had left my corporate career. I had left the place I had lived for 10 years, and we were in this new place. And while I loved the surroundings, I just didn’t have my community yet. And so I had to make a lot of effort. So as I was working my business behind the screens, I was really lonely. And so something that brought me joy during that time was getting happy mail. Something that would bring me joy would be like getting my Stitch Fix or Yogi Surprise. And they were subscription boxes. And that’s what planted the seed for me to kind of honestly, I was a little bored behind the scene and this was a side hustle. I was like, I already served female entrepreneurs in this online space. Maybe if I sent them some happy mail, they might feel this joy as well.
[00:07:20] That’s kind of what started it when I feel like I met you. Right when. Yes. We haven’t said the name yet, but Sparkle Hustle grows the name of your subscription box for female entrepreneurs. And I think within the first year I know I got a box. Yeah. So like I was there in the beginning.
[00:07:36] You were, definitely. I sent my first boxes in October twenty sixteen. And then I went to the boss mom retreat in January of twenty seventeen and yes that’s kind of where I met a huge group of I guess it wasn’t a huge group, it was one hundred women. But I swear of that hundred women I’m so connected with so many of them have hired them along the way or have featured them in our membership and subscription box along the way. And I think that’s where we met.
[00:08:05] Ok, I want to back up here because you have always blown my mind with this box. I find digital products are so much easier than physical products and we talked about this before. But I mean, you can create a digital product and you create it once you sell it over and over again, which you do do that as well. So we’ll talk about that down the road. But the thing about the subscription box that blows my mind is, first of all, when you started it, didn’t subscription boxes really just kind of start gaining steam? Like Netflix wasn’t a thing very long before this?
[00:08:37] You know, I can’t remember when it launched, to be honest with you, but twenty sixteen, it was fairly still new industry. And since then it’s really blown up, especially during twenty twenty when we were all kind of forced to buy everything online. Yeah. And so it was an opportunity for a lot of business owners that had maybe a brick and mortar store or just an online shop that they needed to move inventory, adding that subscription box kind of saved their butts.
[00:09:05] What would you say? It’s fair that physical subscription boxes sort of emerged from we all know that recurring revenue in a business is very important. Yeah. And almost everything we consume nowadays is actually a subscription model. I mean, I was telling my students about how even the car wash tries to get me to sign up for membership to get car washes and Panera and Burger King, like everything. And so really, it started with digital services like Netflix. And, you know, everyone was moving to this membership model and then physical product creators were like, wait a minute, can’t we do certain things every month and get this recurring revenue? So do you think that that’s where it was born from? They thought that physical product creator saw it working on the digital side and they’re like, wait, I think we can do this, too.
[00:09:54] Yeah, but wait, think about when we were kids. Were you a member of the what, Columbia House? I knew you were going to say that!
[00:10:01] I knew you were going to say! As soon as you said when we were kids, I knew you were going to say Columbia Records. So when we were kids, you know, that was definitely something I did.
[00:10:09] And then we did as we got older, Netflix was saving the DVD. Yeah. So the model’s been around. It’s just gained in popularity and it’s become a lot more accessible. And a lot of the companies, especially with consumables, like with meal plans or our friend Jessica with all Girl Shave Club, the things that we use on a regular basis, we can just serve our customers so much more when we didn’t even have to press a button to order it anymore. It just shows up when we need it.
[00:10:36] Well, it’s like Amazon subscribe and save, which, you know, it’s so weird because I avoid, subscribe and save like the plague. I don’t know why I have a note sitting in front of. Right now, as we’re recording this, it says garbage bags, the same garbage bags that we order for our little trash cans around this house, I order them religiously, probably at the same exact time, in the same interval. And yet I’m so resistant to hitting that subscribe and save button on Amazon. I think it’s just because I feel like subscriptions can get away from you. They just mount before you know it. You’re like, look at your credit card statements, like wiring, all the stuff that’s coming out. Yeah, I’m assuming that that is something you battle, too.
[00:11:15] But before we get too ahead of ourselves, I have to ask this question, because this is the thing. Where did you even get started? So you, like, sat there and you’re like, OK, I want this community with my female entrepreneurs. I want to create this box for them, which is an amazing box. I’ve been in and out of it over the years, so I’ve gotten enough. I’ve been featured, and it’s a very unique thing you did because you combined a sense of community online with the box. So you have a Facebook group, you have guest experts that come in. I’ve been your guest expert twice throughout the years, but where did you start to even source the stuff that goes into the box? Like how do you just decide one day I’m going to do this massive operation?
