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a note from blankbox founders on coronavirus

the fill

how we're experiencing coronavirus, what it's taught us [so far] + what we're doing to make moments with positive impact

we’re all in the midst of forming a new normal with this corona craze. companies are navigating how to work remotely and still stay business as usual as much as possible, families and schools are navigating how to deliver uninterrupted learning remotely [shout out to the moms hosting structured home schools for their kids…this warms my heart every time i see it. moms are incredible part one thousand], and we’re all navigating a new physical and mental state around staying connected, productive + supportive in a time when social distancing is the new normal.

we, like everyone else, have suddenly been plunged into this chaotic and uncertain time that’s twisted all of our norms + even more importantly, severely impacted people we know who are dependent on the exact opposite of social distancing. for many, this is not just navigating a new normal: it’s completely uprooting their life. we won’t pretend to know what this experience has been like for anyone except ourselves, but wanted to share how we’re experiencing this, what it’s taught us [so far] + what we’re doing to make moments with positive impact.  

as small business owners, coos of our respective “day job” companies [in which we’re equally emotionally invested] + new yorkers who like to walk fast + get sh*t done, we’re used to living fast. for us, the coronavirus has been akin to the brick wall at platform 9 ¾ when harry tries to go through and ends up crashing into the wall. he’s not expecting it, he crashes, and then is immediately forced to reevaluate his surroundings and come up with a new path forward [did we mention we are huge harry potter fans?] the point of this brilliantly executed harry potter metaphor is the moment of impact where you’re forced to stop. take a breath. and reevaluate your path forward.

i [gabi] saw something yesterday that really struck me: “we haven’t lost control of our lives, we’ve lost the illusion that we were ever in control. relax and just breathe, this is just a footnote in your journey”.

this hit home. as someone who loves to be in control, i know we can’t be. we can’t control what’s happening outside of ourselvesand the people / things that rely on our actions. we can’t “fix” the terrifying negative externalities caused by coronavirus: markets plummeting, companies going out of business, lost jobs and the implications of that. so, what can we do?

we can pause. take a deep breath. and slow down. more importantly, be okay with slowing down. reflect on what about Coronavirus makes us fearful or anxious, which will tell us what’s truly important to us. take time that would otherwise be spent on living fast and use those moments to connect with people we love. read more. listen more. do more of the things that inspire us that usually fall victim to to-do lists. control the controllables, and know that there will be personal growth in this. know that this is temporary – just a footnote in our respective journeys.

so now the focus becomes: how can we use what we have to influence the way people are experiencing their version of corona?

some of you may know this, but blankbox was built on the foundation of thoughtfulness. i [gabi] wanted to give my best friend who was having a rough week a thoughtful gift with her favorite things, and the idea for blankbox was born. yes, we love our chic gift boxes. we love a good custom bridesmaid proposal gift box. but what we really love is making moments: giving people the opportunity to make someone’s day [their month, or even their year….. if you didn’t just sing this to the tune of the friends song, we can’t be friends. pun intended].

with social distancing and physical separation amplified by doubt, fear, chaos and uncertainty, now more than ever is the time to connect with the people you love and make someone’s day. write a letter telling someone what they mean to you. have deep conversations and moments of quiet enjoyment sipping coffee with your partner. facetime your grandparents who learned how to use facetime yesterday [or not. always fun to see up grandpa’s nose]. call your parents and talk about funny memories + what ridiculous recipe to make the next time you see each other. call your best friend and tell her you love her, and have virtual happy hours with people you don’t always call at 5pm on a “normal” day [okay, fine noon works too].  send someone going through a tough time a thoughtful blankbox filled with their favorite gifts. 

now more than ever is the time to do what you can for other people: we’re guilty of focusing on ourselves, our own goals and ambitions and our immediate ‘bubble’ too, but times like this shove our interdependence into the spotlight. we forget how connected we are until we’re faced with the absence of connectedness, but it’s important to remember we don’t need physical contact to stay connected and make an impact; while trying not to spread coronavirus, we can still do our part to spread love, positivity and happiness by making moments that impact others. 

there are people right now who couldn’t care less about blankbox. they couldn’t care less about anything, really, except feeding themselves + their children. this has always existed, but coronavirus and schools shutting down have cut off access to food for a lot of families. these are families you’ve probably seen walking in your own neighborhood as you go to pick up your $5 latte or your takeout without a second thought. while we’re adjusting to a “new normal”, we can do our part to help our community and the people we sometimes forget we’re connected to. 

right now making moments with positive impact feels especially important, whether it’s showing someone you love them with a thoughtful blankbox or helping feed a family who needs it. we want to make it easy to do both. we will be donating 25 meals to @foodbank4nyc for every blankbox purchased from today until april 15.

with love, gabi + catherine, blankbox cofounders

we hope you liked this + will pass it to as many friends / family / random strangers as you can! subscribe on our home page here and if you have any specific topics you want us to cover, shoot us a note hello@blankboxnyc.com.

the art of the unreasonable request

the fill: the art of the unreasonable request

in an earlier edition of the fill, we wrote about how “one on one whisper networks” have been transformative for blankbox, inspired by Aliza Licht’s article in the New York Post. The whole concept starts with an ASK. Which brings me to the next thing that’s stuck with us since reading about it: the art of the Unreasonable Request.

 

Stephanie Burns, who is an entrepreneur and founder, writer, mom, + most importantly, HILARIOUS [we’ve never met, but she’s been hit up with an Unreasonable Request for coffee], lives by this idea. She says “Unreasonable Requests is about stretching yourself to finally ask for what you want, make a bigger impact in your business, and add more spice and excitement to your life.”  In other words, asking for what you want [in a smart way]. In other words, my favorite life motto [sorry in advance to the people I’ve said this to on repeat that want to punch me in the face]: “you don’t get what you don’t ask for”. That’s true in all aspects of life, but never truer than with a new startup like blankbox.

 

Want to be in Forbes? ASK. Want to be on the today show? ASK. Want a cooler-than-you’ll-ever-be influencer to feature your products for immediate ROI and sales? ASK. All #humblebrags but also all things we got by just…asking. It’s not “entitled” or “egotistical” or “overstepping” or any of the things we’ve been conditioned to worry about when asking for what we want. But there is an art to it: you have to think about how you can provide value back to that person. WHY does that person care to do what you’re asking them to do? Answer that question in your ask.

 

I’m a big fan of saying [jokingly, but also not jokingly at all] that if you have a pulse and an Instagram, I’ve probably DMed you to introduce blankbox and myself, grab coffee, ask for something, offer something that I think may be of value, etc. I used to think about making an Unreasonable Request and talk myself out of it for a number of reasons until one day….I realized: WHO CARES! You’ve gotta be a little shameless with self-promotion to grow your own business! And a big part of that is asking for what you want. As incredibly supportive and helpful as people can be, nobody is sitting around wondering how they can help us or blankbox today [contrary to my founder fantasyland ideas in the beginning, which is a post for another day]. 

