Subscription boxes are one of the best ways to shop, period. They offer consumers unique experiences curated around products and themes, introduce new brands, and make checking the mail just plain fun.
On the business side, subscription commerce offers a stable financial model rooted in recurring monthly revenue that can be built around almost every niche – from puzzles to beauty to pets. If there’s an existing community around a product or category online, chances are you can build a subscription box around it.
Meet Antoinette Abrahamsen, 29 years old, who owns two e-commerce companies that she started from nothing. Antoinette is the founder of an online subscription box company for Brides called ‘The Ring Boxes’ which was launched in 2016 by Antoinette when she was only 26 years old. She is also the Co-founder of another online subscription box company for pregnant women called ‘The Belly Boxes’ which was launched with 2 other women last December, December 2018. Both companies have grown very quickly, with Antoinette’s company ‘The Ring Boxes’ it has become a multi-million dollar company within the first few years in business, they ship worldwide to thousands of brides monthly, ‘The Belly Boxes’ is also on-trend to do the same as their first year in business their sales will be over 1 million.
How did the idea of The Ring Boxes come into your mind?
The Ring Boxes came to mind for me in October of 2016. I had several close friends that we’re recently engaged, and I was scouring the internet for the perfect gifts for them. I always loved putting together baskets and boxes of multiple products to create one special gift. That’s when the idea began! I quickly realized that as each friend got engaged, I was often making a very similar gift box for them to celebrate with because most newly engaged woman often need and want similar items! I had seen subscription box companies for makeup, clothes and even dogs and I instantly thought to myself “Why do they not have these for newly engaged couples?” I just knew it was a good idea because as a 26-year-old female that was at the point in my life of getting engaged I knew it was a product and experience I would love! I ran the idea by my now husband, he supported me right away and told me to go for it! With his support and encouragement, I started making my vision come to life!
When did you realize that The Ring Boxes was kind of a lottery ticket? We mean, seriously, could you have imagined that in less than 2 years The Ring Boxes would become such a big company?
I NEVER could have imagined that my company would grow as quickly as it did! This was a company that started in the basement of my now father-in-law’s house with just me, my husband and some close friends helping out when needed. I honestly couldn’t have even dreamed of owning and running a large E-commerce company but as time went by, I just kept moving forward and adapting to the growth as much as I needed to! I would say about 6 months into the business I started to really feel like it was a success. We were shipping to thousands of customers worldwide and really making a name for ourselves in the bridal industry. We were now out of my father-in-law’s basement and production was all taking place in a large warehouse with an amazing fulfillment team managing all the packing and shipping of our boxes. It really was and still feels a little unreal, how much we accomplished in that first year of business.
Next after The Ring Boxes you started another business called The Belly Boxes. How did you come up with this one?
Now with the experience and knowledge I had in the industry I knew creating another subscription box company was something I wanted to do, I constantly had customers asking us if we had anything they could subscribe to for after the Big Day and I wanted to do something to help retain our customers for a longer period of time. The old saying is “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage” So for me, The Belly Boxes was the perfect next step after The Ring Boxes. I was able to partner with two other women on this company, one who had the experience and knowledge of being a mother, she had amazing insight into what Mom’s needed and wanted which helped us to curate the perfect boxes for expecting mothers all tailored to their due date and another woman that had the same vision and drive as us that we needed to get this company off the ground. Now, as an expecting mother myself, I can honestly say that our Belly Boxes are such an amazing gift and experience to celebrate and cherish your pregnancy. As my pregnancy progresses, I am able to add even more insight into what expecting moms need and would find useful throughout their pregnancy.
What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur?
