“Hustle. This Is Not Easy. But It’s The Best” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Redmond, one of the two sisters behind Happy Box Store–a website that allows users to build their own care packages, including a handwritten note, and have the gift shipped directly to your friend — for free! Happy Box is the modern day gift basket — you pick a box design, select items you’d like to include, select a card and write a note! That’s it! They do the rest­–Happy Box packs, and writes your note by hand in the card you selected, and ships directly to your friend FOR FREE!

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

Years ago, when I was in college, I got dumped. I was a sophomore at Parsons School of Design and my sister was studying PR at the University of Maryland. A few days after I told my sister, a care package arrived at my doorstep, filled with chocolate, a voodoo doll and sweet card about how dumb the guy was, and a few other fun items. It immediately made me feel better,

After graduating, we both worked in ad agencies in NYC. I became a creative and my sister became a strategist. Hannah is an entrepreneur through and through–when we were younger she always came to me with ideas for businesses, ideas that would eventually be started by someone else. But in 2015, 3 years after the breakup, my sister came to me with the idea for the modern day gift basket, and I just knew this was it. Within a week we we LLC’d, quickly bought a URL, some product, and got to work. Happy Box was born!

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I truly believe Happy Box is exactly what the world needs right now. We simple make sending a totally unique gift really easy. We are exactly at the intersection of convenience and personalization — everyone wants to send personalized gifts. That’s a fact. What we do is make sending a personal, fun, quirky gift SUPER easy.

When we launched our site in 2017, we added a chat functionality to our site, for many reasons — to stay close to our customers, always listening and looking at their behavior, ensuring the site experience is great etc. One day i got a request.. The customer said, “i don’t get it.” So, I wrote “Hey there! Anything in particular?” “So, I pick anything I want?” Me, “Yes.” Customer: “Okay but like, you send to me then I send?”Me: “No, we ship directly to your friend!” “This seems to easy. How much is shipping?” “Free!”

The user could not believe it, literally. I had to convince her that building a Happy Box was that simple. It was a great feeling to actually be too good to be true. That customer keeps coming back, and we love it!

We need a little more happy, and people showing love to each other, and Happy Box is the perfect way to do just that!

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We have some partnerships coming up that we are so excited about! RIght now, we’re mapping out our holiday gifting options, which is always fun! We absolutely love buying for Happy Box. We are super particular about who we work with, and we always ensure that every product evokes”happy”! We’re lucky that we are our target consumer, and we also constantly ask our customers for feedback to ensure we’re giving the people what they want!

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

One of the most impactful book I’ve read to date is The 4 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris. It truly changed the way my sister and I run Happy Box and, actually, our lives! Ironically, I read this while on vacation, and it was so inspiring I couldn’t wait to get off the beach, and start optimizing Happy Box! We made some major changes to operations, and started seeing major efficiencies.

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. No one knows everything.We didn’t know e-commerce, and I personally didn’t really understand business. It took me a while, and many, many startup podcasts a nd research to realize that no startup founder really knows what they’re doing, at least first-time, twenty-something founders. Building something new and innovative is exciting, but it’s exactly that — new! We are constantly forging ahead, and essentially guessing what our next moves should be and taking risks–and figuring the rest out as we go. The key, in my opinion, is to take on one challenge at a time, because if you really think about the big picture, things can get overwhelming.

2. Time is Precious– We started Happy Box as a side-hustle. And while it still is, before we automated and hired our fulfillment center, we spent our days in agency life and nights packing boxes. You really reevaluate how you spend your time when suddenly you have none. I determined quite quickly, what was actually important to me, and what was fluff. I was able to determine who deserves my time too, because when you’re growing a business, every second is precious–it takes so much time.

3. Perception is everything People take you seriously when you look professional. As s designer, I am fully aware the importance of a professional looking site, logo and overall appearance. I think this applies to everything about business as well–being buttoned up, and looking put together, I believe, is more important to consumers than anything. We sometimes get

4. Stay close to your customers (chat, listen etc) Customers are smart. The ones who buy, have great insights. Insights that led us to change our entire business model, redesign and relaunch our site, and see massive growth. Listening to our customers, via chat, email, anything, really, has been essential to happy Box’s success.

5. Hustle. This is not easy. But it’s the best. Even after working a full day at my day job, I am so excited to come home and start my other job — Happy Box. It doesn’t feel like work when you are building something you truly believe in. Even the hard stuff, and there really are so many obstacles.

Our biggest hurdle so far has been scale. We didn’t know how we were going to scale our custom built solution, and at a glance there seemed to be no fulfilment centers who could do exactly what we needed. and find a warehouse and fulfillment center, because what we do is so specialized.. We had no connections, and really no clue where to start, but we did the work and after a few months of negotiating, found one we are happily working with. When I didn’t know something, which was and still is pretty frequent, I put my head down and I just grind. Work ethic is king.

Working hard and building Happy Box has been so rewarding for me and my sister, regardless of the late nights and working weekends!.

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Hands down, forever and ever, Sarah. Blakely. She is so down to earth, so smart, so honest and she’s exactly who my sister and I aspire to be. We have such respect for her hustle, and whenever Hannah and I need inspiration, we would play her interviews in the background as we packed box after box. She’s a definite hero of ours!

— Published on July 19, 2018