Making Something From Nothing: Sarah Williams Of Launch Your Box On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
It’s okay to be yourself. Own who you are. It took me a while to realize I didn’t have to be someone else in order for my business to be successful. I didn’t have to have everything perfect and polished before I presented my business — and myself — to the world. Instead, I needed to own who I am and truly be myself. Being myself allowed me to attract people who were like me — the right people for my business. It’s important to realize that if you’re not yourself, if you’re presenting an “image” or “ideal” to your audience, you’ll attract the wrong people.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Williams.
Sarah Williams is the CEO and Founder of two 7-figure businesses, Framed by Sarah and Launch Your Box, where Sarah has worked with thousands of subscription box owners and those wanting to start a subscription box, providing in-depth training that takes them through each step of starting, launching, and growing their business. She is also the host of Launch Your Box, which launched this past fall. The podcast has already been downloaded over 100k times, is in the top 1% of podcasts globally,and in the top 20 entrepreneurship podcasts in the U.S. Connect with her on Facebook @subboxwithsarah.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
As a middle child, I always struggled to figure out where I fit in. My brother was the oldest and my sister was the baby, but what was I? Those feelings of “where do I fit?” shaped a lot of my childhood and beyond. I knew I wanted to be my own person, to have my own “thing,” but I didn’t know what that was. I just knew I wanted it to be something different than what anyone else was doing. I wanted to be unique.
Those feelings from childhood — of trying to find my place and make something my own — carried through to adulthood. Figuring out where I fit in as a kid turned into figuring out where I fit in as an adult. Finally, I realized I didn’t have to fit in. I could create my own identity and people would fit in with me.
As women, I think so many of us share this struggle. Finding our place in the world is hard and finding those people to walk that path with you can be difficult, too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Something I say often is, “I don’t have a fear of failure. I have a fear of ‘What if I don’t try?’”
I am not afraid to fail. I never have been, even as a child. What I fear is not taking a chance, not giving something a shot because then I would be left wondering about what could have been.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I wouldn’t say there was one particular book or film that had an impact on me. I am drawn to real stories about real people. This means I tend to watch documentaries and read biographies and autobiographies. I enjoy learning about people’s cultures and backgrounds and the impact they had on what people were able to achieve.
Going back to my childhood search for my own place and my own “thing,” I am inspired by reading or watching stories about other people whose journey led them to discover their own way of doing something.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
People often come to me with an unformed idea for a subscription box. They want to jump right in to talking about packaging and shipping costs and how to price their subscription box before they have an idea of what the business is truly going to be.
This is why the first step I take prospective subscription box owners through is my 6 in 60 Workshop. This is where they flesh out possible scenarios, figure out who their ideal customer is and what problem they are solving for this person.
It is inside this workshop that we take an idea and turn it into an actual plan for what the first six months of the subscription box actually look like. Without taking the time to first lay the idea out and see it on a bigger scale, it is impossible to plan.
It starts with an idea which is translated into a plan that can then be transformed into a business.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
I would tell them it’s not necessary to invent something in order to have a business. You can have a business — in this case a subscription box — that’s similar to someone else’s. It’s up to you to determine what makes your subscription box unique. What would connect an audience to you instead of someone else who is offering something similar?
I would make it clear that there is room for you. There is room for everyone to have their slice of the pie because you cannot possibly reach and touch everyone in your market.
Instead of worrying about whether someone else has a subscription box like yours — they very likely do — concentrate on taking your idea and truly making it your own. Focus on finding YOUR place within that market.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands?
When someone wants to start a subscription box business, they go through my 6 in 60 workshop to get very clear on who their ideal customer is and what problem they are solving for that person. During the workshop, participants plan out six months’ worth of boxes. The next challenge a potential subscription box owner faces is taking that plan and turning it into a legitimate business.
Once they know what they want to see in the subscription box, they need to think about where to get those products. There are three main choices:
- Buying products directly from a third party wholesaler.
- Sourcing products directly from a manufacturer without the involvement of a wholesaler. These manufacturers can be in the country or overseas.
- Hiring a manufacturer to make their original design. This manufacturer can be in the country or overseas.
When a subscription box owner is just starting out, working with a wholesaler is the easiest way to procure products. However, that additional layer means a smaller profit margin. That is why, as subscription box owners become more experienced, many will move onto sourcing directly from the manufacturer. It is very common for subscription box owners to design their own products and work directly with a manufacturer to produce original goods for them. This allows subscription box owners to create a truly unique experience for their subscribers, providing them with one-of-a-kind items designed and produced just for them.
Subscription boxes are then sold from an owner’s website and shipped directly to the subscriber.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- It’s okay to be yourself. Own who you are.
It took me a while to realize I didn’t have to be someone else in order for my business to be successful. I didn’t have to have everything perfect and polished before I presented my business — and myself — to the world. Instead, I needed to own who I am and truly be myself. Being myself allowed me to attract people who were like me — the right people for my business. It’s important to realize that if you’re not yourself, if you’re presenting an “image” or “ideal” to your audience, you’ll attract the wrong people.