[00:11:50] Well, I’m lucky in that I am my own target customer. And so for me, it was very easy. I went back to my credit card statement and my receipts and said, OK, what am I buying? Where am I dropping my money? And it was very clear to me, I mean, do an audit on your own expenses and you’ll be like, oh yeah, I see where all my money goes. And so it was easily books, it was online courses and it was office supplies because I need inspiration. I don’t want to just sit there and have like a plain composition book and a plain black or blue pen. Like, I really love pretty design and it just inspires me and that’s what I like to put in my office. And so I just thought to myself, well, what if I put those things in a box? And realizing that online training could be delivered in a unique format where at the time when I started, we had a postcard and the postcard gave you your login information so that you could access that training for free, whereas otherwise you’d have to buy it. One of the things as an earlier, newer entrepreneur, and you might relate to this, but I was going down that freebie rabbit hole where I’d like sign up for everything and then my inbox would be so cluttered. And so we thought that, well, I thought that Sparkle Hustle Grow, could really help with that. I would do the research for you and curate the best of the best and give you access to those experts so that you didn’t have to sign up for every single freebie. You could directly get some of this great training and that guest expert would be available in the Facebook group and that it’s almost like you’re buying that access.
[00:13:16] I think I’ve yet to see anything like what you created because you combine the happy mail, the box shows up all these cute trinkets.
[00:13:25] I still use a lot of the things I’ve got on the boxes, like the one time you sent me the little cute for all the wires. And now I have a mini but practical, right? Yes. And I actually I just found them recently because I now have a desk in the middle of my office and you can see all the cords when you walk in. And I use them and I think you probably gave them to me like four or five years ago was funny. So you get this happy mail that shows up with all these little trinkets and you see it with a I know there’s a book usually that comes every month. Yep. Yeah. Notepads. And then on top of that, they can go into a Facebook group, meet with the guest expert that you collaborate and connect.
[00:13:59] And yeah, I think the one thing that’s really kept us different than the rest is that I am hyper focused on the business and personal development side of it. I don’t put in lifestyle or wellness or makeup or anything like that. And I realize, yes, as women entrepreneurs, we use all of that. But someone else can fulfill those needs in another box. And I’ve stayed hyper focused on that. And even recently we’ve gotten even more focused and we have narrowed it down to four specific categories that will fulfill each month. Book, office, supply, tech, gadget and stationery. So those are the fourth like items outside of the community. And we have a membership hub with all the training and stuff now. But the more I’m in business, the more I find that that hyper niching down in that hyper stay in your lane type mindset is really helping me stay unique. Helping Sparkle Hustle Grow, stay unique from the rest and really set the expectation of what to expect, like what you’re going to get in the box.
[00:14:58] You know, it just occurred to me, while you’re explaining this about like knowing the different types of things that are going to put the box in your very systematize. I mean, I’ve done a lot of subscription boxes over the years. I’m sure a lot of people who are listening have. I think yours is the only still today one that came with the community to it. Which I kind of, now I’m connecting dots, this is why I love interviewing my friend, because I like connecting dots of how this all worked. I’m going to jump a little bit ahead because you do teach entrepreneurs how to do their own subscription boxes. Which I want to talk about that. Is your way of teaching really, is it about mirroring? Do you teach your subscription box owners to mirror community with the box? Is that like your proprietary? Part of it.
[00:15:39] Ok, so how do I explain this? I tell them they need to create an experience and. You want to be more than just a box of stuff, because if you’re just a box of stuff, people don’t need you.
[00:15:53] But if you create an experience and that experience might mean a community or that my experience might mean that you curate a playlist to play while you’re doing your unboxing, there’s so many different ways to create experience. That’s not a physical product, but that aligns with it and it just makes it a better experience. And maybe another example would be like for Stitch Fix. Over the last few years, they’ve implemented some new things in an app where you can go in and you can leave messages for your stylist. You can go through what they call it, the style shuffle quiz, where they say, Do you like this? And you click yes or no, and it helps them get to know your style better. And so those are some of the experience things that you can add. Now, that’s complicated and not something that you would do like right out of the box as a new entrepreneur, especially launching a digital product. But that community has been so important for the success of Sparklehorse Will Grow and how my team and I pour into our our subscribers.