 

We’ve gotten very comfortable with making Unreasonable Requests and even more comfortable with the “worst case” scenario: they don’t care, say no, or *gasp* leave you on read [or don’t respond to your email, twist the knife in why don’t ya!] PSA: it doesn’t matter. As our #girlboss inspo Rebecca Minkoff likes to say “no is just the beginning of yes” in business. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go be a friendly neighborhood stalker to Stephanie Burns. BRB.

 

Have an Unreasonable Request for us? Email us hello@blankboxnyc.com, we’d love to hear from you!

with love, gabi + catherine, blankbox cofounders

we hope you liked this + will pass it to as many friends / family / random strangers as you can! subscribe on our home page here and if you have any specific topics you want us to cover, shoot us a note hello@blankboxnyc.com.

the fill female founder yearbook class of 2019-2020

the fill female founder yearbook
class of 2019 - 2020

in honor of international women’s day, we thought we would share some advice + words to live by + empowering anecdotes from our female founders we’ve featured in the fill over the last year.  while these incredible women come from diverse backgrounds (from a young woman who started a company in her parents basement, to a former head of global banking turned female founder, to a household name in the fashion industry), they all have one thing in common – they’ve built companies and communities in an age where women are still paid 21% less than men. 

 

as female founders in NYC, we continue to be inspired by the energy, support + community that women bring to each other – without women supporting women, blankbox wouldn’t exist and it definitely wouldn’t be as fun. happy international women’s day!

 

we hope you liked this + will pass it to as many friends / family / random strangers as you can! subscribe on our home page here and shoot us a note hello@blankboxnyc.com.

whisper networks + how we use these as female founders in NYC

the fill: whisper networks + how we use them as female founders in NYc

photo: brian zak, new york post

Let’s face it, we live in a world of constant content: blog posts, editorials, journal articles and if you’re really going off the beaten millennial path: an actual book! It’s up to us to sift through that content from what we can actually learn from, and occasionally we read something that really sticks with us. This week, we read something that really stuck with us in the new york post: how whisper networks can help you leverage negotiating and your career by aliza licht, who is the bestselling author + host of the LEAVE YOUR MARK podcast, cofounder of homesickdotcom and a writer [she must have a ton of free time]. 

First off, what’s a “whisper network”: a whisper network is a group of professionals who help each other with industry information and learning to grow their respective businesses. In other words, it’s a safe place where you can go to ask questions, discuss taboo questions and share work challenges, whether it’s your “5-person whisper network” like Lauren McGoodwin, founder + CEO of Career Contessa or a more formal “outside the confines of company walls” whisper network of senior female bankers where you can talk about secretive topics like compensation and toxic work culture formed by former banking exec Cate Luzio, who has now translated that experience into whisper network dinners at her female collaboration hub Luminary that encourage attendees to “share work challenges, and are encouraged to ask any taboo question that may be preventing them from succeeding”. Licht writes about how there are even exclusive, members-only apps like THELI.ST for this very purpose.

The whole concept of whisper networks really stuck with me because we’ve been engaging in one-on-one “whisper networks” since we started blankbox [and before, it on our “day jobs”] without even knowing it, and it’s been transformational.  For us, it’s been less about a place to explore taboo topics and more about these “one-on-one whisper networks”, or other people we can [and do] ask questions to: anything from asking other female founders “how much do you spend on Instagram ads / day” and “do you know a great videographer who won’t cost my first born child” to “will you send me the pitch email you used for _____” and “will you introduce me to _______”. We, too, get asked questions ALL THE TIME. We love having these one-on-one whisper networks, and equally love being them for people.

We’ve developed these one-on-one whisper network relationships with select women, from other self funded side hustlers to seasoned founder veterans, and it’s completely changed our ability to grow as individuals and as a startup.  For anyone reading this, do you act as a one-on-one whisper network for someone else? Do you have a list of 5 one-on-one whisper networks you can go to with questions? If not, highly recommend.  It all starts with an ASK. which brings me to the next fill topic…..stay tuned.

with love, gabi + catherine, blankbox cofounders

we hope you liked this + will pass it to as many friends / family / random strangers as you can! subscribe on our home page here and if you have any specific topics you want us to cover, shoot us a note hello@blankboxnyc.com.

blankbox founders gabi koshgarian catherine wang

introducing fill fridays

the fill: introducing fill fridays

blankbox founders gabi koshgarian catherine wang

photo: diana davis creative

Whether you’re a baby founder like us or a seasoned veteran in the #entrepreneurlifestyle, we’re always looking to learn from the founders who came before us. If you’ve read THE FILL before, you know our goal is to FILL [get it] your brain and inbox with content you actually want, whether it’s a female founder feature with tangible takeaways and life lessons learned from real female founders or a curated gift guide for #giftspo for your next gifting moment [shameless plug…they all fit in a blankbox].

For THE FILL in january, we interviewed two certified crazy people who decided to launch a business a year and a half ago, entirely self funded and with “day jobs” as the COOs of their respective companies: ourselves. read our feature here.

Something unexpected happened when we released THE FILL featuring ourselves: we got the highest readership we’ve ever had! This isn’t a thinly veiled #humblebrag, we were genuinely shocked that so many people cared what we had to say considering we’ve featured some badass, accomplished female founders like michelle cordeiro grant of lively,  cate luzio of luminary,  jackie courtney of nearly newlywedrebecca minkoff, divya gugnani of wander beautyrobyn davidson of byrobynblairneha govindraj of glowbarkristen tomlan of doeliz + dale from sweats + the city,  candace ourisman + ashley bronczek of secretly gifting,  kate westad of palette by pak + ali kaminetsky of modern picnic. it turns out there’s a market for how to launch a successful side hustle [while  working a 9-5, lol we wish], how to self fund your business [while living in NYC], how to take a business from idea to launch [hint: it’s not as hard as you think], + all the highs and lows and lessons learned we’ve had along the way.

Once we got over the initial shock [and making sure it wasn’t just our moms clicking on the fill 100x / minute to increase our page views] we knew we had to do something. to we created…drum roll please… FILL FRIDAY! you’re now going to start hearing from (on fridays, obvi) that include our own incessant ramblings [aka blog posts] about our own experiences as NYC-based female founders with a self-funded side hustle that we feel people can learn from, things that inspire us, fun announcements, and more. 

with love, gabi + catherine, blankbox cofounders

we hope you liked this + will pass it to as many friends / family / random strangers as you can! subscribe on our home page here if you haven’t already and if you have any specific topics you want us to cover, shoot us a note here hello@blankboxnyc.com.

