‘My Advice to Anybody Starting a Subscription Box Business’: Agent Ribbit Q&A

author Stefan, Aug 14th, 2014

So you are thinking of setting up your own subscription box business but are feeling those pre-game jitters? Will it work? How do I source the products? How do I sell the products? How do I ship the products? Believe us, we feel your pain. Starting out is the hardest step to take but it is this first step that could change your whole life for the better. Luckily for you we are here to help you and hold your hand every step of the way.

Our guide on ‘How to Start A Subscription Box Business’ is a great starting point to build your knowledge, and today we go one step further with a special feature Q&A session with the founder of Agent Ribbit, Courtney Sperlazza. Courtney, gives us a real insight into the challenges and benefits of creating a subscription box business, while giving key advice on how you can set up your own successful Subcom service.

1. What Made You Start a Subscription Box Business?

“I started Agent Ribbit because I wanted it for myself. We’re starting to homeschool my 5- and 3-year-old this year, and I was planning out some of our hands-on science activities. I discovered there was a lot of legwork involved – not only finding supplies, but coming up with a concept and a lesson. Then, not every experiment you find on the internet works, so I expected to be testing the experiments once the kids went to bed, then again when we were ready to do them together. I just wanted to buy it all boxed up and done for me. I decided to offer it because the variations I found just seemed to miss the mark in one way or another, and surely others are looking for what I’m looking for, right?”

2. Why Did You Choose a Subscription Commerce Business vs Normal Ecommerce Business?

“I liked the subscription model because there’s an element of surprise. It’s educational, it’s fun, and it’s also a present…to both the parents and the kids! More practically though, signing up eliminates the guessing game and prevents over-ordering. I only order as many supplies as I’ll use.”

3. What Advice Would You Give to Those Still Sourcing Products?

“My advice would be to determine what you’re upper limits are. If your model includes sourcing from all mom-and-pop type places (as in specialty foods, etc.), you may find that there’s less wiggle room as far as pricing and mass ordering goes. Choose a product where you see lots of freedom.” 'My Advice to Anybody Starting a Subscription Box Business': Agent Ribbit Q&A

4. Where Did You Start Once You Decided You Wanted to Create a Subscription Box Business?

“I threw up a website and started to get some chatter going on Twitter. After that, someone noticed me who mentioned me on a website, which got noticed by a writer from a big tech news source. Agent Ribbit got catapulted into the public eye well before we were ready. But I got it all together and now we’re riding this runaway train!”

5. How Did You Figure out Your Margins and How Do You Maintain Your Margins with Various Products?

“I’m finding that pennies matter! I decided where I wanted my margin and then worked backward. If my box includes more expensive items one month, I’ll just shoot for less expensive (but equally impressive!) experiments next. Then, it all evens out and I don’t shy away from a cool reaction because it’s pricey.”

6. What Is Your Curation Process and How Important Is It in Retaining Your Customers.

“I concept the boxes myself and my kids and their buds test them for me. If the projects aren’t awesome, customers will cancel, period. So it’s important that I hit it out of the park, every time.”

7. Where Do You Source the Packaging and Design of the Boxes

“I sourced boxes from an online packaging supplier. There are a few, and whoever runs the best special when I’m ready to order gets my business. The logo is simple and was done by a freelancer.” 'My Advice to Anybody Starting a Subscription Box Business': Agent Ribbit Q&A

8. How Do You Market Your Sub Box and Acquire Customers?

“I had some free ad credits and things like that, but I’m finding that publicity from media sources and online influencers gives me the biggest boosts.”

*Note: Subbly and Agent Ribbit first virtually met on Reddit while discussing how being featured on ‘Product Hunt’ can help launch a startup. Check out how Product Hunt can help your subcom business here.

9. What Have Been the Biggest Challenges for Your Business so Far?

“The initial setup was a challenge. At first, I had to refund a bunch of orders because my recurring billing system was overriding my shipping restrictions, so I was getting orders from all over the world that I couldn’t fill. I resolved this minutes before my first big media feature, thank goodness.”

10. What Single Piece of Advice Would You Give Somebody Who Is Just Starting out with a Subcom Box?

“Test, test, and test again!”

11. Where Do You Expect to Be in 12 Months Time?

“I’m a one (wo)man show, so I’m hoping to be at a place where I’m outsourcing a lot of the tasks that aren’t fun for me. The way things are going, I expect it’ll happen!”

12. What Are Your Thoughts on the Future of Subscription Boxes?

“The subscription model has been around forever, and isn’t going anywhere. The milkman was a subscription. Magazines and newspapers have been doing it for decades. Our CSA is a subscription. I’m a subscriber to the internet that I’m using to send my responses to these questions. There’s a little explosion of product boxes at the moment, which will raise the bar for everyone. The most interesting and fun will get to stay, and the lower quality boxes will fade. But I think creators and recipients alike are having a lot of fun with subscription boxes!”

So there you go guys. A real life example of a ‘one (wo)man show’ taking advantage of the subscription commerce industry that is set to explode. A special thanks to Courtney Sperlazza. Check out www.AgentRibbit.com to sign up for kids science kit here and follow @AgentRibbit on Twitter

'My Advice to Anybody Starting a Subscription Box Business': Agent Ribbit Q&A

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! Signup to Subbly for free today and set up your own subscription box service in minutes!

images via: Hibert.edu, AgentRibbit.com

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