29 May Going after a Dream with Friends, with Chelsea Moore
My guest today is Chelsea Moore. At age 22, Chelsea co-founded a company called BOXFOX with two of her friends.
BOXFOX is a cool, personalized gifting service they launched with the mission of connecting people and creating stronger relationships through giving. It’s a unique service that allows you to put together a perfect gift, for any occasion.
Each BOXFOX box is then hand packed and sealed with a written note before it’s shipped.
She and her friends started this company when they saw a gap in the lifestyle and services space. They wanted to be able to deliver a higher quality gift and make it easy for people too.
To date the company has delivered over 45,000 boxes to over 20 different countries around the world!
I do want to talk about the company, but the big reason I wanted to have Chelsea on was to talk about the idea of pursuing a dream with your friends, because that sounds awesome. And sometimes it’s the absolute right thing to do. But going after dreams with your friends is not always easy.
So I want to talk to her about how they’ve done it and what tips she has for clarifying the dream together. Deciding on how to go after it together and then just as importantly, maybe even more importantly, how do you stay the course. Especially with the wild twists and turns that can come with any dream journey.
So I’m excited to have this conversation, let’s get to it. Chelsea, welcome to Dream Think Do.
Thank you so much.
Absolutely. So how do you describe BOXFOX?
We are a gifting company that specializes in bringing personalized and custom gift boxes to people everywhere. And our claim to fame is our Build a BOXFOX platform that enables you to build your own custom gift and care packages that are specifically created from all the best brands. It’s all in one place, brought together for the specific recipient and the specific occasion. Anything from new moms to birthdays, to sympathy to get well, to just because, to congrats on your new job. The reasons are truly endless. We have taken that authenticity to scale with the corporate concierge B2B side of our business as well. We take the same care and detail oriented attention to detail for our corporate clients as well.
That’s cool. I have to say one of the great things about having a growing podcast is you get pitched by lots of different people. But we went and checked out your website and everybody was really impressed. You have a lot of different offerings but it just feels nice. It feels real like you said, it’s a very personalized experience where you really can deliver something nicer than hey, sent you something through Amazon Prime. I love Amazon Prime but this is a different type of experience than that.
How did it get started? What was the catalyst for the idea for you guys?
I was about six months out of college in 2013 and a good friend of ours had been hospitalized. I was working crazy hours. I couldn’t leave to go to five different of my favorite stores and the post office. I to put together something really thoughtful. I had the intention and the want and the need, but not the time. And so it sparked this idea – what do you do on those occasions when flowers don’t cut it? Amazon Prime doesn’t cut it. How do I put together a meaningful gift box or care package with the next level essentials that somebody actually would need in a specific situation? How do you physically be there for people when you can’t actually go to them and be there?
That’s what sparked the idea of Build a BOXFOX. Being able to use our platform to create these custom perfect, well presented gifts in high quality, nude or black gift boxes, topped with your note handwritten by our fulfillment team. Personal, as if you had done it yourself. We make it easier, streamlined with all the best brands available to you.
We launched with prepacked offerings because some people do like to shop that way and just trust the experts and send pre-curated gifts. So we started with that, then we launched Build a BOXFOX about six months later. And it’s just been crazy uptick since then. We launched our B2B business and our corporate offerings and we’ve redone the website twice and we do weddings and all sorts of stuff.
That’s cool. Well you heard it in the intro that I’m impressed with the company itself and it does look like you’re doing an amazing job and delivering an incredible product. So kudos to you on that. But what I want to dig into is to see three friends that look like they still get along. Who are walking this thing out together. That always fascinates me because I think a lot of people think, oh wouldn’t it be great to live out a dream with a friend? Wouldn’t it be great to launch a business with a friend?
And it can be wonderful, but it’s not easy. Did you guys know each other a long time before you got the idea? How long did you guys know each other before you started to do this?
Yeah, well I’ll give you a little bit of a background. I went to college with Jenni at UCLA. We’ve been roommates, still are roommates. We’ve been roommates since we were 19.
We own a dog together now. But we got close when we were 20 and studied abroad together. Just us two, we went to London.
We were leaders in our sorority, and I had seen that her work ethic is crazy. Her thoughtfulness is crazy. She’s just one of my best friends. And then Sabena and I met at my first job after graduating. This was at Ogilvy in Los Angeles, the ad agency. Sabena was assigned to take me to lunch as my big buddy. We just completely hit it off within the first 10 minutes of knowing each other. I would joke that she was forced to be my friend and that she didn’t want to take this random, little wide-eyed girl to lunch the first day. But it worked out in our favor. But yes, so that’s how this idea was sparked with us.
