Today I’m happy to have my good friend Mandy Rose on the show. Now Mandy runs the popular mommy blog House Of Rose which is an incredibly engaging blog about her life as a mom of 3 kids.
One day, Mandy along with her friend Natalie, decided to create a subscription box service for moms. And within a matter of months, their subscription box service Happy Mommy Box exploded into a six figure business.
Her story is pretty incredible and you have to hear it to believe it. If you are interested in starting your own subscription box service, you must check out this interview. The best part is that both Mandy and Natalie achieved their success without spending a lot of money on marketing.
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What You’ll Learn
- How Mandy and Natalie came up with with the idea for Happy Mommy Box
- How to come up with products for your subscription box
- How to source goods for a subscription box
- The economics behind a subscription box service
- How they handle product fulfillment
- How they created a community among moms to help them promote their box
- How Mandy has differentiated their boxes from the competition
- How they got their first sale
- How they used Instagram to promote their boxes
- How to build up an Instagram account
- How they decide what to include in their boxes
- Mandy’s best advice on how to start a blog or business
Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit her Job’ podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast. Today I am thrilled to have a good friend of mine on the show Mandy Rose, but I have to be straight up honest with you. I kind of have this love hate relationship with her. So, on one hand Mandy is super cool, fun to hang out with and she has incredibly entertaining quotes, but on the other hand this woman cost me a lot of money every year.
Now, Mandy blogs at houseofroseblog.com, and she often puts out incredibly detailed and visual articles about how she re-decorates her house. Now, my wife is actually an avid reader of her blog, and every time one of these posts comes out my wife goes out and buys something. So, one time Mandy posted a room model, and my wife dropped five figures on new furniture, then Mandy posted a kitchen project which could potentially cost me six figures in kitchen re-model cost this year.
And then there is the threats, so, one night we are hanging out at think-on, it’s like 8 p.m., really early, and she was like yawning like crazy. So I started making fun of her big time, because who gets tired at 8 p.m. during conference time. But instead of fighting back, here is how it went down.
So, after bursting on her repeatedly for being lame here is what she said, she said, “You do realize Steve that I have another basement re-model post in the queue, right?” and I was like, “Wh-wh-what did you say?”“And so I would suggest that you stop talking now, otherwise I’ll hit post from my phone right now.” And I said, “Yes mum”, and I shut up right away.
Anyways, the reason I brought Mandy on today was not to talk about her blog, but to talk about her subscription box service, ‘Happy Mommy Box’. Now, her subscription box business has grown extremely fast to the point where she can’t even keep up with demand, and so I invited her to talk about her box today, so welcome to the show Mandy, how are you doing?
Mandy: I am doing great, thanks for that intro, I don’t know if that was a complement or…
Steve: I don’t know what it was, I was just speaking from my mind, and you know…
Mandy: It’s a good thing you have a six figure online business.
Steve: Yeah, otherwise I would be hurting. This kitchen re-model is getting a little bit out of control, but…
Mandy: I take no credit.
Steve: It doesn’t help that your house looks beautiful, so…
Mandy: Hey, I have good budget friendly ideas.
Steve: Yes, you told me how much you actually spent on your kitchen re-model. I was like there is no way that would actually happen in Silicon Valley where prices are like four or five X higher, but…
Mandy: Yeah, see that’s the problem, you just need to move to the mid west.
Steve: Yes, yes, I would love to do that someday. Well, we are not here to talk about my spending and how you cause me to spend money. We are here to talk about ‘Happy Mommy Box’, so why don’t you just give us a quick highlight review about what you are offering and what you are selling.
Mandy: Yes, so ‘Happy Mommy Box’ was actually something that my business partner Natalie, it was all her idea. Basically it is a subscription service for mums, kind of like a batch box or searchers lane or there are so many out there right now, but they have them for every niche. And when we were looking into it, they really didn’t really have anything for mums, and so we are like, “Near”, you know like, we love– both of us have blogs that are geared towards mothers, and motherhood, and we were like, ‘What can we do to encourage other mums’, because really when you come down to it, it’s about the community and you know, lifting each other up.
And so, it was really her idea, but it is a care package service that we do monthly and we send like a surprise box of goodies to mums all over, and it’s about three to four products in the box, and one product is always for the children and the rest of the products are just for the mum, and it is just the way to encourage and inspire mums. Especially whenever you are, you know, you’ve got a new born or you’ve got young kids, just kind of like a happy melody. We call it, ‘Encouraged, Inspired Motherhood at Your Doorstep’.
Steve: So, walk me through, what’s in one of these boxes, for example, last month what did some of these mums get?
Mandy: So, we always have a print in the box, something that you could post on your refrigerator, on a bolten board. Last month there was a bigger print, so, something that you could frame and hang in the gallery wall, don’t tell your wife that.
Steve: Yeah, I have seen your gallery walls by the way, you should see it, I am going to take a picture of my wall downstairs after this and…
Mandy: If they have stuff on it, I don’t even think you mean you need to know.
