I was an accountant in a cubicle at a large publicly traded firm in a small town in Central Illinois. And then my husband and I got pregnant. All I wanted to do was protect my unborn daughter and I quickly realized that other expecting moms wanted the same. So I started Bump Boxes: a subscription service tailored to mom’s due date, filled with healthy, pre-screened products.
My husband and I self-funded the company: I kept my day job and worked on Bump Boxes between other things. We managed our expenses carefully -- both personal and business -- and that mentality still runs through our company culture today. We did raise a small seed round of $100K from angels a year or so into the company. At this point, we're profitable at the unit level and the business level so we'll continue to self-fund our growth for the foreseeable future.
I started with zero experience in e-commerce. When I wasn’t packing boxes myself, I was calling other moms and emailing other mom bloggers. I put the product in front of them and refined it along the way. In hindsight, I was successful because I iterated on the product quicker than most of our competitors. Along the way, I learned how to acquire moms at the right time in their pregnancy -- and I learned how to do it faster and more efficiently than our competitors.
Over the past four years, we’ve doubled our revenue yearly while growing the team to nearly 50 people here in Central Illinois. I’ve challenged my team to be the number one mom acquisition company in the world. We’ve gotten to this point by being relentless - we try more things in a month than many of our competitors do in a year.
How did you find your early team members?
My husband is my co-founder but we couldn’t do it without our team. Hiring for fast-growing companies, particularly in the Midwest, is challenging. You’re looking for people that are positive, that are hungry, that want to grow and accept the discomfort that can come with that mindset.
Those people exist in the Midwest, they can be hard to find but, if you want your business to be successful, keep your standards high.
Did you run any companies prior?
I was an accountant at a Fortune 50 company -- a CPA, actually. When I resigned, most people I knew thought this was a terrible idea. Even some of our earliest vendors, and now they’re wanting to work on strategic initiatives with us.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
I like to say that if you want unsolicited advice, start a company or have a baby. All of a sudden, everyone has advice for you. Most of it is well-meaning, all of it is noise.
Pay attention to what your customers do -- not what they say. If they’re not ready to pay you, refine the product instead of trying to convince them further. Your success is a function of the number of things you try.
For anyone that’s starting out now, do things that don’t scale: pick up the phone and call your target customers. Talk to them and refine repeatedly. You can build systems and processes later: revenue fixes everything.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
Over the years, we’ve watched many of our competitors run out of money or approach us for an acquihire. The simplest way to explain our strategy is with a sports analogy:
Our Operations team is our defense -- it’s our moat. Over the years, we’ve learned how to efficiently manage 45+ box permutations on a monthly basis and that’s something our competitors have struggled to match. Our Midwestern location allows us to control our shipping costs.
Our Revenue team is our offense -- it’s all about our growth rate. If you walk into our HQ, you’ll see monitors on every wall: we’re focused on daily transactions, that’s our North Star.
Unless it costs you $1M+ to acquire your first customer, you don’t need a patent. More importantly, don’t be romantic about how you make your money: the default state of your company is failure and revenue is the only antidote.
What apps could your business not run without?
When it comes to tools: Slack, Asana and Google Analytics. We started with Wordpress and only recently built a custom application to bring our store in-house.
Would you ever sell?
We’ve given all of our employees stock options which, implicitly, means that we’ll sell the company some day. That being said, I’m well aware that there’s a huge difference between wanting to sell our company and someone wanting to buy our company.
Our goal is simple: Grow fast - Make Bump Boxes the #1 Mom acquisition company in the world. By putting ourselves in that position, we open ourselves up to a number of new revenue opportunities. I can't share many details about that yet but let me just say this: mom's generally have the majority of the spending power at home and we're on a mission to make her life easier than it's ever been!