I would say the biggest advantage of being an entrepreneur is the freedom. Prior to the start of my companies, I worked as a Cardiovascular Sonographer in the medical field 40 hours a week. Like most 9-5 jobs I was only allowed 2 weeks of vacation time per year and I never fully felt challenged or fulfilled at work. I now can make my own schedule and with an E-commerce company, I am able to work from anywhere. My husband and I have been able to travel the world together which is something I never could have done with a regular 9-5 job. I think the biggest disadvantage is how challenging it can be to own and run your own company. There are so many times I have caught myself thinking about how much easier it would be to just go back to that 9-5 job where all I had to do was work those 8 hours and then go home. As an entrepreneur, there is no time to clock in but there is also no time to clock out! I honestly work from the moment I open my eyes to the time I go to sleep at night. Weekends, holidays and vacations without work do not exist for an entrepreneur. Although I am constantly working, I still honestly wouldn’t trade it for anything!
How do you make sure you keep your customers happy and satisfied?
My customers are everything to me! Without them, I wouldn’t even have a business to love and work at. To make sure my customers are happy I ensured that when I hired my customer support team they understood that the customer always comes first and I made sure to only add people to our team that had the same mindset and voice as I would have with my customers. We go above and beyond for our customers as much as possible. I truly always want our brides and moms to LOVE everything they receive in our boxes. If we ever have someone write in dissatisfied, we make sure to make it right with them right away. I have even packaged up special one-time boxes and written hand-written letters to our customers thanking them for their feedback and apologizing for any inconveniences they had encountered. Just showing your customers that you care goes a long way in business!
How would you describe your leadership style and what has made it so effective?
I would say my leadership style is very much in respect of “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. I make sure to show our employees appreciation in many ways, from monthly meetings where I have them fill me in on any issues they are encountering within the company and ways I can make those issues better to yearly bonuses and holiday gifts. Like my customers, my employees also mean the world to me. If there is ever an error (which believe me happens) I make sure to remain calm and ensure them that although I might be disappointed, I understand mistakes happen and move forward to find the solution to the issue, rather than dwell on it. Treating them the way I want to be treated has done wonders for our company. I have such a loyal team that cares for my company as if it was their own.
To what do you attribute your success?
I would say my drive and ambition has been the largest attributes to my success. As I mentioned before being an entrepreneur can be very challenging at times but staying positive and ambitious will propel you further into success. I do everything I can to educate myself on all aspects of my company. For example I may not be a marketing specialist or a graphic designer and I often do hire freelancers for many of these specialized skills but I also take the time to watch webinars online and do tutorials to learn as much as I can about the fields I do not specialize in, that way when I am hiring I have a better grasp of what I need and what they are able to provide for me.
How do you improve your financial knowledge?
This has become very important for me as an entrepreneur. When you work for yourself you no longer have the option of a 401K from your job or a pension. I have made it a priority to scheduled time into my daily schedule to research and educate myself on finances, investing and retirement. I am constantly researching online, watching webinars and reading books about the best ways to manage my finances at a young age to help prepare me for my future.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
If I could go back, I would tell myself to stay very vigilant in business. You need to know that not everyone has the same morals and values that you may have. Having the right attorney on retainer is an absolute necessity and having the right contacts for everyone you do business with. I, unfortunately, learned this the hard way, but it made me a stronger person and even better entrepreneur. You never want to be naive when it comes to business, it is always better to make sure you protect your intellectual property in every way possible.
You have accomplished quite a bit in your career. What does the future hold for you as an entrepreneur? Is there anything you want to accomplish that you haven’t?
I still have so much I want to accomplish as an entrepreneur. I have a consistent drive to do more and that drive is not going away anytime soon. We recently expanded The Belly Boxes into Little Bitty Boxes which is a subscription box for their little ones first year that I am really excited about as it will help us to retain our customers for that much longer. I have a lot of plans for The Ring Boxes to make our boxes even better for our customers which we will be implementing in 2020 and 2021. We recently began to manufacture more of our own products for The Ring Boxes which allows me to use our customer feedback and ensure that our future boxes are that much better! I have also begun writing a book on entrepreneurship, Investing and retirement for a young woman in hopes to not only educate but to inspire other young females to take the leap into entrepreneurship!