Steve: It’s a bunch of blank picture frames with just the stack photos, our family photos aren’t even in them yet, but there all already posted on the wall, anyways.
Mandy: Hey! I’ve had that– I have kept that up for like a year, I had a stock for doing that, Phil would be like, “Who is this?” and I’m like oh I just have them.
Steve: Yeah, we’ve had those up for like three or four months now, but anyways.
Mandy: Anyway, so there is always a print, and then, so we always– we include that every month, we have a magazine that we do, and it is just a ‘Happy Mommy Box’ magazine. In that we feature other happy mums, other happy mums that we want to share with our community. We always have a recipe, we have, or just good idea that you can do with your kids, play aids, fun things, you know, to do with your children.
Then there is usually a necklace or some piece of jewelry, earrings, necklace. There is always a kid item, so like, you know, we had this, like, little crown holders or play doll or maybe it’s a kid’s snack, or like a makeup item. They are always just things, you know, things that women like.
Steve: I can’t relate but yeah, it sounds good. So in this magazine then you don’t happen to talk about home re-decorating or anything in there, right?
Mandy: Oh man, you know what, I think last time we did-
Steve: Ah, okay we are definitely not subscribing, that’s going to do damage.
Mandy: Usually it’s not about that though, usually it’s, I think last month it was the Easter issues, so we did, you know, some fun, DIY race projects in there, but most of the time it’s more things that are related to motherhood, not decor.
Steve: Okay, so there is jewelry and sounds like there is something for the kid to play with? Toys to keep him occupied, are they crafted.
Mandy: Yeah, like a book, a play doll, we always like to include something for the kids, because obviously this box is geared for the mums, so we wanted it to be mommy focused, but we always say, you know, when the kids are happy mum is happy. So we want them to feel included, and so, right now we aren’t able to kind of break it down to like sending age rims, like if you have, this box is really for zero to seven-year-olds.
Mandy: Most of our mums have kids that are under the age of seven right now. In the future we will love to kind of be able to, you know, specify if your kid is between this age and this age, we just right now we don’t have that capability. So most of the items are for children under the age of seven, but it’s just a little something happy for the kids too so that they feel included.
Steve: So, do the parents know what they are getting in the box ahead of time, or is it just a complete surprise.
Mandy: No, it really is just a complete surprise.
Steve: Okay, so in that way, actually it makes it even more attractive, right? Because it’s like getting random gifts in the mail.
Mandy: Yeah, it is, it’s really just a surprise box, and you have no idea what’s coming in it, and so you kind of really have to be one of those people that like surprises, you know. If you don’t like surprises this box won’t be for you, but a lot of our mums love that aspect about it, that it is just a surprise box that’s coming to their door.
Steve: So, just for the benefit of our listeners, what has the demand been like for your box so far?
Mandy: You know, it’s been really crazy, we never thought it would be. There would be such a demand, and we knew that we had a lot of readers that wanted something like this, but we never knew how many. And so, currently like we started out just, we want to keep it small and we started by just doing– I think our first month we just did a hundred boxes. And between me and Natalie, my business partner, I’m kind of like the helper and she’s very much the big idea ‘wow’ person, and so she was ready to just blast it out with, you know, “Let’s start with 500”, and I was like, “My gosh, we can’t do that, we don’t even know what we are doing”.
So, we kind of brought it down and said, ‘let’s scale it down and just do a small start and see how it goes, and learn about what we are doing. We just did a hundred at the beginning. We started in, I think our first box was in November of last year.
Mandy: We started sales in October, our first box went out in November, and then every month we’ve just been adding more, because we had no idea, like we started a wait list. So after we did those hundred boxes that sold out for like less than an hour, we started a wait list, because we were like, “Oh my gosh, okay, so people like this idea, we’ve got to find a way to get more boxes.”
And so, every month we’ve added and added and so right now we are doing 500 boxes. We have 500 subscribers every month, and we are trying to add to that even more, but we have over 3500 people on our wait list.
Steve: That is crazy, that is awesome.
Mandy: Yeah, it’s been great.
Steve: So, how much do these boxes go for?
Mandy: They are $29 plus free shipping.
Steve: Okay, and approximately, how much do you spend in shipping, on shipping one of these boxes?Just curious.
Mandy: Let’s see shipping, I don’t have my breakdown, but it’4s between six and seven dollars, a shipping.
Steve: Okay, so that makes sense. Wow, so did you have like a whole factory putting out these 500 boxes, or how does fulfillment work.
Mandy: Yeah, if you call it a factory, like, it was the basement of Natalie’s house, yeah, we’ve got a factory. That’s the part that was still working through. We obviously have different roles in the business, and Natalie lives in Shirley and I live in Illinois. So she’s in working on her end, that’s her part.
