What You Need To Know Before Running A Self-Funded Startup

4min read

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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5 Min Read

Michael Bloomberg Can’t Handle A Woman With A Voice (aka Elizabeth Warren)

Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.

At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.

But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?

Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.

But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).

Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."

As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.

  • Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
  • Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
  • Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
  • Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.

Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?

Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.

Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.

This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.

"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit

Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.

Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.

She was, and still is being, silenced.

After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."

Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."

Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.

Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.