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Startup & Small Business

Subscription Boxes: The Next Big Thing?

Written by Brandi Bennett

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


Subscription boxes, if you’re not presently familiar with the concept, are boxes sent out monthly to individuals who’ve subscribed for the service. While this definition is accurate, it doesn’t exactly provide a lot of information on what the product is, or why a person is selling it to another person. A subscription box contains a random set of items that differs every month. There are different types of subscription box services, providing shaving accoutrements, beauty products, video game related items, baby items, geography lessons to children, and just about everything in between. If you can come up with an idea and there are enough products of that category to keep your subscription box going, that’s all you need. Prices for these subscription boxes generally range from $10 to $40; however, there are specialty boxes with much higher price tags as well.


What makes A Successful Subscription Box?

As with any business, the key to starting a successful subscription box service is a combination of the right products, high quality service, and prompt attention to customer feedback. If a customer complains that they don’t like your offerings, that’s fine, it may not be their thing, but if ten or twenty people complain about the quality of the items you are providing, then maybe it’s time to look into what you’re doing. Offer higher quality items, offer a discount as an apology and don’t use that supplier anymore; do something. Make it right.


How To get Started

You’ll need to find a supplier (or several) for the products that you want your subscription box to contain, setup a method for you to purchase those items, and setup your website. You need storage space for all the inventory, and you need high quality customer service to deal with new subscriptions, cancellation requests, kudos and complaints.

You will need a storefront on your website, as the best subscription box services offer samples at a low cost and then sell full sized versions of their products in their store, or additional items associated with the goods in the subscription boxes in their store. And you will need a boxing service. You can either box these items yourself, or you may decide to hire people to do that for you. You can now purchase the standard subscription box sized boxes online by simply Googling “subscription box boxes.” You’ll also need an SSL (to make your site secure). Once you have that, you’re all set and ready to start accepting customers!

This is a type of business that is quick and easy to setup, but it moves fast, so be sure to have your site setup, your storage, your inventory, and be ready to go before you make your subscription service live. Waiting lists prior to the service being started tend to make people want to cancel. If, however, you have more sign ups than you do inventory your first month, you can waitlist those while you wait on a new shipment (this is a good sign). Don’t be surprised, however, if you don’t have a wait list until a few months in. This is normal. This is one of the easiest business models to setup, and quite frankly, people love them. It’s like getting a present in the mail every month, a random surprise.

If you’re still not convinced – I personally know someone who spends over $200 per month on subscription boxes, and I subscribe to $50 worth of subscription boxes on a monthly basis myself. Not all are gems, but I constantly try new ones. I’ve stayed with a box for months before I decide if I want to cancel it. Two of my current favorites are Birchbox and Escape Monthly – they’re very well setup if you’d like to check their sites to get ideas on how to setup yours. It’s a great way to try new things, things that you would never buy for yourself, and once you get hooked on a product, it’s easy to just keep going back to that company to buy the full sized items. Check it out! It’s an easy business model to jump right into, and it’s taking off fast!


Image Source: Salazar Packaging. (2014). Subscription Box Packaging. Retrieved from

Outsourcing: Is It Right For You?

Written by Brandi Bennett

Friday, January 23rd, 2015


Outsourcing is the process of contracting out certain aspects of a business to an alternative company as a means of working to reduce the overall costs incurred by the business.

A computer manufacturer may outsource the creation of certain components to another company because it is cheaper for that other company to make them, as opposed to making the components themselves. A government entity may find that it is cheaper to outsource their tech support to another organization as opposed to keeping IT professionals on staff, and a small business owner may decide that it makes the most sense to outsource their human resources department rather than to create one of their own for only a few employees.

Regardless of the type of outsourcing being completed or the type of company looking to outsource, there are several different factors that must be considered, outside of the cost, when looking into this decision.


Factors for Consideration

The first factor the company needs to look into is cost. The question of whether or not the company will save any money, in terms of their overhead or operating expenses is a key factor in business decisions. If the company will not save any money by outsourcing, then there is really no point in proceeding. If the company will save money through using outsourcing options, the company must then look to factor two.

The second factor a company must consider is whether or not there is an available company willing to take on the outsourced role, and whether or not that company is reliable. Research must be completed regarding the validity of the company and, more importantly, the types of checks and balances that the organization has in place in order to ensure the safety of the data they will be handling.

Studies have shown that 63% of data breaches occur as a result of outsourcing, and most companies do not even know the breach has occurred, that is, until they are notified of the breach by a third party. (Guess who is responsible for the breach? Not the company being outsourced to, the company who was responsible for maintaining the data in the first place: YOU.)

If the company looks legitimate, and if the company does not have any past complaints for data breaches, and if your company can afford to outsource, then go for it. If none of these aspects meet your expectations, however, it’s best to nix the idea altogether.


You are Responsible

Always remember, you are the one responsible for the data, regardless of whether or not you outsource a role. If you can’t afford a data breach, chances are you can’t afford to outsource. This is not to say that all outsourced departments or companies are horrible, but rather that there is simply not enough oversight in order to properly regulate this type of transaction as of yet.

As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for;” if you can’t afford the potential consequences of using a lower cost alternative, you can’t afford not to have the standard measures in place.