So she boxes everything, and ships everything, and I will tell you what, I went to Shirlety in April to help box the April boxes, and holy cow, it’s a lot of work. That was the first time that I had been involved in doing the shipping. But we don’t currently have, we don’t have anybody that we hire, we do it all ourselves.
We do have a great community of women who– Natalie lived in Pennsylvania, when she lived there she had like six other bloggers that were just willing to help, they wanted to come and box it up, and it was almost kind of like a fun girl’s night. And then now that she is in Shirley we have– there is just more bloggers that keep coming out of the woodwork and they are like, “We’d love to come help box your boxes.”
So, right now we’ve been really lucky that we’ve just had girls and women and mothers that are willing to help us, while we are kind of doing it on our own. Eventually we would like to have, you know, some type of a warehouse or-
Steve: You know, I think you guys are doing things completely the right way, like for example, when we started our online store initially, we shipped everything out of our bedroom and we put all of our goods in the garage and you just gradually scale up to the point where you are ready to start hiring people. And I think you guys are doing the right thing.
Mandy: Yeah, I think so too, she just recently, when she moved to Shirley, the place that they bought has like three levels, and so we are using the whole bottom level just for all of our boxes and so that helped. We have kind of a little bit of a space now, but we are still really just doing everything on our own at this point.
Steve: So, let’s talk about these bloggers that are helping you out. So, I know for a fact that they have some sort of incentive as well to help you out and so, can you just talk about how you’ve created this community of people that are willing to help you promote ‘Happy Mommy Box’.
Mandy: Well, ‘Happy Mommy Box’ is something that I think is very different from other box services, because it’s really focused on the community aspect of mums, and so Natalie and I both – like I said – had blogs that, and had readers from our blogs that are all mothers. One of the things that mums and women love is to connect with other mums and women.
And so we’ve really focused our marketing efforts on that rather than on our box and what’s inside it. It’s more like this community of women, they are like, “Oh we are all in this together, and we are getting a surprise box and we feel encouraged and inspired’, and you know, and sharing it on social media.
I think, you know, when you look at other boxes, and you look at searchers lane or whatever, ‘Brickyard Buffalo’ or ‘Batch Box’. I think about those boxes, and to me those boxes are all about the products, because, I don’t have any idea who runs those boxes, I don’t know the people behind who started those companies.
And so that’s how ‘Happy Mommy Box’ is different a little bit, because Natalie and I feel like, up until this point most of our subscribers are people that are buying our boxes because they either read our blog or they know us through our blog, and they love, you know, that we are mums and that we are kind of just putting it all out there and how we are doing it, our struggles. And so I feel like we are different from other boxes in that aspect.
Steve: So this is what I like about your business. You guys put yourselves out there, and your personality really shines through your blog and even all of your social media posts as well. So just knowing how you write and what your personality is like makes me want to buy your products even more. And that’s actually something that some of the other boxes don’t have.
Mandy: Yeah, and we feel like that too, so, we kind of want to capitalize on that, you know, we want to take a different approach and we want it to be about the stories that we can share with each other, you know. Not just about the products that you are going to get in the box.
Steve: Yeah, that’s a very good strategy; I don’t see very many other box services doing that actually. So in that you guys have a unique advantage.
Mandy: Yeah I think so too, thanks.
Steve: So let’s talk about the very beginning because, I know how it’s really scary to actually launch a new business. So when you guys first launched ‘Happy Mommy Box’, you know, how did you kind of get some of your early customers and generate buzz for your product.
Mandy: Well I will tell you this, when Natalie first approached me about doing the subscription box, I was like, I looked at Jeff and I was like, “Absolutely not!” I’d have no time, how would I ever do this, I don’t know what I’m doing; I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do something like this.
And the more I thought about it and the more that I prayed about it, I thought, ‘Man, all these people,” – you know, Jeff and I have a podcast and we interview people online, you know, successful online entrepreneurs, and I was falling into that, you know, the fear of failing. And I was like, “Man, all these advice that I give to other people about going for it and stepping out, and taking risks’, and I was like, I just pretty much contradicted myself, and he looked at me and he was like, you know, I really think that you just need to think about, ‘is this something that would pay out for you, is it something that you want to do?
And if it is, you don’t necessarily know how, you don’t have to know how to do it, you know, you can learn as you go. And so it was– I finally just ended up just saying, “You know what, I think wanna try it” and I knew that was going to mean for me putting back some of the stuff that I was currently doing. So, I was working for Jeff a lot on his blog, so he has a finance blog and I was doing a lot of work for him, I was doing a lot of work on ‘House of Rose’ which is my personal blog, and we have a blog together. I was doing all the groundwork, I was editing videos and podcasts, and I knew that it was gonna mean I was gonna not be able to do some of that stuff.
Steve: I hear Jeff is a lousy boss also. Anyway sorry, go on.
Mandy: Yeah really, you know, that man – just kidding, he is a pretty good guy. But yes so he actually hired help, he hired a virtual assistant to take over some of the stuff that I was doing, and I just kind of put my whole heart into, you know, trying to figure this out. And Natalie and I, neither one of us had any idea how to run a subscription service. So it was very scary.
