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.

5 Min Read

I Started Off In The Inner City; Now I'm Using My Success Story To Uplift Inner-City Youth​

When I immigrated to the United States at 7 years old, at first, this country was so completely foreign to me that I didn't yet understand that there was any such thing as living in a "poor area."

Moreover, I couldn't even begin to conceive that I was most definitely living in one. The inner city was the only United States I knew.

I couldn't understand that there were different types of schools, charter schools, private schools, magnet schools... There was just school (public, of course). Going there every day simply became routine: Get up, go to school, go home. The option of extracurricular activities was scary to me at the time, and the area was already considered unsafe so I was never exposed to anything outside of that routine until I was about 12 years old.

I know firsthand that inner-city and underprivileged kids don't always have the same opportunities and resources to thrive in society as others.

Living in the inner city affects all families and people of all ages, but nobody is affected more than children. Growing up as a child in the inner city is challenging, and unfortunately, there is a natural disadvantage that comes with it. One that I understand firsthand.

Inner-city youths usually don't have adequate facilities to promote a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. Parks aren't always clean or safe, there isn't a variety of sports and other extracurricular activities outside of school. And the education isn't always on the same level as other more well-off areas. For most kids, a solid education is perhaps their only chance at getting off the streets, so they can create a better situation for their own kids. But if these inner-city kids aren't given the same educational opportunities as others, then they never will get out. The cycle continues.

Personally, I'm not sure who I would have been if it weren't for the opportunities my parents strove to create for me. If they hadn't believed in me enough to put me in modeling classes, I probably would never have been able to find my passion for performing in front of people, which then led me to join theater, which then segued into me competing in my first pageant. And, if you know me, you know that pageants have changed my life in a big way.

Because the environment I was living in, outside of my home, wasn't an inspirational or motivational one, I felt such a disconnect between the successful lives people were living on TV and the life that I was living or the future that I thought was attainable for me.

If we do not empower our inner-city youth it does our entire society a great disservice. We lose out on thousands, millions of potential doctors, innovators, entrepreneurs, politicians, and creatives. Think about where the world would be if people like Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr, or Marie Curie hadn't grown up in supportive families or environments? Would they have believed in themselves and achieved all they have? Maybe note, and the way we live would certainly be very different.

I give all the credit for my success in life to my parents. I was lucky enough to have a mom and dad who supported me beyond all belief and had the ability to go so far out of their way in order to give me the opportunities that got me where I am today.

When I was 12, my dad would drive me two hours to a modeling school, sit in his car in the brutal Boston winter for four hours until class was out, and then drive us back home another two hours. Or when I changed schools and could join the band and learn how to play an instrument, my mom saved up all of our extra money on the side so that I could afford to be a part of the band and learn how to play the tuba and the trombone.

My parents always reminded me that they believed in my abilities, my passions, and my potential to really make a difference in the world. And knowing this became a driving force for me. If my parents thought I could do it, it gave me all the reassurance I needed.

To this day my parents constantly emphasize that I have the capabilities to achieve anything so long as I am kind to others, work hard, and have faith.

My parents have truly helped me become who I am today. Now that I am reaping the rewards of the seeds my parents sowed in me, I want to be a guiding light for the kids that may not have parents like mine. I may not be able to solve all the problems out in the world, but what I can do is give inner-city kids the hope and confidence they need to achieve a successful life despite their circumstances.

Growing up with the notion that we either are enough or not enough, just one or the other, is simply society's way of trying to cap our abilities. The place you are born, the economic class you are born into, and the parents you are born with should not decide where you end up in life. We are all more than enough, period.

That's how the name of my initiative came about, with the mission to instill confidence and empower inner-city youth to live to their full potential despite their circumstances.

The "More Than Enough" initiative consists of school talks, workshops, and one-on-one mentorship. But first, I like to focus on sharing my personal story, because I believe that when they hear about someone they can relate to and when they see what I have been able to do with my life, I can become an inspiration just by standing in front of them and telling my story.

Then I focus on building up their self-esteem and confidence within themselves, and shifting how they view the world around them. I always tell them that everything and anything they need to succeed in life, they already have inside of them. Then I give them the tools and concrete ways so they can stay on track and navigate who they truly are, what they want to do, and how to do it.

Working with inner-city and underprivileged youth is something that I am dedicating to doing for the rest of my life. I believe in the positive impact that this work will have on our society. Because no one should be capped on their capabilities.

If these kids don't have a role model in their lives, I am committed to being that for them.