[00:16:50] I mean, it makes sense to me because something that shows up in my mail continuously that I’m not engaged with is so much easier to cancel. So I guess I never even really thought about the importance of developing the experience behind the box. I guess I was thinking, even though I knew that’s what you did, I guess I just really thought about how you were a unicorn and never really thought about the fact that you had to put a lot of thought and effort into how to mirror up keeping people because retention is a big thing. It in boxes, too. And so the better hold that you have on people you do on boxing and stuff, you get everyone excited when they get their box. It’s like you make it a huge production.
[00:17:31] The reason we do that is I firmly believe that you, especially if you have physical, you would be if you have a digital product, too, you have to teach your customers how to use your product or it might just sit there and not get used to us. You’re so right.
[00:17:46] That’s why I do an unboxing in our group and I tell them exactly why I put something in the box and how I personally use it. And it helps them think outside of the box of maybe, oh, I hadn’t thought about using it for that. And any time I use a product, I’ll say, Oh yeah, I just did some Instagram rules and I used my tripod from the November box. Things like I’m constantly referring back to the products.
[00:18:09] So what’s interesting about this is I’ve been doing digital courses for over six years. I don’t even know. It’s feels like a lifetime. And it’s funny because I never really thought I was going to be a teacher. Like, that never resonated with me. I wanted to be a lawyer. Me neither, actually. So it’s funny that I ended up being an online teacher. I really don’t know how it happened, but I think it’s because I break things down. I’m very systematic about things that lends itself to teaching. But we hear a lot. And this is where physical product world can kind of match the digital product world in the sense that we hear a lot about the fact that students who buy online courses rarely finish them.
[00:18:44] And when you first start selling, there’s a lot of moving pieces. You have to get people to buy the course. You have to get people to complete the course. And if you’re not making money, then you’re not going to keep selling it. So a lot of people just stay in that zone of focusing on the selling and they forget about their student experience. And as I’ve grown as a teacher, I’ve come to realize that there’s the little things that you do to help people get to the next level. So like in the course that we’re doing now, we actually have lessons set up, which I never have had before, to explain how to get the most out of the course. Oh, yeah. And it’s such a simple thing in hindsight, but I never did it before because I just thought, well, you bought it, so you should just go through it. But it’s the experience of leading people through it. And like a guided tour that makes all the difference, like what you’re talking about, to get people engaged with your products.
[00:19:34] Have you ever looked at the inside lid of the Sparkle Hustle Grow Box?
[00:19:38] I have, but I haven’t in a while. Actually, I have one sitting on my desk.
[00:19:42] It’s how to make the most of your membership and it gives you five steps like do this, do this, do this, do this, do this. And it tells you to join the online community and get engaged, join the book club, get your training. So it’s constantly reminding them of those things.
[00:19:58] And I forgot to mention this.
[00:20:00] My entire subscription box is a business write off because everything is business oriented. Right? So there’s not a lot of subscription boxes that can say that. So I definitely have that working in my corner.
[00:20:12] All right. So now I want to ask so you get the subscription box up and running.
[00:20:17] I know like a year in the community is pretty hoppin’, I guess you can say, and the community is just for the subscribers. So we do I don’t want to call it a purge, but we we do remove members usually on a quarterly basis because sometimes people will skip a month because entrepreneurship roller coaster has its ups and downs. So if for whatever reason they need to skip a month, that’s fine.
[00:20:39] But we do remove members because we do things in there that are for members only their perks. Of being a subscriber.
[00:20:47] Ok, so let me ask you this, how long did it take you to really feel like you had a good grasp on sourcing everything, shipping every because there’s a lot of moving pieces here. Yeah, there are. So October 2016, FOX goes out and if you feel like you had a really good system in place for systematizing the whole thing.