Steve: So how did you get your first box sale?
Mandy: Well so we started by marketing on Instagram, so-
Mandy: Her and I both had a pretty decent following, I don’t remember at the time, I mean, it wasn’t huge by any means. I think maybe I had like 4000 Instagram followers, and she probably had like 5000. So not like something dramatic and huge, I mean, a good amount, and we just thought, Instagram to us is just a happy place of, you know, pictures and mums, and you know, just being happy.
And so we started with Instagram. We just kind of put it out there that we were going to start this ‘Happy Mommy Box’ thing and we created a buzz about it at the beginning because, we pretty much told everybody like it is the secret thing. Like sign up for our newsletter if you want more information, and so we kind of created a buzz about it on Instagram, and that was at the very beginning. And then…
Steve: So can we walk, can we go into more depth on that, so how do you– what does it mean to put it out there on Instagram, so did you have a strategy or how did it work exactly.
Mandy: So we just would post kind of, I’m trying to think in the beginning what we actually posted.
Steve: You know maybe we can just link up your Instagram account, all that stuff should still be there, right?
Mandy: Yeah it’s all on there from the very beginning, but we just put out there that we were gonna be doing a ‘Happy Mommy Box’. And it was going to be something that was going to be there to encourage and inspire mums and we were like, you know, if you are a mum and you wanna be encouraged and inspired sign up for our newsletter and you will get to be the first person to know what this is all about.
And so we posted really just stuff about that. And I think in the beginning it was really just pictures of Natalie and her kids, and me and my kids, just kind of how we shared on a personal Instagram, it’s really how we started it. And so It’s changed a little now, but that’s how it was at the beginning, and we just shared about our own lives and our own stories. And so yeah, we had people that were like, amazingly, people that were like signing up left and right for our newsletter. Yeah, so we started it just on Instagram.
Steve: Did you do any marketing on your blog, because you have a pretty big large audience there as well.
Mandy: That’s the funny thing, I can’t even remember when I first posted about it on ‘House of Rose’, but I do remember Jeff telling me like, “You haven’t even talked about this on your blog” and I was like, “You know what, you are right I haven’t”. It was almost like when we started it on our Instagrams, because you know, we promoted it on our personal Instagrams as well, that is how we got people to go to our ‘Happy Mommy Box’ Instagram and follow that.
I didn’t promote it much at the beginning on my personal blog; I think it might have been like a few weeks then, before I even posted anything about it on my personal blog. But I did post about it on my personal Instagram.
Steve: So why Instagram and not your blog versus Pinterest versus Facebook and that sort of thing? Just curious.
Mandy: That’s a good question. I think at the beginning it was just trial, it was one of these things that we were like, “Well, let’s try it on Instagram” and it worked.
Steve: That’s the understatement of the century, go on.
Mandy: So we just kind of stuck with it, I mean, we have a Facebook page for ‘Happy Mommy Box’, and it’s funny because it’s not near as engaging or we don’t have nearly as many followers. It’s just, I don’t know for some reason Instagram was just where it was up for that kind of community of women.
Steve: So how do you build up an Instagram account, just curious, so how did you build up to 5000 followers?
Mandy: I try to think about that and I’m like, ‘how did we get there?’
Steve: How long did it take you to get there?
Mandy: To get to 5000? Let’s see, I don’t know where we are at now, I’d have to look, but I mean it probably took us– let’s see, maybe like four months or so.
Steve: Okay so, four months to build that many followers, so you must have been doing something.
Mandy: Yeah well, one thing that we started doing is we started promoting other mums. So we would share some pictures, we would find other mums that were, who had pictures of them and their children doing fun things or just cuddling or whatever it was. And we would share those pictures on our Instagram and then we would tag them.
And so you know, it was just a way to get other people involved and for people to see like this wasn’t just about us and us being mums. This was about you, and you being a mum, and her and her being a mum and everybody who was a mum felt like, ‘Oh yeah that’s me’, you know, ‘I can relate to that’. And so we just really started sharing other people.
Steve: So, how did you tap into like, the ‘Mommy blogger network’ after that?
Mandy: Well, I think we are lucky in a sense that Natalie and I both had it in there already. I mean, and I wouldn’t say that either one of our blogs are huge by any means. I feel like we do have a good amount of followers and both of us have been blogging for you know at least five years, I think.
And so, we did have readers that are mums, and so that helped because we kind of already had that connection with mums. And so those few mums that saw what we are doing and felt inspired by it, you know, they shared it. So it was really just about word of mouth for us.
Steve: Wow, okay that’s amazing. Did you guys do anything else outside of Instagram and your blog?