female founder feature: ali kaminetsky, modern picnic

female founder feature: ali kaminetsky founder + ceo, modern picnic

IF YOU’RE LIKE US, YOU BRING YOUR LUNCH EVERYDAY (OKAY FINE, TRY TO BRING YOUR LUNCH EVERYDAY) TO HELP YOU EAT A BIT HEALTHIER AND SAVE SOME SERIOUS CASH-O-LA (NEW YORKERS WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU). WHICH MEANS, YOU KNOW THAT THE STRUGGLE IS REAL WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF YOU SHOULD RE-USE THAT LULULEMON BAG FOR THE 1000X, OR GRAB A PLASTIC BAG FROM YOUR LATEST TRIP TO CVS, OR JUST TOSS YOUR TUPPERWARE IN YOUR WORK BAG AND HOPE FOR THE BEST. BUT THANKS TO ali kaminetsky, founder + ceo of modern picnic, THAT STRUGGLE IS no more(!!!). WHY?! BECAUSE THIS SELF-FUNDED BADA$ has invented the chicest lunchbox-solution we’ve ever laid eyes on. not only is her product beautiful but the utility and versatility is, in our opinion, unparalleled in the industry. HER CLASSIC LUNCHER LAUNCHED HER BRAND AND SHE HAS SINCE EXPANDED TO INCLUDE OTHER INSULATED, VEGAN LEATHER ACCESSORIES FOR ALL YOUR LUNCHING (AND DINNER-ING, AND TBH DAILY HANDBAG NEEDS). 

Tell us the story of how you got started. What gave you the idea and how did you come up with the name? 

 

I had just graduated from college, and moved into the city to start my job at Macy’s where I was doing buying for them. From the start I was bringing my lunch to work every day because of how much faster, healthier, and cheaper it was (especially as a recent grad). However, I did not have a chic or functional way to do so. I was carrying my lunch in paper, plastic or old shopping bags. When I went online to buy myself a lunchbox, I saw tons of options for little kids and men but nothing for women who wanted to both look and feel their best. From there, the idea to start Modern Picnic was born. I actually came up with the name the day I came up with the idea, secured the domain immediately, and the rest is history. 

 

You have the idea for MP – now what? What were the main things you did that took you from idea to launching a product? Talk to us about those activities, and how you decided to go MP full time – was that an easy decision?

 

It took me just under two years from idea formation to actually launching the company. I came up with the idea in September of 2016 and launched on May 1, 2018.  I was only 22 when I had the idea and had absolutely zero prior experiences, skill sets, connections, or any idea how to turn this idea into a reality. The first thing I did was just start talking to anyone and everyone to learn from them, and get their advice. From there, I began developing a tech pack for our first product, the luncher. Leaving Macy’s to pursue Modern Picnic full time was absolutely terrifying. Working at Macy’s was my dream job, and was something I had worked so hard to get to, so to leave this amazing place, and stable pay check, was not an easy decision but one that I have never once regretted. 

 

You’ve self-funded this entire business (!!!) Talk to us about that decision and why you took that path instead of raising VC money. Is there anything you’ve learned about where not to put your money as a self funded entrepreneur?

 

As a bootstrapped company, you have to be extra cognizant and careful about where you are spending your money. While we are very proud of how far we have gotten by being self-funded, we feel that we need to raise in order to take Modern Picnic to the next level. I certainly do not come from a Finance background, so am trying to do everything i can do edecutate myself on the process – i.e. networking calls, attending events and panels centered around funding, and doing my own research online. 

you’ve been in business for under 2 years and already have such an amazing following! talk to us about organic growth and what marketing channels / other channels have contributed the most to that?

 

we really try to utilize all of the channels to maximize visibility and awareness on the brand. that means not just focusing on our instagram but also channels such as twitter, pinterest, linkedin, facebook, email and of course, our website. we also do quite a bit of ppc advertising and have seen success promoting via google, facebook and instagram ads which have all contributed to our organic growth.

We love using Planoly to plan our our Instagram feed, and Tailwind for Pinterest planning and optimization. Everything else is really organized and planned through Google Docs!

 

you do amazing instagram marketing! For entrepreneurs just learning how to instagram market, what are your best tips + tricks? Is there a sweet spot “spend” on ads or “type of ad” that works the best for you? How do you build the target audience for your ads?

 

Well first of all – thank you! We were working with an amazing freelancer to help us with our instagram marketing at first. He was able to teach us the ground work, and basics, on PPC Advertising.

If you are not an expert, I highly recommend working with one to learn more. This will ensure you are optimizing ad spend, and not wasting any money on low performing ads. 

All of our ads are run through Google Ads, and Facebook Ads Manager. We have a team that monitors the account on a daily basis to make sure we are optimizing ad spend, and targeting the right people!

 

you recently launched an ambassador program. What are the first steps someone looking to launch this should take + how should they grow it?

 

Our ambassador program and welcoming in 150+ amazing women from around the country, is definitely something I am most proud of with Modern Picnic. Before we launched the program, we were getting quite a bit of inquiries from different women asking if we had a program or not. So once we decided to actually begin creating the program, the first step we took was asking if they would get on a call with us so we could learn more about what they would want to see from a program. We don’t look at, or measure, our Ambassador Program as a ROI rather it is the heart of our company. It is all about the community that is being built, and the connections that are being made. We reward our ambassadors on a Tier system…meaning, the more they sell, the more we gift!

My advice would be to talk to your community and see what they would want! Because after all, at the end of the day, the ambassador program is for them and to make it as fulfilling as possible. 

 

You created a ‘first of its kind’ product with a lot of competition – talk to us about how you differentiate yourself. Why does a woman buy MP over another lunchbox?

 

We saw tons of lunchboxes on the market for little kids and for men, but nothing for women who wanted to both look and feel their best. Our lunch bags are designed so you can bring them from work, to the gym, to the dinner and anywhere in between, and no one would ever have to know what was inside. 

 

you recently launched the tote in addition to your luncher and snacker lines. Talk to us about how the idea for that product came about and what the design process was like? When you launch a ‘new’ product, how do you grow that product without cannibalizing your other lines?

 

We wanted to create a product for all types of women! The snacker is perfect for the girl who just wants to bring snacks with her. The luncher is for the girl who brings her lunch with her, and the tote is for the girl who wants to bring her breakfast, luncher + maybe even dinner with her all in one. Although all products fall under one umbrella, we feel they are different enough that they will not cannibalize each other, but instead complement each other. 

 

You’re giving your best friend a blankbox. How do you fill it? 

 

Of course with MP products ☺

QUICK FIRE WITH ALI KAMINETSKY

 

where are you from: Greenwich, CT

 

favorite NYC restaurant: Loving Pastis right now

 

what we’ll find in your luncher: GG Crackers, some kind of bar and fruit

 

favorite “me-time” activity: Love going to work out classes

 

favorite brand: Too many amazing ones to choose from!

 

best gift you’ve ever received: My best friends recently got me and Eberjay robe + pajama set and I swear I have not been able to take it off since. Softest set ever.

female founder feature: kate westad, palette by pak

female founder feature: kate westad, palette by pak

we’ve all been there. packing for a vacation, business trip, or just a day-to-workout-to-night day in the life. in the dark days [pre kate + palette by pak] we had to either pack, unpack + repack our entire skincare routine into said bag or *gasp* leave home without our goops, glops + glam. no more! kate westad, founder + ceo of palette by pak, has invented [and patented] the ‘original high fiver’, the first of its kind compact, convenient + leak proof travel tool of our dreams.  if you think her product is life changing [you’re right, it is] wait until you read her story! 

tell us what your product is and the story of how you got started. 

