5 Tips For Running A Self-Funded Startup


We launched BOXFOX in 2014 in order to bring gifting into the 21st century with the mission to create stronger relationships through personal and purposeful gifts. Our idea was powered by simple user experiences, driven by premier service, and grounded by a commitment to authenticity. We launched with a clear vision of both the services we wanted to offer—expertly pre-curated gifts and the ability to build your own custom gifts—and the type of principles we wanted to guide our company with—thoughtfulness and an excellent commitment to our customer. All three of us co-founders came to the table having experienced good and bad bosses, as well as good and bad company cultures. There was no way we were going to sit around for 10+ years working on someone else’s dream and seeing if it was going to get better. We had a good idea, we had co-founders, and we had a common belief that it would be a much more fulfilling life working out-of-our-minds hard for ourselves versus for someone else. We also knew we wanted to do it on our own and build a functioning business out of pocket to prove that it was profitable and scalable. In three and a half short years, we’ve grown from our small apartment in Venice, CA to a self-funded, female-led enterprise and have had a few behind-the-scenes honest looks at what it takes to use our philosophy to both run and grow a business.

"We knew exactly what our company was and how it was going to be. There are always shiny opportunities or disappointing setbacks, but that doesn’t take away from the path we set out in 2014."

BOXFOX Co-Founders: Chelsea, Jenni, and Sabena (Photo courtesy of shopboxfox.com)

1. Conviction / A firmly held belief or opinion

Starting a business is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done. Most people can’t handle the lack of validation, but it’s important to be self-motivated day in and day out. I’ll never forget telling a former boss my idea, only to have him quickly say, “Gifts? Well, 90 percent of business fail so why even try.”

But I knew in my heart that this was going to be a successful company. That conviction is what kept me sane through the countless dismissals from acquaintances and colleagues (spoiler alert, most are jealous you decided to jump out of the rat race and start your own), and through every time someone told me, with much condescension, “You know what you should do?”, and in every instance, a client, brand, or influencer has told us “no.” We’re building a family business, expanding our offerings, and evolving as owners, so I wear that conviction and prepare for the long haul.

2. Vision / Knowing where you're going, even when you haven't gotten there yet

We knew exactly what our company was and how it was going to be. There are always shiny opportunities or disappointing setbacks, but that doesn’t take away from the path we set out in 2014. We have a solid foundation that helps us strategically evaluate expansion and partnerships because we’re here to do what we do and do it best. A prime example of this comes into play in the real world is celebrity gifting suites. You’d think gift box company plus gifting suite equals a prime opportunity. However, our (maybe) unpopular opinion is that we’re not in this for that. We know we’re here to offer an aesthetically elevated and accessible service to aid in the maintenance of real relationships, both personal and professional. It’s easy to get distracted by big names and seemingly big opportunities, but maintaining a connection to our vision helps us not get distracted by opportunities that won’t benefit our business goals.

"Starting a business is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done. Most people can’t handle the lack of validation, but it’s important to be self-motivated day in and day out."

3. Re-vision / *Ross voice* PIVOT, PIVOT!

As much as we’re planners and we know who we are, complacency is not key. While we aren’t fans of getting distracted at every opportunity, we are proponents of evolving in verticals that make sense for us. It’s important to incorporate methodic reviews of what’s working, what isn’t, and how it can be made better. The best example of this is Corporate Gifting. It wasn’t always in our plan, but with the many customers inquiring about gifts for their businesses, we knew we could take the authenticity, personalization, and purposeful gifting to scale. It’s almost like our vision draws the roadmap that guides us, but the revision is necessary to meet consumer needs.

4. Resilience / Elasticity, bouncing back from adversity

Something both beautiful and challenging about having a self-funded startup is that everything is on our shoulders. The good, the bad, the laborit is all our responsibility to move the brand forward every single day. That being said, we’ve adopted the mentality here at BOXFOX that with the right attitude, we’re in control of a lot more than others may think. It is the attitude we approach problems with that make them easier to get through. We face all challenges head-on. Whether it is cleaning up our own mistakes, de-palletizing 70 palettes before it rains, or needing to ship out 1,750 boxes when our tissue supplier is back ordered. As founders, we encourage our team to bring a can-do attitude to the hardest days because then they end up not being so bad.

"We launched with a clear vision of both the services we wanted to offer—expertly pre-curated gifts and the ability to build your own custom gifts—and the type of principles we wanted to guide our company with—thoughtfulness and an excellent commitment to our customer" (Photo courtesy of shopboxfox.com)

5. Resourcefulness / A little goes a long way

When you are purposefully being scrappy, it’s important to be lean and resourceful. We’re able to keep our investments, expenses, and big moves both clear and organized. When it comes to the fun stuff, there’s no waste or unnecessary spending. Not only does it help against physical clutter, it keeps mental clutter light as well. That being said, we are very resourceful, and keep that approach as we grow. We are a bit too big to be relying on favors of friends and family like we did when we first got off the ground, but it is important to still leverage your network and their connections as you grow. We also get creative with airline miles, credit card rewards, and reusing materials, because you’re never too big to be mindful of how you are spending.

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."