Right, I’m with you. As an executive coach, I’ve gotten to be that safe place for a lot of entrepreneurs. What also winds up happening is you get to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. The ugly, nasty stuff that never shows up on social media. And one of the things you just said there, I think is very big in that you said that okay, well the idea came. You shared it but then once everybody got onboard it was the shared idea. “It was ours,” I think is how you said it. I think that is a really big deal because I can almost predict failure immediately if somebody says, “It’s my idea but yeah, we’re going to do it together.”
So that was something I was going to ask, is to be able to say, how did that work once you shared it? Was it easy to let go and say, “Okay this is ours.” Or was that a little bit of wrestling match for you?
Interesting, we never talk about this. But it was something where I think this idea came and within seven days it was our idea. I think I took Sabena to dinner at Earth Café on Main Street in Santa Monica and I was like, “Hear me out.”
Then the three of us started meeting I think a week later. Mondays and Wednesdays nights from around 6:30ish, whenever everybody got off work until like 11:00 or 12:00 at night. We had that set meeting for the entirety of 2014 until we launched. So yes, it’s been ours since the beginning. It is ours.
That is awesome. And I do think that’s a really important part. If you’re in it, if you have business partners, if it’s not ours then there’s going to be a struggle.
You already started to answer this, but I wanted to ask, how did you guys do it? How did you find the time? With the day jobs, how did you make time? Time to clarify it, build a plan? I know you started to go there already. Sounds like Monday and Wednesday nights?
Yeah, we started Monday and Wednesday nights, and it was our business school. We were like, all right where do we start? It was researching LLCs, and I think we bought the domain first. We did the logo. We wrote a business plan. Just getting all of our ideas centralized. I recently found a notebook that I had from that initial first couple of months where we had written out the marketing language and a lot of our key phrases are still the same because they’re so strong and they carry still which made me happy to find.
We brought in a friend, a fourth partners who’s kind of like a silent partner who built the website in the beginning and he would come over too. And around June I quit my job because I hated it. And I know you’re not supposed to be negative but I hated it. It was awful. I was not going to sit around for a few years and figure out how that was going to go. So I quit the job, had about two weeks of soul searching and then I was like, let’s ramp this up for BOXFOX.
That’s when the business licenses and all the formal things and the formal schedule to launch and all of that came through and so then we knew we were going to launch in November. And then it became really, really real. Our theory is, if you want something bad enough you’re going to do everything to go after it. You’re going to find the time. You’re going to take the Saturdays. You’re going to work into the night. And it wasn’t until recently that we weren’t doing that type of thing. Now we have a warehouse and work life balance and a little bit more separation from living in our office. And it’s a little healthier and we’re all full-time. But we were just tenacious. We would do whatever it took.
And was that always the case from the beginning with Jenni and Sabena? Was everybody ready to meet every Monday, Wednesday? Was that kind of an indicator that everybody was willing to do this consistently? How was that gut check for you guys to be able to say, “Are we all in?”
That is a great question. For Jenni, and Sabena there was absolutely no reluctance. There were a few other people that we entertained the idea of bringing in that my immediate gut check was like, No. No way. And I look back and I’m so glad that we have our intuition to rely on because it was ours. It was the three of ours. We were in it. We were so serious about it. We rarely broke the scheduled meeting at all. We treated it very seriously and especially after I quit my job we were like, all right, this is happening.
November 7, 2014 this is happening.
I think it’s fantastic to hear that you guys thought about some other people as potentials but through gut check didn’t move on that. There’s a lot of people a decade into a business they’ve created, but they now hate because they didn’t have those hard conversations. They avoided one hard conversation and created a decade of bad relationships and hard stuff because they weren’t willing to make that call.
Yes, you have to be discerning with that from the beginning. People often ask me how to find a business partner. How do I do that? And I’ve just recently told someone, don’t force a business partner. Do it on your own versus having a bad business partner. Don’t just have one just to have one. I mean Jenni and Sabena are my family at this point. We’re creating this large family business. There’s so much trust and respect even if we disagree on business things, we are so aware of the immeasurable contributions that each of us have made to moving this forward. And if you don’t have that love and respect for the people that you’re working with, I don’t know if it would end up well.
Yeah. As partners, as co-founders, that relationship is so important.
One of the things especially as you talk about pursuing a dream with friends, one of the other challenges is to be able to say, “Okay what is each person going to focus on? What are they going to do?” You can read all the books that are out there of playing to your strengths but when you’re a startup, when you’re just getting going that’s a lot easier said than done. So how did you guys figure out what each of you was going to focus on? How did you guys go after that?