[00:21:07] Ok, so let me work through this out loud. October twenty sixteen is when I shipped first boxes. Three months later, right after the holidays, I hit that one hundred subscriber mark. And that was a milestone for me because one hundred in my mind is like, OK, this thing has legs. I’m going to keep working this angle. If I was pursuing it and I was struggling to get to one hundred and it it’s easy to struggle to get to that first one hundred. But once you hit it, it’s like, OK, people are putting their money where their mouth is, like they’re buying nine months in. I was able to replace my full time income and that’s when I had to make shifts and I stopped taking clients for my Web agency. By the end of the year, I had phased out all of my clients and went all in on Sparkle Hustle Grow. So I didn’t have any more agency retainers by the end of that year. I think it took me and I piece this all together myself. There was no course for me. There was a lot of scattered information, a lot of learning on the fly and learning by doing and making mistakes. Probably about a year in, you know, I felt pretty comfortable with, OK, I know what I need to do.
[00:22:14] This is growing sometimes, you know, projecting that was difficult. Projecting next month’s sales are three months out because the more you buy, the further out you have to buy it because of quantity. And then I launched subscription box boot camp at the two year mark. And that was because after that year mark, people started noticing. They saw that this box was successful and they were asking to pick my brain. You know how that goes? I know how that goes. Yeah. And I wanted to help people, but there’s only so many hours in the day. And I also had to run my own business. I couldn’t give away all this free advice. And so I decided to go the course route. Even since then, though, I’ve really gotten better on a lot of my systems because I hired someone. I hired Amy Lokkren. She is our operations guru on staff and she’s really helped me understand to take systems out of my head and put them into actual like SOP standard operating procedures or to just Loom it, video yourself while you’re doing something. So I could start delegating. And that was a big game changer for me.
[00:23:13] Did you prior to starting the subscription box, did you have any history on sourcing physical products? Warehouse shipping? or anything like that? No, I did not.
[00:23:25] But I think what was working in my favor is that even if I’m afraid I do something anyhow and I really live and practice and preach this quote of just ask, like, if you don’t know something, just ask. And if you want something, just ask. So I would just reach out to vendors blindly and be like, hey, I picked this up at Target and I really like this. And I think it would go great in my box. Who can I talk to or how does your wholesale program work? And I just started learning on the fly. And then once you bought a few things wholesale, you realize like everyone is pretty much setting up a similar wholesale program. And so I just had my little template. It was, hi, my name is Julie Ball. I run a subscription box for female entrepreneurs. I’m interested in X, Y, Z product in the quantity of, say, a thousand. Who can I talk to about wholesale pricing? I mean, that’s all I had to ask.
[00:24:17] That is so impressive. I can’t even tell you how impressed I actually am by that, because truly, though, I mean, talk about really like this was pure hustle for you. Definitely.
[00:24:28] It was a season of hustle. And I really believe in work hard, play hard. Like I know there’s there’s seasons of hustle and their seasons of rest. And I’m at a point where I can better plan for that now. But that first year, even that first two years was definitely a hustle for me. But it’s it’s paying off, that’s for sure.
[00:24:45] You know, did you ever, I talk about this a lot because my daughters 8, our daughters are about a year apart. And I always think I didn’t get very much handed to me when I was a kid, but I had a lot of really great advantages. That’s a whole separate conversation. I had a lot of advantages, I totally recognize that. But I always had to work for what I got, like I had to put in the work. I didn’t really get anything like handed to me per say.
[00:25:09] And one of the things I find from a learning perspective that I appreciate learning from people who had to put in the hard work. Like, you are the type of person that if I wanted to do a subscription box that I want to learn from because you didn’t have anything handed to you, you had to do all the nitty gritty work, like you had to figure from baseline up. Nobody handed it to you on a silver platter. It was like, here, here’s how it works.
[00:25:32] You had to be gritty, like you’re the type of person that I’d want to learn from honestly, because you’re welcome. And why we get along so well. I thought about it.
[00:25:42] You might I think you’ll appreciate this the way I position my course now is think of it as like the Disney fastpass to starting your subscription box.
[00:25:51] I love that. That’s great marketing tool, by the way. Just don’t say Disney, because Disney might.