 

i am the founder of palette by pak and i invented the palette the original high fiver. it’s what i humbly like to call the travel + beauty tool of your dreams! but seriously, it has been so incredibly amazing to see our product go from vision to reality and help solve real world beauty and on-the-go problems. 

 

how did you take the business from “idea” to “launch”. 

 

i could see the high fiver so clearly in my mind. from the design, to the material, to the colors, to the name. i think the biggest part of this journey was staying true to my vision and going with my intuition, no matter what.

 

As an inventor, I have sketchbooks and lists upon lists of ideas. And as an attorney, I knew my first step would be about protecting my ideas. So I took my idea to an attorney friend of mine and he said he could help. It really just snowballed from there. One person would introduce me to one person and another person to another person. It really is true that you just need to start and the path will appear. It was a long process, well over two years. My biggest challenge was manufacturing in the USA, but it was so important to me. As a sustainably minded company, I just had to have it made locally with as tight of a footprint as possible.

 

execution is key! as you close out your first year in business, what would you do differently? what did you feel you did particularly well?

 

we actually didn’t fully launch ecommerce sales until august. so we are at the six month mark. i literally would do nothing different. i have learned so much about each choice and decision. you truly can’t learn to run a company without testing what works and what doesn’t for your brand. i think being open minded and always choosing the most exciting choice that feels right in the moment has helped. making discerning and intuitive choices that resounds with me as a founder is key. someone recently described me as having “big dreams, killer instinct.” I wil try to live up to that description any day of the week. I look at this process as a complete learning experience. As a litigation attorney you are so used to taking a subject and learning everything about it. This really was no different. plus I thought it was fascinating and was enthralled with the problem solving aspect of entreprenuership.
 
 
I also really think you need to find the right people to help you. When you are so small, the people you bring in to help you are so crucial. And knowing who to bring in when is equally as important. For instance, I was not just launching my invention, I knew I was launching a brand with numerous inventions and multiple innovations in the works. It was important we came out strong and our creative, branding and marketing reflected who we were and was on point. And mostly we were just having fun!
 

you’ve self funded this entire business (!!!) talk to us about that decision and why you took that path instead of raising vc money. 

 

for one, it can be easier – you can start immediately and go at your own pace. two, you answer to yourself. when you have such a strong vision, you know where you want to go. autonomy, freedom with a dash of “holy sheet cake, this is very expensive” comes to mind.

as a self funder, how do you market your product and get it in front of as many eyes as possible in a cost effective way? is there a particular platform or methodology that’s worked exceptionally well for you?

 

marketing can feel like literally lighting money on fire. but if you want people to visit the world you are creating, you have to build streets, you have to create traffic. i do not believe the “build it they will come” philosophy. you must get out there once you are done testing in a big way. and you have to have a point of connection with your customers. for us, we are so  passionate about reusing materials, sustainability and eliminating single-use travel bottles. plus we are a problem solver for our on-the-go modern beauty lifestyle and we created this product to help people. these are connectable points for people. i truly believe we all want to be better and help save the world. People can do that with our product by skipping one travel bottle at a time. 
 
 
We have also tested so many platforms and channels since launching. We did all of our testing live in the market. I feel like we have learned so much in just 6 months. Now that we are preparing to scale and roll into retail, we know better where to position our product. people tend to just focus on the monetary gains but the market insight to us has been immeasurable. Plus so many opportunities came from testing. We will continue to test as we grow and diversify our efforts. 
 

talk to us about the patent process. how did you go from having this idea to securing its patent? why did you decide to patent your product out of the gate?

 

it is an expensive long process. not for the faint of heart but come on, nor is launching a startup. as a lawyer and based on what i invented, i decided to go this route. it is not always available, but in my case it was. i regret nothing and would go this route 1000 times over. innovation protected is the way to go. And you really do need a qualified patent lawyer for this process and a set aside budget as it is quite expensive. This is not one of those things you can do yourself.

 

i think when you are passionate about something you make it happen. for me, i stopped watching tv, i stopped trying to have everything be so perfect at home. i stopped trying to find “hobbies” and instead did what i felt passionate about. as an only parent of 4 kids, i took those “found” hours and launched a business. for me, it was something i had to do. for me, there was no alternative. i had to make it happen. my kids are my biggest fans and the biggest supporters. i like to think i am showing them that you can create something out of nothing and find so much satisfaction in it. life is also short, so we talk about that a lot in our house. if not now, when?

 

signature question – how did you come up with the name?

 

i could see PALETte so clearly in the vision of my product. i feel like it was just meant to be. 

 

can you talk a little bit about how being a mom impacts your life as a solopreneur / founder? what’s the balance like there and what advice do you have for moms trying to build a business? 

 

I am an only parent of of 4 kids. Their dad died over 5 years ago. I think going through something so devastating and tragic makes you also realize life is short. It became this passion project for me, to get these ideas out into the world as soon as I could. I tell my kids anything is possible, and I hope by me chasing my dreams they can see they can chase theirs as well.

 

Through this process, I was working two jobs. Sometimes your house isn’t clean. Sometimes the laundry waits. Sometimes you get take out. I would spend my free time on evenings and weekends doing start up work. I think sometimes we are so socialized to just do what we are expected to do in our daily lives. You have to consciously make an effort to take those hours and shift them towards something you feel passionate and excited about. And sometimes you have to stop trying to be so perfect and accept that for now, this is what needs to happen to make your dreams come true.

 

what’s your best piece of advice for someone in your shoes? 

 

just start. as you go down your path, the steps will just appear. people will come to support and help you. but sometimes the hardest part is just taking the first step. it can be as simple as a sketch, a phone call, reading and research and taking notes. it only takes one little spark to create a flame. i truly believe that anyone can chase their dreams, no matter your age, experience or current situation. anything is possible!

catherine's high-fiver

 since i’ve recently become a skincare junkie these are obviously not all the products i use, but  the ones i use every.single.day. i  start my routine with the milky moisturizing cleanser from sanitas followed by a few spritz’s of the essence by the same brand [not pictured]. with still damp skin i’ll put The Ordinary. Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 for an extra moisture boost. step three is the skinceuticals c e ferulic to help even out my skin tone. last morning step is the Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer. in the pm i swap the c e ferulic for sunday riley’s juno oil. 

gabi's high-fiver

the 5 products I cannot live without [and that you’ll find in my palette by pak high fiver]! if I ever gift these to you in a blankbox, just know i love you more than average. the drunk elephant c-firma, drunk elephant protini and drunk elephant virgin marula oil are my morning ‘skin cocktail’, good genes by sunday riley is a new addition to my skincare routine and i’m o b s e s s e d. a little pricey, but worth every penny. and last but definitely not least, drunk elephant’s babyfacial, which i use 1x per week to exfoliate. 