Image Source: (2013). Outsourcing. Retrieved from

Keep It Simple

Written by Brandi Bennett

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


Recent studies have shown that the average reading level for the general population of the United States ranges somewhere between a fourth and a sixth grade reading level; studies from several years ago put most individuals graduating high school as reading at no better than a fifth grade reading level. Do you feel that the content being presented to you has been dumbed down in recent years? Are you surprised at the latest arguments regarding whether or not it is socially acceptable for adults to read young adult novels? There’s a reason.

The average reading level has decreased drastically throughout the years. When I was in intermediate school, (6th grade), I tested at reading at college level, the highest the test would go; most of my classmates capped out at the same rate, with only a few of them hitting eleventh or twelfth grade reading levels, nothing any lower. In today’s day and age, those who are graduating aren’t even close, nor do they really seem to care.


Why This Matters and How it Affects You

It matters for a lot of reasons, but this is neither the time nor the place for a soap box rant regarding the quality of education that students are receiving today. This matters because the majority of content presented on the Internet comes in one of three forms: lolcat, graphic representations, or text. That’s right; most of the information on the internet involves reading. How then can we expect the material that we find relevant, the topics that we find interesting, or the manner in which we convey information to be able to maintain interest, much less be comprehended by the new target markets and audiences that are coming into their best years of buying power? There’s only one thing to do….


How to Deal with It

You’ve got to Keep it simple. Don’t go for the thesaurus, don’t try to make your sentences sound more intelligent, and, much as I hate to say it – try to stay away from those compound sentences. Make your content as easy to understand as possible. Make it so that a sleep-deprived and un-caffeinated version of you would have no issue understanding what you are attempting to convey. It’s frustrating, it’s obnoxious, but unless you’re catering to a very specific crowd, like those who subscribe to Shakespeare Quarterly or only those who have received their Master’s degrees (and yes, this is an over exaggeration, but you get the idea), keep it basic. Remember, everything else aside, your goal is to market and sell your product; to do that effectively the average consumer must be able to understand what you are selling.


Image source:

Helpful Tips For Putting A Pricetag On Your Customized Work

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

price tag
Being an entrepreneur requires a very diverse and calculated set of skills. First we conceptualize, then we create, followed by marketing, and if everything pans out we arrive at a sale, to put things simply of course. What very few people anticipate is how difficult it can be to put a price on an item once it’s ready to be sold.

What if I’m charging too much? What if I’m charging too little?

In either scenario, you probably aren’t making what you deserve. Only you, the creator, can know the amount of time, heart and resources that went into a project. Learning how to price your items fairly and effectively will serve to increase the frequency of your sales.

Here are some well tested ways in which you can develop a system for your price tags.


Calculate the cost of materials + 10%

This goes for work you already have in stock, and especially for that in which has yet to be created. When you’re approached by a potential client, the number one step is recovering the cost everything that went into the piece before you added time, skills and expertise. If we didn’t make back the cost of materials we’d be in a serious deficit.

Adding 10% is a good way to account for all the time that went into acquiring the materials in the first place. Things like transport, gas, etc.


Become a master at tracking your time

One of the most common mistakes private contractors will make when starting a new project is thinking that it will be easy to remember how much time was spent going into the finished product. Whether you’ll be spending hours, or months on a paid job it can be very easy to under or over-charge a client. Depending on your personality, you may feel an innate urge to under charge for fear of surprising your client with a large bill. I’ve certainly been there, but one day I truly started valuing my time and expertise and that fear went away.

Tracking your time accurately will start to mold how you go about projects, and ultimately how much you’ll end up earning in the long run. For if you’re diligent with your time card, and feel like you’re still spending too much time, you’ll naturally work faster to get to the optimal price for the labor you’re charging.

Some great applications for storing your hours include:

  • Freckle- Track your time, send invoices and view colorful graphs broken down into how much time went where on a project.

  • Paymo- Project management, time tracking and online invoicing.


Determine what your time is worth

In the world of business people are always going to try and find the best quality at the lowest price. Your number one consideration should be how much quality you bring to the table, and from there try and find a number that is competitive in your respective profession.

Part of what your time is worth is what kind of tools, supplies and skills you bring to the table. If you own the only lawn mower in your neighborhood and the competition is working with scissors, chances are you’re going to be able to charge more solely on the premise you’re cut out to do the better job.

Over time you’ll get comfortable charging a certain rate and the ones who approach you for your service will be able to see you’re value and won’t question the price.


Quote your price before starting the project

Part of advertising yourself as a professional means when someone approaches you inquiring about cost, you’ll be able to price a quote based upon the items made in the request. To many this is known as the bid.

This will give your client an opportunity to review and break down everything you’ll be charging them so there isn’t any questioning of your integrity once the work is done. This is also a good opportunity to draw up a contract between both parties as an extra measure of insurance that you’ll receive what you were hired to do.

More often than not you’ll need additional clauses that leave room for revisions and changes to the original bid. This will cost you more time and resources so the client will have to pay additionally for any alterations.


Last minute considerations in cost

We live in a very different time of exchanging goods and services, primarily due to the way in which eCommerce has opened the door to selling items around the globe. Don’t be afraid to mark up your products online a little more when the third party you’re hosting through has already added their own mark up. And make sure to consider things like shipping, money you spent on advertising, and the overall demand people have for your specific brand.

Now that you understand a little more as to what your work is worth, it should be easy to start pricing for the future.


Image Source: (Customized and cropped)