Mandy: No, no, we watched a–Jeff and I were watching Shark Tank– this is a few months ago, and there was a subscription service that came on there, I can’t even remember the name of the box. It was like two women who were like, graduated from Harvard and they were on Shark Tank and they were like, “We have 200 subscribers”, and they were like all pumped about it, and they were talking about how much money they’ve spent on marketing. I can’t remember the exact number, but Jeff was like, “Wow babe, can you believe that, like you guys haven’t really spent a dime on marketing.”
And I was like, You know what, we haven’t, we really haven’t had to in the sense that, you know, just with our blog readership, the only thing that we have done is that at the beginning, every month we have given away a box. And because our boxes sell out so fast, everybody is like, “Oh, I want a free box” because you know, some people can’t get in as a subscriber because they are sold out. So I think just creating that buzz it’s helped us. But that’s– giving away a free box is really the only way we’ve spent any money on marketing, and even that is very little.
Steve: So I can tell you from a third party, why your stuff is selling, it largely is because of your personalities. You guys really put yourselves out there on your blogs, and you guys come across as real people, real mums. You don’t pretend to be like a super mum or anything like that, you talk about your trials, you talk about the good times, and you talk about the bad times. And that is just very endearing from someone who follows you. So there is your answer Mandy.
Mandy: All right, I like that. Actually that’s a huge complement, because when I think about other people that inspire me, and I was thinking about this actually before our interview. I was thinking, I am never inspired so much by like celebrities or these big people. I’m always inspired by people who are like down to earth people that I can relate to. You know, that are transparent and putting it all out there. So that’s a huge complement, so I appreciate that.
Steve: Yap, so let’s talk a little bit about the economics a little bit, so how do you get– first of all, how do you get products for your box?
Mandy: So, I’m kind of the brand person I guess you could say, and at the beginning Natalie and I had some relationships with brands that we had just worked with through our blogs. So we just did some brand outreach, and we basically said, you know, we kind of built up on Instagram a little bit first, then we are like, you know, we have the community of mothers, and we are going to be putting up this box. And, I don’t know, people were just like, brands were just all about it, we had ‘Ikea’ in our first box.
Mandy: Yeah, Natalie already had a relationship with ‘Ikea’, but they just saw value in what we were doing and they wanted to be a part of it. So at the beginning, most of everything that we put in the box was donated in exchange for a promotion of the brand.
And now that we are building up our capital and we have a little bit of money, now we are being a lot pickier about what we include in our box, and we’re also– we can pay wholesale prices for some things now. But I will tell you this, we have never paid over two dollars per item for anything that’s been in our box, ever. And most of the stuff still is being donated.
Steve: I would imagine there is huge incentives for companies to actually pay you to have their items in your box, right?
Mandy: Yeah, at first it was a little bit harder because we didn’t have any experience and we couldn’t show them how much value it would create for them. And so it’s hard to be, “Hey you know, can you donate this product”, but for some reason, I don’t know, people saw something in it and they were still doing it. Now it is a little bit easier because we have brands that have worked with us that are willing to, say, you know, I saw a huge increase, like we had a brand in one of our boxes a few months ago, that was like,“I had a 30% increase in sales that month from being in your box”. And just from the buzz that was on Instagram about it. So we do have–
Steve: That is crazy, 30%?
Mandy: Yeah, it was a necklace stuff that we included and yeah, so it is good to hear that. And that helps us get other brands and good products in our box.
Steve: So clearly your reach goes further than just the 500 boxes that you are selling a month.
Mandy: Yeah, I think so, I mean…
Steve: Okay, so that means that people are talking about these products and you are generating these buzz, and you have this huge waiting list and it just kind of feeds upon itself.
Mandy: Yeah, I think the buzz is key. One of the things that we feel like has helped us is that every month it does sell out. So it is always like this. It’s kind like when Pinterest started and you couldn’t get into Pinterest, you were on the wait list, and you are like, “Men, I really want in because I can’t get in” it’s like that. Looks like a logical thing. So I think a lot of people with our box are like that. They are like, you know like, “Oh, it’s going sell out, and I need to get in right now.” You know?
Steve: Yeah I know that’s great, that’s like the apple model right there. So let’s say I’m a brand and I want to get into your box, you know, what is your criteria.
Mandy: Really the stuff that we include in our boxes is just things that Natalie and I would both love as mothers. So we have tons of people now. At the beginning, you know, it was more brand outreach. So we were reaching out to brands, and now it is more about weeding out the brands that reach out to us, because we just have tons of brands every month. They are like, “how can I get in the box”.
And you know, that’s kind of the hard part, that’s– my part is weeding out those products that don’t really fit. So we are very picky now about what we include, but our criteria is mostly just, ‘is this something that as a mum I would love, I would wear or I would use’. And really I feel like we are the perfect people to know that because we are mums, and so a lot of the stuff in the boxes is stuff that Natalie and I just love.
Steve: So if there was something that you love, you actually go ahead and contact the manufacturer and get wholesale pricing, so how does that work? So obviously not all the brands that come to you are going to be providing products that you actually like, right?