 

team blankbox: our first [full] year in business!

the fill: team blankbox + our first full year in business

it’s officially 2020 and the end of a decade! 10 years ago, we were both in our freshman year at holy cross and hadn’t yet become friends; little did we know a decade later we’d be best friends + cofounders saying goodbye to our first full year in business with blankbox! it’s been a wild ride of a year full of ups, downs + a whole lot of sideways – and we’re here to tell the story!

for our first ‘the fill’ of the new roaring ’20s, we’re interviewing – you guessed it – ourselves! we’re getting candid on lessons we’ve learned + what’s surprised us, the do’s + donts of getting press + navigating your cofounder relationship, the best constructive criticism we’ve received + what our accomplishments this year have taught us. our *law + order opening credits* – here are our / their stories

gabi koshgarian catherine wang blankbox founders
blankbox founders gabi koshgarian catherine wang
corporate gifting holiday gifting custom corporate gift boxes

if you had to pick one word to describe the last year, what would it be and why? 


FAST! There are going to be a lot of unexpected things that come up (good and bad) and you have to move fast, change fast and learn fast. As cheesy as it sounds, we’ve developed a “we will get anything done” mentality – when something unexpected comes up, we know it’s not even a question if we can get it done so we don’t waste time with that – we just touch base and figure out a plan to make it happen.

what were your top 2 accomplishments and why are they important to the brand on a broader scale?


Press – 2019 was the year of PRESS! #humblebrag Forbes and the Today Show [among others] #humblebrag we were so excited to have the opportunity to tell our story as founders and show the world a little more blankbox!

Beyond the excitement of the press itself, there are broader brand implications; the first, validation. We learned that press doesn’t necessarily drive immediate sales and ROI (which was surprising, but we’ve since heard the same from a lot of other founders so don’t expect ROI in the beginning!) It does validate your brand and put your name in the mouths of a much broader audience than you can do on your own. 

It also gives you street cred when you’re pitching other outlets, which brings us to our next broader brand implication: learning how to pitch yourself. I [gabi] used to be the master of the next great American novel pitch email explaining in detail what blankbox is, how it’s used + why they should love it; oh and did I mention the subject along the lines of: “founder of blankbox reaching out / [something personal about them or an article they wrote here]!” If you love blankbox and want to write novels about it, that means everyone else wants to also right?!

Hard no. 

Luckily for us [+ the victims of our novels] two really important things happened mid 2019. The first, Cate Luzio held a “Ask an Editor” night at Luminary with senior editors of digital media outlets designed to answer all the press questions you have but have nobody to ask aka help people like us figure out how to actually write a press email. Catherine sat in the front row [if this shocks you, email us because we clearly need to get to know you better!] and asked so many questions and…drum roll please…got SO many answers! If you’re a founder / on a small team and a member of Luminary, highly recommend going to the next one of these. If not, highly recommend becoming a member [and if you don’t, come as our guest]. Events like this designed to facilitate answers to specific questions that are otherwise difficult to get are so important – especially when it comes to the Dark Underworld that is PR. 

The second important thing that happened was meeting Melissa Conner from Jennifer Bett Communications – we originally met at the Female Founder Conference back in March – by met I mean I cornered her and introduced myself [again, if this shocks you, reach out to me let’s get coffee] and she quickly became a mentor of ours. JBC started doing “Office Hours” where you can go and get answers to all your PR questions from VP level experts [this is for brands who are not clients] – for anyone who hasn’t gone, I highly recommend it. Again, any opportunity designed to give you answers to specific questions – especially when it’s one on one with an expert you wouldn’t typically have access to – so important and helpful!

Here is what we’ve learned:


-the subject should be your angle: answer the “why do they care to open this”

-short and sweet. We learned that editors receive hundreds of emails a day, a lot of them pitches. Long winded means they open it [if they open it], probably gasp dramatically at the length and then immediately close without reading the email you just spent an hour crafting. *crying emoji* Instead: open with the reason you’re writing. If you read an article they wrote last year and think your product is perfect for this year’s version, say that. If you read several of their articles and have an angle you think works in their niche, say that. Then introduce yourself and your brand in 1-2 sentences: it’s okay not to give all the information about your brand that you think is relevant. If they care, they’ll ask. 

-one of our most successful pitch emails to date was the simplest email we’ve ever written to a stranger, and it landed us on the today show (hi jenn falik, we love you!) it was a 5 line email from catherine introducing herself as the founder + blankbox that started with who we are (1-2 sentences) and ended with why you care (1-2 sentences). That’s it. 

Alexa, play started from the bottom by Drake. 

 

best pieces of constructive criticism you got and how they changed your mindset?


“Your website doesn’t reflect the quality of your box”: this is actually a compliment framed as constructive criticism but gave us a whole new perspective on how others are perceiving our boxes without having seen them. We’re around them 24/7 so we know the quality, but this helped us not assume that people who haven’t seen them do. The suggestion here was to build in more video content on our website that showcases each individual feature of the blankbox that we’re proud of [the quality and thickness of the box, the built in ribbon, magnetic closure, texture, et] that may not be as visible in a photo. 

Editor’s note: Videographers hit us up at hello@blankboxnyc.com!

 

“I would buy a solid color box but not one with designs on it”: when we were in the pre-launch design phase of blankbox [hi madeline, hi 1,000 designs!], we finalized the 3 we ended up launching with in part because we love them [and the 500 people we surveyed did too], but also in part because none of them is necessarily polarizing. There aren’t any bold colors or super specific patterns that would rub people the wrong way….BUT it turns out not everyone even wants design at all! 

We never even considered a solid color box as we thought those already existed. So many people have asked us to make a line of [higher quality than existing options] solid color boxes: we plan to do this in gen 2 and call them ‘blankbox basics’: stay tuned!

Editor’s note: this also taught us that no matter how much you survey people, do your research, and create options within your brand – you cannot please everyone. And that’s okay! It’s hard not to take personally as the founder + chief “I give so many fucks about every tiny detail” officer but the mentality that you can’t please everyone helps.

any surprises? what did you learn for next time?

PR doesn’t lead to sales – as we mentioned above, this was super surprising to us! Each press hit is definitely great brand validation and leads to more press, but we haven’t seen meaningful ROI yet from press hits. Part of this is likely that some of our press pieces involve blankbox as part of a ‘round-up’ rather than a standalone brand, but we’ve also heard similar stories from other entrepreneurs. 

people want to hear from us and see our faces behind the brand [okay diana, you were right – keep reading and this will make sense!] we learned that people will buy a really good product that solves a problem for them, but they will even more likely buy that product if they feel connected to the founders somehow – to all you seasoned founders rolling your eyes and whispering ‘duh’ to yourself, bear with us!! We were shocked at how much of a difference this can make + are focused on building our own personal brand as part of blankbox – starting with this interview of ourselves, obviously. 