[00:25:57] Ok, we’ll just call it the FastPass because I feel like, you know, the whole goal with with the program is to get you from point A to point B as quickly and as easily as possible, because you’re right, I went through the tears and I had to really do a ton of research and it took a lot of time away from my family. What happened was my husband and I, we would have some real conversations about that. It’d be like, you’re working a lot. And when I would show him, it took a spreadsheet for him to understand what recurring revenue and what this could really look like. And I had this spreadsheet and I had 12 months laid out. I said, OK, if I sell 40 in month one and then we’re up to a hundred in month three or four. And then I showed him how that would grow, what that would mean month after month after month. And then it kind of clicked with him. And he’s like, oh, I get why you’re hustling so hard, because this is going to have a really good long term stability that it was it was definitely a conversation that I had to have because he was like, I mean, our house is full of boxes and you’re working a lot of late nights and like, what’s up?
[00:27:01] Well, that’s what I think. People don’t understand that the somewhere recently I tried to describe this as the early building blocks of a business. When you’re starting from nothing is like to move an inch is like pulling teeth. But then you can move three inches with like half the effort and then you can move four inches with half of that effort. Oh, my gosh yes. The snowball effect. But that beginning stage is so hard, which is why I find someone like you to learn from so motivating, because you can so clearly speak to the fact like you started with nothing, zero. There wasn’t some big surge of investment that you got. And it was a side hustle. Yeah, it was just from the ground up and like that grit that goes into that. In my experience, having taken a lot of courses and stuff out there, makes for a really great teacher. So let’s talk quickly about the, I feel like so many people are going to find this. They’re listening to this find this so interesting, which is your actual course on teaching. But also it’s called again, it’s called Subscription Box Boot Camp, Subscription Box Boot Camp. And you’ve been running it, I feel like, for at least two or three years.
[00:28:09] I launched it in twenty eighteen. How many people have you taught how to create their own stuff? That’s a good question. We have I think we have maybe four or five hundred people in the group right now. So what we have is the courses self-paced.
[00:28:23] And then you also have this community and that again is one of the huge bonuses, because when you’re launching a new business, a lot of times you feel very alone. You don’t want to share too much because you’re afraid someone might steal that idea or that you are fearful that it might fail. But we have this really, really safe community. And what one of the things I love the most about it is one, like me and my team are in there every day. We check and we answer questions and we support each other. But to some of those original boot campers from September, twenty eighteen are in there now cheering on the newer people that just joined maybe last month, for example. And it’s so beautiful to see people lifting each other up, even those that have similar ideas. And we always encourage them that similar ideas are OK, we come from a place of abundance. Just be unique, be uniquely, you never copy. And it’s just such a beautiful place to be. And I’m just so proud of my students. So I’ve definitely helped hundreds of people launch their boxes. And I just couldn’t be more proud of the things that they’re doing. They’re like change makers with their boxes. They’re not just a box of stuff. They are changing lives with what they give through their box.
[00:29:38] Ok, so now you have the physical product side with the box and then you have this digital product side. Have you ever wanted to give one or the other up? Have you ever thought, I’m not going to do this box anymore because now I’m going to teach people how to do it?
[00:29:51] Have you ever felt that?Maybe…Everyone does I know!
[00:29:56] I mean, there’s those moments when business is hard. Sometimes you feel defeated or you get sometimes you can get bored with something. There are moments that I have like that with the box, I’ll be very honest. And then something happens where I’m like, have this renewed interest in like this renewed spirit about it. Maybe it’s because someone told me that my subscription box changed their life, or maybe they met someone who threw that connection. They were able to do something really big in their business. We recently launched an online membership hub where we have all of our old master classes and all of the trainings and stuff that gave me new life. I think what’s important is that running a box qualifies me to teach better. And so right now it’s a really great pairing. If I were to ever sell Sparkle Hustle Grow, I. I know that I would start another box because I would want to get in there and try something new, I need to know what it feels like as a box owner. I subscribe to a lot of other boxes because not only is it market research, I mean, let’s be real, but I want to feel that feeling of delight or that feeling of disappointment because I can bottle that up and use that when I’m curating my own boxes. Same thing with as I’m getting into the weeds of my box business that’s helping me remember what it feels like to run a box. And I’m better equipped to coach. I coach primarily on the Crate Joy platform, which I think is the easiest platform and for it’s going to be the best for most startups. But there’s a lot more platforms that are starting to emerge. A lot more coaches are starting to emerge. And so I’m going to really stay in my lane and help those new and aspiring subscription box owners that want the easy route. So that’s kind of how I feel about it.