Mandy: Oh right yeah, we have– actually this just happened last week. I was working with a brand and some of the stuff that they had online I was like, “this looks cute and I think this would be a good fit for our box.” But we always usually make brands send us a sample immediately before we would ever commit, because we want to have the product in our hands and we want to hold it and feel it and see, is this something, you know, does it look like the picture? Because you know how that can be online.
Mandy: And so we just had this happen last week where, you know, I was like, ‘Yeah this is great’ and then when they sent us the product and the sample was like much poor quality and I was like, ‘This is not what I thought it was.” You know, we had to go back and be like, you know, ‘I am really sorry, but it doesn’t really fit with what we are trying to do right now, and thank you so much.” And that’s the hard part because I like to say ‘yes’ to everything.
Steve: Right, right.
Mandy: But I finally had to learn how to say ‘No’.
Steve: So what is your– how many products are you getting pitched now from month to month?
Mandy: I would say probably each month now, we probably get fifteen to twenty brands that would contact us, yeah.
Steve: And they are competing for like three or four items in the box, right?
Mandy: Yeah, and the way that we have it set up now is, when we work with a brand we basically tell them, ‘You know you are going to be in the June box, or you are the July box, and we need your product by such and such day. And so we kind of curate the boxes based on the brand that we are working with, but the way that we would really love it to work – and this is going to be in the future hopefully – we want to be able to have a warehouse of products.
You know, we want to say if a brand wants to work with us, we want to say, “You know what, sure send us the products you will be in a box in the next three to four months. And we want to be able to curate the boxes with products that we can kind of pick from our wholesale or from our warehouse. But we are not to that point yet, and so right now it’s working.
Steve: Well, you have extra room in your house; I saw some of those bedrooms that were looking quite nice.
Mandy: I don’t know about that.
Steve: So okay, I still have a bunch of questions here. So let’s say you want to start out creating your own subscription box, so where would someone start?
Mandy: Where would someone start, by researching what other people are doing.
Steve: Like say I want to start a ‘man’ box, let’s say hypothetically speaking, well…
Mandy: A ‘Happy Daddy Box’,
Steve: A ‘Happy Daddy Box’.
Mandy: Don’t you do that now, Jeff Rosen is going to do that.
Steve: Oh really.
Mandy: No I am just kidding. We have talked about doing something for the men like on ‘Father’s day’ we might do a ‘Father’s day’ box, that’s in the works, but I’m just kidding, you can start a ‘Happy Daddy Box’ all day long.
Steve: I have no interest, but let’s say I want to start one or something from complete scratch, what would be your advice on where to begin?
Mandy: Well for me it was easier because I had Natalie and so we were able to kind of figure things out together. So I think if you are on your own it’s a little harder, you just have to research. You know, what we did at the beginning was, I know we even reached out to you, because you have an online store and we were just asking questions and kind of connecting with people that were already doing it. So we didn’t necessarily talk to anybody that was doing a subscription box, but we did reach out to people that were selling things online, and just got advice from people that were already doing it. Because I feel like, you know…
Steve: So what were some of these pieces of advice that you got that were helpful?
Mandy: Well, one of them was start out small. It’s helped me be like, “Okay Natalie, you know, we don’t need to go big so start out very small,” just do like a barter test, you know. Because you don’t want to put everything into it, you don’t even know how it is going to go, you don’t even know if you are going to like it, you know.
This is something that when we started, it’s like, ‘are we going to really want to do this every month? Is this something that is going be fun for us? Is it going to be encouraging for other people? So starting out small, I know, we had that advice from– it might have been you or I can’t remember, but we…
Steve: That’s something that I would probably say, yeah.
Mandy: Yeah, I know you gave us lots of good advice, but I’m trying to really remember the advice at the time. It’s such a blur because we literally knew nothing. I know we had– we were lucky in the fact that we had Natalie who knew a little bit of HTML so she was able to set up our site for us. But when we started out we were on burb.com which I had never even heard of, so we had a lot of issues with that.
So, at the beginning it was really all just about trial and error, we had months where we sealed the boxes, and ‘Oh my gosh,’ like we did it the wrong way and there was no way to fix it. So we had to back in and tell all the subscribers that had subscribed you know like, “Oops, you know, we messed up and we really need you to like– we’re going to cancel, we really need you to subscribe here”. And the thing about that is like, ‘that’s okay’ if you only have a hundred people. But if you would start out with five hundred people, you are going to take a lot of people off.
But we made it very clear to our audience like, “Hey, this is something that we’re just trying, and thank you for being patient with us as we learn”. We really had a good response in just the fact that being transparent about it, you know, not acting like we knew what we were doing. We were kind of like, “Hey, you know this is something that we have a passion for but we are not perfect”. And yeah, I just think that people can probably relate to that a little bit.
Steve: So, are there any website– what are you guys using now for your website, are there any packages that kind of handle the subscription model for boxes.