This really came to light when we sent a short + sweet email introducing ourselves to random strangers [+ a lot of people who already knew us, hello CRM user error!] it was the shortest email we’ve ever sent, but had the highest open rate of anything we’ve ever sent. *powerful*

editor’s note: Want to see it? Email us at hello@blankboxnyc.com – we share the love!

 

contracts really matter. again, duh right? but when you are a startup in pre-launch phase working with a big supplier, you have zero leverage [or so you think]. not naming names, but when said supplier refuses to sign a supply agreement because ‘they don’t do that” and you’re in a time crunch to get to production phase and sign anyways….you end up with a higher % than anyone would ever want of damaged boxes. surprise – they don’t want to refund you! and if you don’t have a contract, there’s nothing you can do. lesson learned: do not work in good faith with anyone you don’t implicitly trust. always have a contract. lesson learned 2: refusal to sign a contract is a red flag.

 

talk about your cofounder relationship – what roles did you play and what did you learn?


First of all, we learned that it is okay [and actually better] to get into business with your best friend, if you have the kind of relationship where you can separate personal and professional. We’re both direct people and respect each other’s opinions and work styles so much that it works – of course we disagree but we’ve never disagreed on something we can’t resolve thanks to the ‘feel strongly’ method [trademark pending]. If one of us feels strngly about something, the other agrees and we do that. It’s never failed us. 

We both come from finance + operations backgrounds [hence, the “day” jobs as COO of our respective companies, which we happen to love. Shout out to the best, most supportive bosses in the world!] as cofounders of a direct to consumer gift box company, it turns out we can’t survive on finance and operations alone [whaaaat?!] we have to get creative and learn marketing and social media quickly [hi arianne! Keep reading to find out who arianne is]. I [gabi] was really surprised by how much I wanted to slip into the more ‘creative’ sides of the business and how much I never wanted to see the word tax again – it required a lot of learning on my part [like how to actually use Instagram and how to use Photoshop…hello all-nighter tutorial a week before launch!] but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed. Catherine handles our operations, including order fulfillment and vendor management – as her boyfriend would say, she is a HAWK. Nothing gets by her, which is absolutely ideal when it comes to startup operations. 

editor’s note: I [gabi] also call her the Chief Margin Finder [has she ever physically wrestled the company credit card out of my hands…maybe]. 

One thing we will say is when you’re looking for a cofounder, pick someone with the exact same work ethic + work style as you do. If you burn the midnight oil and have a ‘get shit done’ mentality, don’t pick a cofounder who checks out at 4:59:59pm every night and gets strangled by the tiniest bit of change. It’s not going to work.

Lastly – we learned that we think each other is hilarious. Stay tuned for a couple upcoming podcasts where this becomes all too obvious. 

share some blankbox box facts! [okay fine, since you asked]


most popular box: for personal use, the most popular box is ‘at first blush’ [bridesmaid proposals, which are our #1 personal use!]; for corporate gifting, checker me out is the most popular

most popular filler: crinkle! People are typically filling their blankboxes with multiple items, so the filler lets you ‘stage’ in a really cute way

largest order: 50 boxes [to any companies reading this who want to set a new record: challenge accepted]

Ideas for gen 2 boxes: our boxes have sticky corners that require peeling off the corners for assembly; in gen 2, we want to make these corners magnetic for easier assembly / storage! We’ve also received requests for solid color boxes, which we will release in gen 2 and call ‘blankbox basics’. Stay tuned.

what’s next for blankbox? 


In 2020 you’ll be seeing us in [hopefully] a few stores! In addition to serving our direct to consumer and corporate clients, we want blankbox to be a gift packaging option at the stores you all know + love so you can take care of your gift + gift packaging all at once. 

We’d also like to focus on expanding our B2B corporate gifting client base – blankbox solves a real problem for companies and brands that otherwise spend so much time, energy and additional $ on packaging just so they can gift to clients, customers, investors, etc. we’d like to get our name out to as many companies + brands as possible.

Editor’s note: If you have ideas, reach out at hello@blankboxnyc.com – we’d love to hear them!

day job: coo of a boutique commercial real estate company in midtown 
favorite me-time activity: once a week i take myself on a reading / breakfast date to two hands in soho. their scrambled eggs + a good thriller = <3
currently reading: the wives by tarryn fisher
currently binge watching: servant on apple tv
favorite brand [other than blankbox]: drunk elephant
favorite box: checker me out [this is like choosing a favorite child] – i love the neutral colors paired with pop of color gifts

day job: coo of a contracting firm based in midtown
favorite me-time activity: monthly facial @ female-owned and operated silver mirror facial bar. 
currently reading: proof of heaven by eben alexander and the institute by stephen king 
currently binge watching: just finished lost in space on netflix. i need something new! email me recs please! 
favorite brand [other than blankbox]: dressweights. i love a flowy dress/maxi skirt moment and these mini, reusable weights are the only thing keeping me from not flashing all of nyc on the daily.

favorite box: checker me out – i use one as a keepsake box and keep it on my bookself as home decor. peep our insta for inspo. 

checker me out - blankbox corporate gift box branded gift box
dont stop til youre proud
pass the rose - blankbox floral gift box with gifts

meet madeline: graphic designer [+ chief box designer]

how did you find blankbox [or blankbox find you]? tell us what you do.

i have been best friends with gabi since the eighth grade and when she told me about the idea for blankbox i immediately wanted to be involved. i have always been passionate about all things creative and have a background in graphic design—that’s where i found how i would fit into the equation: i designed the patterns for the three boxes. i also worked with team blankbox on their logo and branding.

what’s one piece of advice you gave team blankbox from the beginning that has shaped their design and branding?

design is a never-ending process (helps save our sanity – it will never be “perfect”); especially when first launching, make sure you are happy with your product but if you keep trying to make every single aspect of every single design perfect, you will never actually “do” it, which is the most important thing. 

the best branding is clean and simple, and we wanted our box designs to speak to that. we kept the patterns and colors eye catching but simple, with no polarizing colors. this also shaped our strategy to create custom gift boxes that people could keep post-gifting as home decor, storage or a re-gift box. 

what do you find is super important for small [and growing] brands when it comes to design and branding? are there any mistakes you see a lot of brands make?

again, keep it simple. also, create your own content, if possible.

what’s one brand you work with [besides blankbox] that does something unique with design and branding that you think more brands should emulate?

i worked with a brand called arts unkajed, which is a brand that sells art pieces and is a unique take on art therapy using the acrylic pour technique – i love how she is proactive in getting her work out there and explaining the importance of each piece – she doesn’t just sell her pieces, but also hosts workshops and rents out spaces in popular markets in boston to teach her audiences about what her products mean and why they are important.  when selling a product or service, communicating the broader meaning behind it is important for people to feel connected to it.

how can brands contact you?

madelinehoward5@gmail.com – email me! i love working with new companies as they get started with logo design and brand idea

 

*editor’s note: this is a photo of madeline and gabi circa 2007. nothing like a good peace sign photo to remind you of how far you’ve come. 

meet brittany: calligraphy + personalization

how did you find blankbox [or blankbox find you]? tell us what you do.