That is a great question. In the beginning we were doing everything. Finances, shipping, whatever. Just everything was everywhere and that’s fine. Just in the last year we started to divvy up responsibilities. We’re still very aware and involved in each other’s projects, but now we have the luxury of a team and being able to kind of own the verticals we’re passionate about. Jenni is just this wizard operational, inventory, organized human being and has just completely owned and taken that on. Sabena is very strategic and has a background in advertising strategy and is just really excellent at our corporate sales and looking at our actual product, the Build a BOXFOX, the website and our some software developing and kind of steering that. And I’ve taken the lead on the creative vision of the brand and the aesthetic and kind of all the marketing that falls under that and how we’re portraying ourselves to the world. And so the roles have become more defined in recent times.
But initially it was kind of muddy.
Kind of muddy. We all three knew what we like and what our strengths were just from knowing each other well. But in the beginning everybody needs to roll up their sleeves and unload pallets, clean garages, and do taxes, etc.
I appreciate the transparency of how in the beginning everybody knows their strengths, but especially with a startup it’s like, yeah, you’re strength today means sweeping and breaking down that pallet.
Yeah, the amount of labor that goes into this company!
I can only imagine. Especially with fulfillment and all of that.
You know, we’re going to keep our fulfillment. People have told me time and time again outsource our fulfillment. But that is not what we believe in. We are entrusted with these gifts that represent people’s real relationships. We have streamlined our in-house fulfillment. We will scale our in-house fulfillment. We will do it until the end of time.
Well I think that is such a differentiating factor. It is. I will say, with the quality of what you are putting out there, I was expecting higher prices to be honest. The prices are not bad at all.
It looks beautiful. There is something about opening a package and having that level of intentionality to it that is nice. You can pick something up from Amazon Prime, but there’s something to opening a box that has been put together intentionally that makes a difference.
Well thank you. I appreciate you saying that and noticing that because that is something that is so important to us. We were really young when we started this company so price is something that we’ve always been conscious about. And for us it was always finding a way to make really elevated, high taste products and gift boxes accessible to everybody. And that’s so great about Build a BOXFOX. If you’re looking to create something that’s a little more price conscious, you have the total control on Build a BOXFOX to make that happen, especially with the three different size boxes. You could create a really beautiful $25 that’s going to speak way bigger than what you paid for it.
Yeah, I will agree. I did want to give you credit because you’ve got some higher tier stuff. And again as you said, people can spend what they want to spend. To be able to really do something nice and not at a big price is really a benefit too.
Another subject I wanted to get to – you know we do these events around the country called Big Dream Gatherings. They inspire people to think about their dreams, write them down, get them down on paper and talk about them. One of the subjects that always comes up especially if you’re talking about going after a dream is risk tolerance.
Just this past week we held an event, we had a Big Dream Gathering and a woman came up and said, “Well what do you do when a husband and wife want to go after a dream together but one is risk averse and one is a total risk taker? What do you do?” And I said, “Well which are you?” And she said, “I’m risk averse.” I responded, “Okay, it might surprise you but I’m somewhat risk averse too. More so than my wife. My wife grew up a farmer. She grew up dealing with weather and all sort of crazy stuff. Her parents had so many ups and downs to their farm. She was much more prepared for the risks of entrepreneurship than I was.” So at Boxfox, where do you three principals land on that risk tolerance spectrum? And how have you navigated the risk that comes with launching and maintaining and growing a business?
I love that question because we talk about this internally all the time. But no one’s ever asked us about that. We exist on a scale. I’m probably in the middle. I can go both ways when it comes to risk. Jenni is definitely is the most risk averse, 100% and Sabena is definitely the risk taker. A lot of times it’s me looking at both points and saying, “X points this way, X points this way, let’s do this.” But we always look at things strategically. I remember our biggest crossroads about a year and a half ago was, do we hire a publicist or a salesperson? And I remember just being really troubled by the decision because it was the first time I didn’t have a gut immediate answer to it. But then we came at it all three together. It worked out and now we have both. Everything’s great. We’re growing. It’s amazing.
I think it’s better if people have different perspectives. If you have two risk takers it might not be the best thing the world and vice versa.
I think that’s a really interesting perspective too. I’ve talked with couples whether they’re two friends or whether they’re married or in a relationship or whatever. But the three factor is really interesting, especially if you all find yourself on different parts of that spectrum. It sounds like there is also some movement on that spectrum. That’s a really interesting thing. But it sounds like a part of that is you have a willingness and ability to talk about those things as opposed to burying them or getting frustrated by them. So it sounds like it’s a healthy combination of honoring and respecting each other, but also having that ability and willingness to talk about it.
So here’s another question on that same subject. What have you three found has helped to set you up for success especially in those situations where you’ve got to have a hard conversation?
I think that when we have to have difficult conversations one of the best things to remember is the three of us are a team. We are a family and we can really rely on each other in both good and bad times. Because to us business is personal. If somebody’s going through a hard time work-wise and loses a big pitch or somebody’s going through something personal, we are good about relying on each other and being there for one another in both of those ways.