Mandy: Yeah, currently we are on WordPress now thank goodness. So we’ve moved to WordPress, but we are using Woo Commerce and PayPal. So I don’t think that’s probably the best option, but it’s working for us now. We are having– we’re getting to that point where we are having a problem figuring out tracking. You know, tracking our retention rate and that kind of stuff. We are still trying to figure that out and but…
Steve: But right now you have this huge waiting list anyways, right?
Steve: So it’s probably not much of a factor right now, I would imagine.
Mandy: Yeah, that’s kind of how we feel about it, it’s like retention isn’t a huge issue to us because we can’t even reach the people that are like willing to buy.
Steve: Just curious though, what is your strategy for people to continue to get this ‘Happy Mommy Boxes’, so what is your retention strategy.
Mandy: Really, our goal from the beginning has just been, no matter what that just kill them with kindness. So we’ve had people who have unsubscribed or who have been disappointed with something that came in the box, and both Natalie and I decided that no matter what it is, whether they are disappointed or they are unsubscribing for whatever reason, we’ve just really been nice about it.
So we’ve never been like, we’ve had people that are like, “Oh you know, I didn’t really like this” you know blah blah blah, we are like, “Oh my gosh, we are so sorry we would happily give you a refund. And every single time that we’ve done that or said that, they have said, “Oh my gosh, no way, I so appreciate you offering me a refund and that’s really great”.
I think the key is just engaging with them and not making them feel left out, because I know sometimes when I order products or subscribe to things online, have you ever had a personal response from the owner of the store, and has it ever been like, “What can I do to make it better?” you know.
So we’ve done that and then another thing that we do is every month we give people an incentive to share their products on social media and on Instagram. So we send out happy– we call them happy mail days. And so we ask people to tag, like hash tag ‘Happy Mommy Box’ things. So then people are sharing what was their favorite product in the box. And we would pick usually three of those people from the hash tag and we’ll send them like star box gift card or a target gift card, or you know, just some kind of encouragement in the mail on top of the box.
Here is another little thing that I think is important, this is something that Natalie did in one of the first boxes, I think it was the second month. She had somebody who had commented on her Instagram it was like, “Couldn’t wait to get a box”, and she had mentioned like, “the only thing better about this box is that it included diet coke”, you know, kind of just joking around, and Natalie sent her that box and included a diet coke.
Steve: Ah nice.
Mandy: You know when she got that, she shared that all over Instagram. And just doing little things like that has really helped us keep the people that we have.
Steve: That is great advice and in fact that’s actually how we run customer service with our online store too. If there is anyone who is disappointed with anything we just give them a refund and often times, you know depending on the situation we just let them keep the product as well, then you don’t have to bother sending it back.
Mandy: Yeah, yap.
Steve: And just a word of mouth that that generates is just worth it in itself. So speaking of customer service, how do you guys handle customer service?
Mandy: I am customer service, I am everything right now, so yeah, I usually– well, we both tag team on the e-mails and the customer service part of it, but yeah I mean, we are kind of, I think that helps though because people feel like, they get to talk to us, the two people who are running the company, you know. And I think that goes a long way. So I just– customer service to me, is all about making sure people get a response.
Steve: So do you guys have a phone number or is it just e-mail?
Mandy: We don’t, we just have e-mail and so right now that’s been working for us. Eventually we would like to have obviously a number that they could call, but right now…
Steve: I’ll be sure to post your cell phone number in the show notes here.
Mandy: Yeah, go ahead and do that, I would really appreciate. If you could tell them to call me in the middle of the night that will be great too.
Steve: Well, you will be up anyway; I have seen how late your kids stay up.
Mandy: I’m actually sleepy now, well, just one of the reasons that I probably feel so pumped about this business. Don’t do that!
Steve: Okay, so let’s see, I’m trying to run through in my head all the things that we’ve covered. So okay, customer service, okay. So let’s say I am starting my box, how do I get brands to recognize me and send me their stuff?
Mandy: You’re starting a box, how do you get brands to recognize you and send you their stuff, well-
Steve: Or does it even matter, in the beginning?
Mandy: I mean, I guess it depends. For us it helps that we had our blogs and so we could– we didn’t have to just say, “Hey, we just started this website called happymommybox.com, you know, here we are”. We could say, “Hey, I’m Mandy from ‘House of Rose’ and I’m Natalie the busy burgee mama. And we’ve been blogging for five years and we have this passion to help mums and encourage mums”, and so for us it was a little easier, I will say that. I think we had an unfair advantage in the sense that we could send people to our blogs so that they could see the success that we had and the community that we had there.
And I think that they knew from that that, “Oh they have a community here, women that are following them and are supporting them, and are engaging with them, that can only carry over into the ‘happy mommy box’ and so, I think it is a little bit, you have to do little bit more ground work in the beginning. If you don’t have that, it’s harder to get brands to work with you.
Steve: Would you even just go out and just buy some stuff and throw together a box, just to see if it is going to sell even if you didn’t really make a profit in the beginning, I don’t know. Just curious.