[00:31:42] I feel like you have a really nice rounded strategy. Having only digital products, I never get to see the physical manifestation of what I do right. No physicalness to it. I understand that. And that can be you know, we’re on video right now and I can see your box sitting behind you. Like, how cool is that to see an actual manifestation of a product that you created from nothing.
[00:32:03] It’s exciting. Yeah. And my team and I actually do a lot of custom products now, so we buy products to put in the box, but now we also create some of our own. And when that vision of an idea comes to life in the actual product. So for example, in our March box, we had a coaster book set, which is weird. It looks like a baby book, like those board books. But when you open it up, it has all these empowering affirmations and things to do. But they’re coaster’s that you pull out like you would a board book. And they say, like empowered women, empower women or like support small business. And when I got that in my hands for the first time, I just melted. I was so excited.
[00:32:43] And then to hear that that was like the fan favorite of last month’s box brought my team so much joy because we’re like, oh, like we actually made that, you know, it’s so different than just buying it. But that’s a whole nother conversation about like creating your own product to put it in the box.
[00:33:02] You know, maybe one day I’ll do a physical product. I always said I can’t wrap my mind around it quite yet, but. I’ll be there for you. I know if I ever want to do it, I will be taking your course because I feel like that is just one thing I’ve definitely missed with digital products. It’s one of the things I wish we had a more physical manifestation of that just got me to thinking something.
[00:33:23] It’s very, very popular and successful right now that when you have a signature program that’s a digital program like a mastermind or a course or something that you send a welcome box.
[00:33:34] I know I’ve gotten a few because I don’t like all the programs. Oh, yes. That is one thing I haven’t done yet and I would love to do it. As a matter of fact, if you are good at sourcing stuff like that, I’ll help you.
[00:33:47] Yeah, for sure. And it’s so interesting. I was at a mastermind event and I was the only product based person at that event and there was probably 20 of us and they were going around the table asking questions and so many of them asked me questions because they’re like, I just don’t know your world. You know, this product based world. And one of the mastermind attendees said, I have a story to share. And she shared about how she had joined a six month long program that she was really underwhelmed with. But the welcome box knocked her socks off, so she felt like she got her money’s worth.
[00:34:22] Ok, that actually, you know welcome boxes have been on my list of things to look into, but I feel overwhelmed by the sourcing of it. Like what I put in it and how I get it like that actually overwhelms me. And I’m like, OK, who has time to go…. Oooooh Monica, a course that you could put together.
[00:34:39] A course for Digital Product Creators. Come on!
[00:34:44] I was just thinking that maybe I should do a workshop on how to build a welcome box.
[00:34:49] Julie Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to start. Like, I’ve gotten a ton of these boxes before. Like one of my favorite sweatshirts came from one of my welcome boxes that I’ve gotten over my join. I wear it like everywhere. Like the words are almost coming up and done.
[00:35:02] I put it together and then I’ll run the skeleton of it by you to make sure that I’ve covered everything that you need and then make it happen.
[00:35:10] So here’s what I’d like to know before we wrap up, because I want people to understand that there are so many things, like just like how I teach digital products, where I tell people, you know, things that come so naturally to you that don’t come naturally to other people. And you think, why would anyone pay me for this? And I tell them all the time, I’m like, because what comes naturally to you does not come naturally to others. People want to pay for what you’re good at. I need to be reminded of that constantly. And I’m like on repeat about this when it comes to digital products, but I sense that this is very similar to the people that you helped build. Subscription boxes, because I can envision like I know I’ve done kids activities, boxes, for example, that were curated by teachers, especially during COVID, that we had one against the name of. I feel bad, but we got to deliver it for a few months and it really helped my preschooler. So tell us, since you have hundreds of students, give us some ideas of different niches, I guess, of boxes that you’ve seen be created from your program?
[00:36:11] Yeah, we have a lot of teachers actually that started this program in COVID or just got the idea during the pandemic because they saw that their students needed some things that they couldn’t provide at their house. Like they couldn’t just show up and be like, hey, here’s the raise your hand stick for on the Zoome call. Do you know what I’m talking about? Like things like that. There’s a lot of boxes right now that are geared towards kids and they sell really, really well, assuming that you’ve curated them well. Here’s the thing, there’s boxes out there for everything. There’s a box out there for what are those lizards? Like Komodo dragons or something like that? Where it’s like they’re sending you clothing for your Komodo dragon.