@blankboxnyc reached out to me on Instagram (thank you, social media!) to meet for coffee one morning! i immediately knew Gabi and Catherine were awesome and had created something amazing and i was so excited to be a part of it. if we hadn’t connected through Instagram for “work”, I would’ve totally chosen them as friends!

I create their personalized gift tags (all by hand) using embossing powder and a heat tool! I love being able to add a personalized touch to their gift boxes and seeing the final product put together!

 

what’s one piece of advice you gave team blankbox from the beginning that has shaped their strategy?

If anything, these ladies are the ones giving ME advice! Gabi, Catherine, and I are constantly exchanging strategies on how to manage our full-time jobs with our side hustles. Time management is key and I’d say we’ve successfully navigated our (often demanding) full-time jobs while still keeping our creative juices flowing!

 

what do you find is super important for small [and growing] brands when it comes to personalizing their products? are there any mistakes you see a lot of brands make?

I think personalized items are so special and remind you that an item was specifically created for you and no one else owns that item. I love when products are handmade and tailored specifically for me. That’s the beauty of blankbox! The gift giver can fill the boxes up with items that are specifically tailored towards the recipient! I love options when personalizing items, but I do believe in analysis paralysis – sometimes it’s so difficult to make a decision so some sort of guidelines or restrictions are always appreciated!

 

what’s one brand you work with [besides blankbox] that does something unique with personalization that you think more brands should emulate?

I work with @theme_nyc by personalizing their hand tie-dyed pieces! I love how each piece is unique and it’s been fun seeing the different ways each customer has chosen to personalize their item. I’ve seen customers personalize the wrist area of a hoodie, or the lower back area of a shirt. I’ve even gotten a request to draw a cactus on the pocket of a sweatshirt! I love being able to incorporate each customer’s unique creativity.

 

how can brands contact you?
Instagram is best! @bmletters

meet arianne: social media strategy + manager

how did you find blankbox [or blankbox find you]? tell us what you do.

Gabi messaged me on Instagram and we got coffee! she was running the blankbox instagram full time + needed help with overall strategy + leveraging instagram to target the right customers and drive revenue

 

I work full time as a social media strategist for brands in the health, fitness, fashion, beauty, and female entrepreneur industries. I do everything from full content creation to email marketing, hashtag research, custom Instagram stories, and of course, my signature engagement process, where I organically grow your Instagram account. I love working with budding female brands because it’s super fast-paced and hands on and I absolutely love the fact that I get to be a contributing member of so many amazing and inspiring teams.

 

what’s one piece of advice you gave team blankbox from the beginning that has shaped their strategy? what do you find is super important for small [and growing] brands when it comes to social media? are there any mistakes you see a lot of brands make?

Focus on quality> quantity and always pay attention to the cohesiveness of the brand.

Something that I realized when working with blankbox and that definitely comes up a lot with my ecommerce clients is the question of lifestyle versus more product shots. Based on sales/ customer acquisition and overall engagement, you might be surprised to learn that brands who just really focus on quality product shots seem to perform better than brands that go the lifestyle route. Of course there are exceptions to this—Chillhouse, for example, has done a really great job of creating that more lifestyle-focused brand on Instagram. But generally, if you’re just starting out as a brand or business, you need to be really clear on what you’re trying to market and to whom. Too many regrams of generic quotes or other people’s content won’t make you stand out. Invest in product photography, learn how to use photoshop, or outsource social media completely to someone who can cover multiple of these angles (like me 😉)

 

what’s one brand you work with [besides blankbox] that does something unique with marketing and social media that you think more brands should emulate?

I work with Isabella Silverio (@isabella.guava) as her content marketer and she has been my first introduction on leading marketing and social media initiatives outside of the ecommerce space—What makes her stand apart is her tough-love blunt copy paired with her inspiring and genuine tips and aesthetically-pleasing Instagram feed. She has created a guava girl community by connecting with her audience- she has really taught me the importance of building a strong community for ANY type of brand (ecommerce, public figure, coach etc.) before asking your audience for favors (ie buying your products). 

 

how can brands contact you?

The best way to contact me is via email (seekingmillennial@gmail.com) but you can also always find me on Instagram and slide into my DMs if you have a quick question (@seekingmillennial)!

 

 

meet diana: photographer

how did you find blankbox [or blankbox find you]? tell us what you do. 

I’m a photographer and founder of Diana Davis Creative. blankbox found me through our amazing network of women here in NYC

what’s one piece of advice you gave team blankbox from the beginning that has shaped their strategy? 

SHOW YOUR FACE! People want to know the founders behind this awesome brand!

what do you find is super important for small [and growing] brands when it comes to photography? are there any mistakes you see a lot of brands make? 

Waiting to start. Some brands are hesitant to invest in their business right away and think iphone photos are going to cut it, but people pay attention and take brands seriously that take themselves seriously. Quality images are key

what’s one brand you work with [besides blankbox] that does something unique with photography that you think more brands should emulate?

I work with Native, the natural deodorant brand. They are always trying new things and they aren’t afraid to invest in their photography. They also totally nail user generated content mixed in with their own.

how can brands contact you?

Follow me/DM on Instagram at @dianadaviscreative.com or give me a shout at hello@dianadaviscreative.com

sweats and the city - female founder feature the fill

june: the fifth issue

june: the fifth issue

female founder feature: sweats + the city

dale borchiver + elizabeth endres

who better to kick off #summerbodseason than our two favorite fit chicks. best known from their highly curated and cheekily named instagram handle @sweatsandthecity, founders dale + elizabeth decided to leave careers in fashion + finance to pursue a sweatier path. they’re making it easy to navigate the sometimes overwhelming scene that is nyc fitness, serving up honest class reviews, serious outfit + lifestyle inspo & most importantly…..snack time Q+A! speaking of, grab a snack and read our Q+A with them below!

neither of you are native new yorkers. what brought you here and what did life look like before satc? 

dale: i originally came here for school, and later to work in fashion.
elizabeth: i moved to nyc for a job in finance at bloomberg. we were both dying to get to nyc before moving here!
 

we’ve all been there…midnight brainstorm sessions, waking up in the middle of the night with crazy ideas, thinking about and conceptualizing your new business 24/7…talk to us about that ‘aha!’ moment where you decided to start satc and how you originally envisioned the concept. 

the concept of satc was in the works for a long time without us necessarily knowing it! we found ourselves coming home at the end of most days and discussing the new studios & workouts we tried that day. we were searching for a platform that would give us the kind of ‘insider scoop’ studio details we were chatting about and couldn’t find anything. so, we decided to take matters into our own hands. we sat on the concept for about 8 months, putting together review lists (mostly for friends), before we decided to go live with it officially. it was really when we decided on a name that we we’re like “ok, this is really happening”. 