2. Not all followers are good followers.
Inside my subscription box membership, we talk a lot about building an audience. After all, it’s not possible to successfully launch a subscription box if no one knows it exists. However, it’s important to attract the right audience, not just any audience. Amassing a large number of followers is largely a vanity metric.
A large number of followers isn’t necessary to have a successful business. I have a multi-million dollar business and happen to have a relatively small number of followers. But my followers are the right ones for my business. My followers are buyers.
3. Hire help before you think you need it.
I remember being a solopreneur, feeling like I couldn’t afford to hire help — even though I needed it — because I wasn’t yet paying myself a regular paycheck. When I finally did hire my first employee, not only was I able to pay her a steady paycheck, I was able to pay myself steadily for the first time. How? Hiring someone to help me allowed me to more than double my capacity.
I teach my members to hire before they need it and before they even know the job title they’re filling. Hiring allows them to move their business further faster than trying to go it alone.
4. Stop and celebrate the wins.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to focus on “the next thing” that needs to be done or the next goal that I’m working to reach. It’s so important to take the time to reflect and celebrate the victories along the way. Giving myself that moment, when I remember to do so, is a gift.
I teach my members to celebrate the small wins along the road to starting, launching, and growing their subscription box businesses. There will be setbacks and there will be hard days, but taking the time to celebrate when things go right helps motivate you to continue moving forward.
5. Surround yourself with people who see greatness in you.
It’s so important to have people who support and believe in me. It’s equally important that some of these people be outside my circle of family and friends. I have found incredible value in having people who know and understand the challenges that come with entrepreneurship in my corner. People from whom I can learn and who can relate to me and whatever may be happening in my business.
I have a group of “biz besties,” women who are all creative business owners. We get together a couple of times a year to talk business, share our experiences, and yes, have a lot of fun. I belong to Masterminds where I am able to learn and grow alongside some truly amazing people. And I know, if I’m trying to solve a problem or facing a challenge in my business, help and support is only a call or text away!
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to introduce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I would suggest they first spend a good amount of time researching their ideal customer. Who is that person? Where do they hang out online? What do they buy? What does this person do in their everyday life? At home? For work? For fun?
Then take what you’ve learned about your ideal customer and create a plan for your subscription box. Once you have your 6-month plan sketched out, it’s time to research the market. Find out what’s already out there that is similar to the subscription box you’re planning and subscribe to them. When you receive those boxes, take time to reflect on how you feel about them? What do you actually get for what you’ve paid for the subscription box? Your goal in researching and subscribing to similar boxes is to get a solid understanding of what is out there in the market and how you can be different.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
It is certainly possible to start a subscription box business without going through a training course or joining a membership such as mine. However, seeking out training from experts in the field can save tremendous amounts of time and money.
Inside Launch Your Box, my coaching membership, prospective subscription box owners have access to trainings that guide them through starting, launching, and growing their subscription boxes. They receive training from experts on everything from tech to marketing to product sourcing and so much more. Can someone figure it out on their own? Yes. Do I recommend it? I don’t.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
You certainly can seek out investors to start a subscription box business. However, it is also very possible to bootstrap your business and be profitable from the first month.
If you follow the steps I teach and spend time building an audience and working through the process step by step, it is more than possible to build a subscription box business with only a small investment of your own. In fact, this is what I recommend.
Having investors might allow you to get there faster initially, but you will be less profitable in the long run. Bootstrapping also allows you to avoid being indebted to or having to answer to anyone. You’ll have greater long-term growth potential and greater satisfaction knowing you did it on your own.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Inside my membership and through the free content I share with my audience, I give women the courage to start their own businesses. They discover they have the ability to earn an extra income, replace an income, or for some, earn an income for the first time. I concentrate on removing barriers for women inside the male-dominated subscription box industry.
Women are buyers and women know what they want. I give women the tools and confidence to be successful not only in business but also to experience inner growth.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The idea of community over competition.
In a world where we could all be considered each other’s competition, I subscribe to the idea that we can all go further faster together instead of competing against each other. I am building this community of businesses that continue to work together for the common good, removing the mindset that “I’m always competing against someone else,” and replacing it with the idea that “rising tides lift all boats.”
Inside my membership, we cheer each other on, share resources, and lift each other up. Every day, we prove the value of community — that you can get there faster together than you can on your own.
We are very blessed that 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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Marcus Lemonis from the CNBC reality show The Profit.
On this show, Marcus goes into failing small businesses, invests his own money, and turns the business around. He combines being an incredibly smart businessman with the sensitivity needed to deal with people who are struggling with their businesses. He’s not afraid to dish out tough love when needed to help people see the path toward business success.
There is an episode of The Profit I reference inside my membership. In this episode, Marcus was working with a Christmas-themed business that had a subscription box. He made a comment to the business owner about the physical box acting as a billboard for the business as it travels across the country.
I would love the opportunity to sit down and talk business with Marcus.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.