Mandy: Yeah no, I absolutely think that’s a great idea, I think that if you don’t have that recognition already and you are having a hard time getting brands to work with you, I think absolutely, you know. I mean, you can always get brands to do wholesale you know if you tell them that you are doing a subscription box service and you want to see their wholesale prices and that you are going to buy a hundred products. Most brands are going to be willing to work with you on that. And so you don’t even have to spend a whole lot of money.
I would say too, one of the things that we did at the beginning as we worked with– so in our box we have like two to three main brands and then we always have a small business brand, like an Etsy shop or we always like to feature other mums in our community who are trying to do online business, and who make Etsy stuff, you know. And so I think that’s a great place to start too is look on Etsy at other women who are running Etsy shops, because those mums are really wanting to get their products in the hands of people, and they have a small, small audience, and so they are willing to work with you.
Steve: Okay, that’s really good advice, I not that I am going to be starting ‘Happy Men Box’ or whatever.
Mandy: Well, don’t worry because there is not a lot of men on Etsy, so you would have a profit.
Steve: What do I even put in the box, like razors, yeah turkey, razors, you know, actually I don’t even have to shave that often, I wouldn’t include a razor, I guess. I don’t know.
Mandy: Actually, you know, you can’t do that because there is dollar shave club, right?
Steve: That’s true.
Mandy: Jeff does that.
Steve: Oh does he.
Mandy: He does yeah.
Steve: Well okay, thanks Mandy we’ve already been talking about forty minutes, and I have learned a whole lot about your box business, so, you are very humble, I just want to say that. And deep inside of you, I see this marketing genius and I’m just wondering are there any books that you’ve read or, what’s your background that has allowed you to be such an effective marketer.
Mandy: I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I’m not. You know, I really do because I went to school for business, but I was more into management information systems, and I don’t really have– I am not–I don’t have a back ground in marketing and I wasn’t a marketer. And it’s really just been trial and error and I think the biggest thing for me is just– and a lot of people have a problem with this, but being transparent online and being who you are, and just putting yourself out there. It’s very hard for people to do, and that’s really been my only strategy, all I can do is stay, you know, here I am love me or hate me.
And I’m sure some people hate me, but hopefully more people love me. It is the same when it comes to anything in my life, like home decor. I am not, I don’t have any background in interior design, but it’s just something that I love to do as hobby, and so I get e-mails all the time from people that are like, “Oh my gosh, can you– I will send you a picture of my house, and can you tell me how to decorate this”, and I feel like, ‘I’m so not qualified for that, like I don’t know, I just try stuff and it works, you know, or sometimes it doesn’t work.
And I think that’s important for people to remember too is, I’ve done a lot of things that haven’t worked, and that’s okay. I think you have to do that. I think you have to get past the fear of failing, you know. I was just at the marathon this weekend, I was with one of my best friends, I remember her, I had somebody come up to me at the marathon and was like, “Oh my gosh you are ‘House of Rose’ can I take my picture with you”. And she just felt like, that is so cool, like, I wish I had something that I could like do online that was a like a niche. But her comment to me was, ‘I would have to quit my job to do something like that, and then, you know, I’d have to invest into it, and then I will have to be like, you know…
Steve: That’s a cup out right there.
Mandy: Right, that’s the mentality of so many people is that you know they are afraid to cross that line and to go for it and I think you kind of just have to get past that fear of, you know, this might not work or, you have to take risks to make things happen, and you have to do the work.
Steve: Send that woman my way, actually because you know, I still work full time and I have got three businesses and two kids. I mean you have three kids but yeah, send that woman my way, what a cup out.
Mandy: Exactly that’s– and I was thinking in my head like, “No, you have to work two full time jobs at the beginning, that’s how it works. You know I didn’t do this overnight, and I didn’t, you know, I don’t not work hard, you know, I’m constantly on my lap top, and I’m constantly working and it takes work.
Steve: I hear you. All right Mandy, so where can people find you if they want contact you, for home decorating advice or whatever. I will not be giving this e-mail to my wife.
Mandy: Hey, she already knows that so…
Steve: I know.
Mandy: Yeah, you could find me at houseofroseblog.com. I am at house of Rose on pretty much every form of social media that you can find. If you are interested on getting on our wait list for happy mommy box, we are just happymommybox.com and happymommybox on social media.
Steve: Awesome, well, thanks a lot for your time Mandy.
Mandy: Yeah, I appreciate it thank you so much for having me.
Steve: All right take care.
Steve: Here is what I like about Mandy, she really is a genuine person, and she really just wears her hat on her sleeve, and as a result she exudes passion for everything that she does. Now, I know that I asked her about tips and tricks with her business in the interview, but the reality is she was just being herself.
For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode11. And while you are on the site be sure to sign up for my free newsletter where I will teach you the exact steps that my wife and I took to make over $100,000 in our first year of business with our e-commerce store. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.