[00:36:54] Like seriously like there’s a box out there for everything. I’m not even kidding. So if you think you have an idea, the first place to start is Google and CrateJoy.com, CratJoy.com is like Etsy. It’s like the marketplace for subscription box businesses. And you can see what’s already out there and use that information to help guide you with your unique idea.
[00:37:16] Don’t you think it’s funny? I think people forget that they’re like eight billion people or something on the planet. There’s a box out there that maybe has let’s just say there’s a box that has five thousand subscribers, which is a lot of subscribers for sure, right? Yeah, that’s five thousand people out of billions on the planet. Like people always they get so in there and they do that with digital products, too. All that’s been done. Yeah, but how many clothing boxes are there out there. Right. Or food boxes like the Hello. Freshness and rights like that.
[00:37:44] But it’s just important to be unique and to be uniquely you like, what do you bring to the table? And this is one of the examples I always give. There’s tons of coffee and tea boxes, but if you just niche down a couple more. So like what if you did a tea box for new moms like that is very specific. Yeah. And you could have exactly. You might have an idea that’s already been done, but niche down another level and you’re likely going to have something more unique. And I always say, you know, the person that you’re trying to sell it to, you have to be really clear on your ideal customer avatar. You’ve probably heard it on every podcast, but they need to see that box and think it was made just for me in your bootcamp to help people.
[00:38:25] Oh, yeah. Yeah. In boot camp, we go through five stages. The idea stage, pre launch, launch, systems, and scale. So you just go to the module that is most relevant to where you’re at right now. And so in that idea stage, we go deep into competitive research. But like figuring out what your Y is and like what pain point do you plan to solve and how do you plan to solve it? So in that boot camp, we go through that with like video modules and a worksheet. But I also wrote a book on Amazon called Subscription Box Basics, and it walks you through that whole idea stage and it’s a beautiful full color workbook. And it’s got success stories and testimonials from other people right in your position right now.
[00:39:06] And they tell you how they got through their idea stage or how they got through some of those challenges. So that would be a really great place to start with. I covered the same stuff on my podcast, too.
[00:39:17] Do you know what I find very fascinating, so fascinating when I talk to all these different people that have different business models than I do, it all starts at the same place. You know, it all starts with something we know and something that we can offer that it makes our unique ability. It all starts in the same place. It’s just a matter I always say there’s no wrong or right business model. It’s just what type of business model resonates most with you. And someone is likely listening, thinking I don’t really want to do a digital product, but man, I would love to create some products and have a physical manifestation of what I’m great at and put it in a box and then delight people when it arrives in their mail, their happy meal, so we can get started with your Amazon book, your podcast. And then can we enroll in boot camp right now?
[00:40:03] Yeah, we have boot camp open year round because that idea can hit at any moment and we don’t want you to sit on a money maker idea. So you have a link that you can share in the show notes you can get more information at subscription box boot camp. But I was going to give you your listeners a coupon code for one hundred dollars off boot camp if you use code Monica. We do have kind of bigger launches twice a year where we build up the anticipation and we have extra bonuses and stuff. But shoot, if you have an idea right now, don’t wait for that, jump in and then start listening to that podcast. Figure it out like you can find me on Instagram at subscription box boot camp. And I’m happy to answer DM’s. I’m constantly saying, like, people are running ideas by me or asking for some quick tips and usually I have a podcast episode on whatever they’re asking about.
[00:40:56] That’s what’s great about having a podcast. Exactly. Exactly. So we’ll we’ll be sure to link to all of these resources. You give me all the links so we’ll make sure to put all of these links for everyone in the notes, including the coupon code, which was a surprise to me! So I’m very excited about this! Yes! Julia, it’s been so great talking to you. I’m so happy you joined me today.
[00:41:17] Thank you. It’s been fun. I love talking shop. So again, don’t hesitate to contact me over on Instagram if you guys have any questions, my team and I will, Definitely, we’re in there every day. So awesome. Thanks, Julie. Thank you.
[00:41:34] Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of the Empowered Business podcast. If you’re ready to get started creating digital products and take your business to the next level, download my free digital product toolbox, head to Monicafroese.com/toolbox to grab it. As always, you can find all of the links and information mentioned in this episode at Monicafroese.com/podcast for you right here again next week.