Antoinette Abrahamsen, the founder of The Ring Boxes and The Belly Bundle, has experienced significant changes in both her personal and professional life since her last interview for Women On Topp in 2019. Abrahamsen has become a mother to two boys, and her companies have grown significantly, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this interview, Abrahamsen shares the lessons she has learned about adapting to unforeseen challenges in business, building and scaling teams, and creating customer loyalty. She also discusses her motivation for becoming an entrepreneur and how she manages her time effectively while running two companies. With her experience as a successful entrepreneur, Abrahamsen provides valuable insights into building and growing businesses while balancing personal and professional responsibilities.
What has changed since the last time we spoke?
So much has changed in both my personal life and my professional life since the last time we spoke in 2019! The most important and exciting change is that I became a mother to not one but two beautiful little boys! My oldest Brooks was born in 2020 and his brother Hudson was born only 16 months later in 2021. Starting a family has always been extremely important to me. Having our children has given me so much purpose and drive, I feel very blessed! Professionally as well, I have grown so much, we have seen outstanding growth with both companies, especially in 2020 & 2021 as we navigated through all the changes and obstacles that we were confronted with from the Covid-19 epidemic. We have also moved into manufacturing and producing all of our own branded products which has added so much value to our boxes and has allowed us to curate the best boxes for our customers!
Can you tell us what are the things you have learned during the past few years in your business?
These past few years have shown me that you always need to be prepared for the unimaginable in business. Never did I expect to have to navigate a worldwide pandemic while trying to continue running a successful business. With borders closing, people in fear of leaving their homes and trying to ensure we can keep our current employees employed! It was a very stressful time but I navigated through it the best I could and both businesses adapted the way we always have. We gratefully saw record high growth both during and after the pandemic. We learned that no matter the circumstances a company must persevere and adapt to the changing world around us.
How did you go about building and scaling your team for both of your companies?
One of the greatest investments you can make in your business is in the people! People are the backbone of any company. With both companies we scaled our teams appropriately. As I have mentioned in the past both The Ring Boxes and The Belly Bundle have been completely bootstrapped from day one. I have never taken on outside investments and I have been extremely frugal when I needed to be in order to scale the company without needing to take on investors. When I first started The Ring Boxes I was doing it all! I remember working my 9-5 job and then coming home to my Father-in-laws where I was living at the time and going right into the basement to build boxes.
I would then be up to almost 2 in the morning night after night answering support emails and that was when I realized, I could not do it all. Again, I had never owned a business or had to hire employees and I honestly didn’t even know where to start nor did I know anyone with this type of business that could help direct me. I ended up researching online to see where I could find people to employ and I ended up hiring my first freelancer that I brought on just to help me with our customer service!
As we continued to grow I continued to hire more freelancers and the company just evolved. It’s actually really crazy when I look back and see how far we have come! We now have employed a fully staffed support team that is made up of exceptional women! One of my first hires had continued to grow with our company and is now the General Manager here at TRB! She is what I like to call an A-player! If you can find even one A-player to hire you are blessed beyond belief.
Creating and building out The Belly Bundle was a much easier process because I already had the experience and I already made the mistakes and learned from them, we were able to grow that team quickly and seamlessly as the company grew!
Can you discuss your company’s approach to customer service and building customer loyalty?
Customer support is vital for companies. Not all companies have an employed personal care staff, but we do! Our team is involved in every aspect of support that our customers receive. We are very specific about the customer’s experience & I feel it shows greatly among reviews and customer loyalty.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur and start your own business?
I was honestly motivated by the idea of becoming a mother in the future. I knew when I was 26 that I wanted to be a mom and when that day came I knew I wanted to be able to see my children and raise them in the best ways possible. Everyone wants to be able to give their children the best life they can. I had wanted to be able to add income for my future family and I wanted to be able to be home and present for my family as well. I never knew The Ring Boxes would give me what it has today but once I started to see what it could do for my future family I knew I had to make it work. Entrepreneurs always talk about freedom of time and although I might work ALOT more now then when I had a 9-5 job I at least am in control of when I work and I have been able to be home with my babies like I always dreamed.
How do you stay organized and manage your time effectively while running multiple businesses?
This is a tough one! I can’t say I am the best at staying organized and managing my time but I will say that having two companies with very similar structures helps! In general what I do for one company I can easily duplicate for the other. I can test what works and what doesn’t and apply that to both companies. Something I have learned though is to separate my days, for example I will dedicate one day per week to focus on only one company and then another specific day for the other company.
This allows me to stay on top of them individually but on the other days I am working I am generally implementing the same strategies and changes for both companies back to back. Managing my personal time and time with my family is also very challenging but this is where investing in the right people for your company is so important. I am able to delegate work and ensure that I am utilizing my time in the most efficient way which allows me to have time for myself and my family!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own subscription box business?
The best advice I could give is to really establish and know your niche! Know who you are trying to market to. Why should they subscribe to your service? How saturated is the industry currently? How will you stand out from your competitors? Another vital piece of advice I would give is to not over order products, you never want to be stuck with inventory sitting on the shelves and stuck with the same products and designs for months and years at a time. You always want to be able to update your boxes and products to stay ahead of your competition. You should start small and scale appropriately as your business grows. Also, talk to other business owners! Knowledge and experience is truly invaluable!
How do you come up with new ideas and themes for your subscription boxes?
This is my FAVORITE part of both companies! In 2019 we started to manufacture our own branded products. This was a game changer for my businesses! In the past we were purchasing shirts from well known manufacturers and printing our designs on them but year after year we were getting feedback from customers about the quality and the sizing but it felt like it was out of my control. Once I found a manufacturer, I was able to control everything about our products! I was able to ensure that the sizing was accurate and comfortable, the material was soft and stretchy and as I continued to get feedback I continued to tweak it until it was just right!
Especially for The Belly Bundle, we wanted to ensure our Mama’s were comfortable and that our shirts had the appropriate ruching, length and stretch for their growing bellies. I was also able to create products that were high in quality and that had all the details I knew our customers wanted and needed. Designing our products and our packaging is honestly so fun and seeing the final products in our boxes truly fulfills me! Coming up with new ideas for the boxes comes easily to me! Especially now that I am a mother and my partners in Belly Bundle are also mothers with EIGHT little ones between the three of us, we really understand what moms need and want throughout their pregnancy.
Also for my brides, I was a bride as well and I know what I needed, what it cost and what I wish I had throughout my engagement and especially planning for my big day! I believe my life experience is what helps me to come up with the themes for our boxes as well as our customers’ feedback over the years and our team’s input! Our support team is always sharing feedback and thoughts on what we can improve or change and without that we wouldn’t be where we are today!
How do you ensure customer satisfaction and handle customer complaints?
We truly value customer feedback by always looking for ways to improve and grow as a team. By doing so, customer’s tickets are handled directly by our support team and we always have our team leader reviewing to ensure they are handled appropriately to meet our expectations. We want our customers to not waste time arguing with a bot when we have real employees who genuinely care about the experience our customers receive. Issues come up as expected with any business, but we truly feel it is what you do next that matters most.
What are your future plans for your companies and what do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
My future plans for both companies is to continue to grow and truly build a community around our Brides and Mothers. Now that my boys are a little older and more independent I have more time to dedicate to nurturing this community and allowing our customers to get to know me on a more personal level. I have some amazing ideas in the works that I am not ready to share just yet but hopefully by the next time we talk they will be implemented and I can update you on how they are doing!