But I also think that we keep the hard conversations between the three of us. I think that that’s really important. It’s truly a safe space where we can say what we want, say what we need whether it’s critical or not. Because it’s always constructive and the trust is really there. I know that they always have my best interests at heart and the same for me to them. It is kind of like I can swallow a big pill when it’s coming from them. And I think they feel the same way. And that doesn’t happen that often I don’t think.
But it does have to happen from time to time. There are always those things that happen in life and in a business where there’s going to be things are going to just be tougher than others. So to be able to have those conversations.
It’s the trust. I think it’s the trust that we have as friends and business partners. I know that we’re all in this for the same thing. And so as long as it’s kept privately between the three of us I think we are able to do that. To move the business forward.
Awesome. I appreciated you shooting straight with me on the difficult conversations. I’m always interested in systems and being able to set up good conversation. Do you guys still have regular a set meeting with just the three of you to be able to talk about higher level stuff? How is it that you continue to cultivate the vision together?
That is so important to us and now that we have a team, we have a team of about 12, 13 here now. We are able to kind of honor those times where we can step away as a trio and really just throw spaghetti at the wall, so to speak. And just talk high level, talk vision, get re-inspired, get re-excited. We schedule “founders retreats” every few months where we just kind of have a full Saturday/Sunday of just hanging out and talking like we used to. But on a more consistent basis we do try to have an early morning or late night once a week where it’s just the three of us in the office talking.
It’s not perfectly scheduled or consistent but it’s definitely there because it is so important. It is so important to make sure that we are moving everything along and innovating like we’re supposed to. Those initial Monday Wednesday apartment meetings, I look back on them so fondly. They were so productive and out there and exciting and inspirational. So anytime we can set aside time to do that it’s beneficial for the business.
I love it. Isn’t it interesting that it’s a part of your foundation, it’s a part of your friendship but also unless you’re intentional about protecting that, it’s one of the things that can go out the window when you get busy.
Ok, so last question. Let’s just say that somebody right now is kind of at that point you were at early on. Maybe they have an inkling towards a business, an idea and maybe it was nonprofit and they’ve got some friends. They’re interested. They think maybe this group could make it happen. What’s a piece of advice that you would go back and give either yourself or someone that’s in a similar situation? What’s a piece of advice you’d deliver to them especially when it comes to going after your dream with friends?
That is so hard. I’ve got a few things. Let’s throw some spaghetti at the wall. First and foremost, dreams are important, but what is your dream? If you want to start a nonprofit or if you want to start a business, what are you contributing to society and what are you contributing to your life if this becomes your life? Thinking really critically about all the facets of how your product or service or nonprofit is – in your wildest dreams – how is that going to benefit people? And sticking to that thorough thought when things get hard. That’s the bottom-line question when people talk with me about their business idea: what are you contributing? What are you bringing that isn’t out there already? You’ve got to be critical from the beginning, because it’s only going to make you better if that’s really the dream that you’re meant to pursue in this life.
For us it was like, we’ve committed from the beginning to quality products that are utilitarian and well designed, from companies run by good people. Quality boxes that are keepsakes, creating an environment internally for our employees to thrive and be happy. Those are three things that mattered from the beginning that we stayed true to even as things have scaled.
So just think critically because you may have a big dream, but you have to be ready because it’s a lot more work than working for someone else.
It is. I do agree with you and I think sometimes it even surprises people when you have a podcast like DREAM THINK DO or you inspire people to think about their dreams. I’m all about that.
But you also need to be able to say, “All right, is this product/service needed?” You’re excited about it and that’s great but is it needed? How is it different than what’s out there?
So to be able to be excited and be inspired by the idea – the dream – but also the thinking and the doing are critical, and that’s what you guys are doing as well.
Well thank you, thank you for shooting straight with me too. I love that you guys are having the success, but that you’re also willing to be transparent and talk about how it really gets done. So I appreciate that very much.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It was actually really nice to speak so candidly to somebody about what we do every day and what we’ve been up to the last three and a half years so I appreciate the time.
Absolutely. So tell people where they can go find out more and buy some boxes for friends and loved ones.
Oh, everybody please go to www.shopboxfox.com or check out our Instagram @shopboxfox and you’ll find everything you need to know there.
Awesome. All right thanks so much Chelsea, I appreciate it. Keep up the great work.
All right. I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. I always appreciate someone who’s willing to come on and share some wisdom but also be authentic and transparent about it. Chelsea’s got an amazing story happening with BOXFOX. It’s great to be able to be inspired by people who are doing awesome things, and in this case being awesome with friends. So very cool.
If you appreciate stories like this, let me know and more importantly share it. And when you do just tag it. Just add #dreamthinkdo. We’ll watch for that and give you a shout out and say thank you as well.
And hey… leave a comment. What stood out to you from Chelsea’s story? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!