Things I wish I knew before starting a subscription box business
Swolesnacks.com was a project that I launched in late 2014. It was a high protein subscription snack box. The first month’s were going great, as we developed the brand, built the pages, stocked up on inventory, and started shipping to our early adapters. Unfortunately it didn’t last, but I learned some incredible lessons in the process.
Here’s what I know now, after running my own subscription snack business:
-Physical inventory is tough. Overhead can crush you. And when you’re working with food, it’s especially tricky. It goes bad, it melts in transit. We never considered this going into the project.
–Solve your own problems first. I didn’t personally need a discovery tool for protein snacks. If I’m not solving my own problem first, I’m starting the business in a bad place. “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” is not a good strategy to start a company.
-Subscription boxes are an oversaturated market. The smart companies are the ones that are selling services to subscription box makers. (sell the pickaxes to coal miners). After releasing my Subscription Box, at least two other companies came out doing the same exact thing. It didn’t mean that I would fail, but honestly, what differentiated me from the competition?
-That said, if you’re already an e-commerce retailer, with the infrastructure in place, subscription boxes can be a great add-on to your business. But starting a subscription business from scratch has massive entry costs.
-Pick your partners wisely. When starting any business, it’s just a baby that needs to be coddled and treated lovingly. A partner that doesn’t care about it will starve it of the attention it needs, and the idea will never grow into a real business.
Even though the subscription box business failed, a lot of good came out of it. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” So here’s what I learned:
-I practiced a bunch of great skills: Photoshop, branding, copywriting, social media marketing, etc, etc, etc. We even learned how to Jerry-rig a photo light box in a pinch.
-Reddit is a great tool for feedback(especially r/entrepreneur) – it drove massive traffic, got us amazing feedback, and was incredible for exposure.
-People love to see the sausage get made. The most popular Instagram posts we had were the ones showing the business coming to life in its ugliest and roughest form. Humans love to peek behind the curtain.
-Build a business as a calling card. Even though I didn’t succeed in the subscription box business, having SwoleSnacks was a great calling card for other jobs/interviews/networking. Turn your interest into a bootstrapped business. Even if it fails, it’s a great trick to moving into the field of your dreams.