our signature question! – what’s the inspiration behind the name? 

as we’re sure you could probably tell, the name is a play on the show sex & the city. and as two 20-something year olds in nyc, we really felt it made perfect sense. 

how long did you keep satc as a side hustle before transitioning to full time? what was that transition like and do you have any advice for other “side hustlers” looking to take the leap and monetize a hobby or a side hustle? 

it took us about a year and a half doing until finally deciding to go full time with satc. when we reached the point where our full-time jobs were holding us back from opportunities, we knew it was time. it took a lot of preparation from a financial planning standpoint, and was definitely scary, but we’ve never looked back! our advice is to 1) keep your eye on the prize – we set a date we thought was feasible and we stuck to it and 2) plan well – look at your monthly income (growth & averages) & also your expenses, and plan accordingly! 

we know a little something about getting into business with your best friend! it’s funny because a lot of people warned us against it, but with our personalities it works perfectly and it’s clearly working for you! talk to us about how you navigate mixing business + friendship and any advice you have for two friends thinking of getting into business together? 

because we know each other so well, it’s a big plus that we always feel comfortable being open and honest, especially if we disagree on something. but, in working with your best friend, it’s also important to not take things personally and to look at the big picture. a big part of our job is being social and attending events, so it’s great to be able to do that together! 

how do you balance all the different roles of running a business between the two of you? 

at first, before we had established our unique roles, it was kind of chaotic! it’s honestly trial and error – once we were able to figure out what we should both be doing, as well as jobs that we each loved and wanted to manage on our own, things flowed really nicely. we keep a very thorough (and color coordinated, obvi) spreadsheet where our roles are clearly outlined. the jobs we add, remove & expand are ever changing, but it’s so important to have these listed out! 

talk to us about the workouts! do you guys work out every single day? if you had to pick a favorite from all your class reviews, what would it be? 

we definitely give our bodies rest days! recovery is super important. we aim to workout 4-5 days a week, but really depends on the week, our travel & schedules. our favorites are ever-changing, but right now we are obsessed with the sculpt class at dancebody. it’s the perfect combo of dancing & toning. 

let’s state the obvious….you’re both fit af. talk to us about the types of workouts you do and what you see the most results from? what makes a class really stand out to you vs. just an okay experience? 

that’s so nice of you – thank you!! we find a mix of light cardio and sculpting is the most effective for both of our bodies, but it truly varies for everyone. we went through a period a few years ago where we were doing a lot of really strenuous workouts, and not seeing the results we wanted (or feeling the way we wanted to, tbh), and that’s really what lead us to this. we are all about variety, though, and aren’t afraid to throw something intensive into the mix occasionally! 

a great studio experience really begins from the moment you book online til the moment you leave the studio. we appreciate when a studio goes the extra mile, which looks like: great amenities, welcoming staff, and a nice clean environment (& bonus points for having mints, haha). you want to leave the workout feeling great, not just physically, but mentally too. when it comes to instructors, an instructor that is not only super knowledgeable, but supportive, welcoming and encouraging is key. oh, and a killer playlist helps, too! 

 

in a world where everyone is trying to be an “influencer” and the rest of us can get exhausted by content, two things stand out to us about your brand. first, we both regularly watch all of your content and can’t say the same about many others. second, we’ve also seen your media kit so we know you deliver unusually high engagement and strong revenue generation for yourself + other brands you collaborate with. from your perspective, what makes you stand out to your audience? what specific actions have you taken to make it this way?

when we started satc, our goal was to be a relatable & trustworthy source when it came to fitness, wellness & health. there can be a lot of noise in the fitness space and most people don’t have the time and/or money to test out the insane amount of products and services available to them. we have made it our mission to showcase what we love (and don’t!) with all the raw, real details so our community can make informed decisions. and our hope is that people follow us & engage with us because of that! 

what started with class reviews has already evolved into so much more. what else can we expect from satc in the future? where do you see the brand in 1 year / 5 years? any pipe dreams for satc? 

we’ve already started to dabble in products collaborations with existing brands (check out our sweaty stuff bag here!), and we’d love to continue that. we’ve also been working hard to build out our website, particularly a project to create an interactive studio review map – launching soon! a long-term goal of ours has been to be ‘the infatuation’ of class reviews, so this new online offering should get us closer to that. stay tuned for more collaborations, city exploration, etc.! 

talk to us about your partnerships. what types of companies do you work with and why? how do you balance making a living with ensuring each brand gets dedicated, high quality content (which means time + energy on your part!) 

we’re very selective when it comes to the brands we align with. it’s so important to us that these companies share the same values as we do, and we have to believe in the product. for example, we often receive pitches for “quick fix” type detoxes and diets, which goes entirely against our brand … these are a definite ‘no’ from us. we also limit how many we work with, especially when it comes to certain categories (especially beauty!), in order to maintain our authenticity. our rates are reflective of all of this, as well as the time and energy we put into creating campaigns. 

you’ve worked with huge companies (victoria’s secret, bloomies, etc.) and start-ups, which are two totally different animals. do you approach them differently? 

our approach to all brands is the same, but their approaches can definitely vary, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with their size. this was something that surprised us! some brands are highly involved in the content creation process, and some offer a lot of flexibility … we love when brands trust our creative direction, because no one knows our community better than we do! regardless, we always make sure that no matter which brand we’re working with, we’re presenting their product/service in our own voice, in a way that resonates with our community. 

as a brand, it can be tough to know what to expect with an influencer partnership! give us some partnership advice – what we should look for, how do you set your prices and demonstrate how a brand can trust the expected outcome? 

it’s important that both parties are very clear on the deliverables and that both parties see value in the partnership. we never promise specific results (you can’t know for sure how your community will react). we try our best to ensure that our prices reflect the effort we’re putting into our content creation, the demand at the time, as well as the value that content is bringing to a brand – whether that’s general awareness or conversions. we are big on numbers, too! we provide brand statistics & case studies prior to working with us so they can get a feel for what we bring to the table. 

you’re both working out and on social media a lot. when you’re not ‘on’, what are you doing? 

sweats has pretty much become our lives! even if we’re not active on social media, we’re doing a ton of work behind the scenes. but, when we’re not working, we’re both pretty social and love to recharge with self-care: reiki, meditation, reading, facials, going out to dinner with friends. 

with that said, your lives are very public through your platform. how do you deal with the negativity and unsolicited opinions? any advice for how to block out the haters (besides dark sunglasses obvi) 

we’ve gotten better at dealing with negativity with time, and it’s probably a combination of desensitization and growth. that’s not to say that a harsh message doesn’t ever upset us, but it’s a lot easier to let it go. we also have each other, and that helps a lot! when you put yourself out there, negativity unfortunately comes with the territory. we always like to remember this — what other people think of you is none of your business. 

 

favorite workout (boutique): ‘the sculpt society’ with megan roup, ‘hot pilates’ (in la), ‘sculpt’ at dancebody 

favorite workout (not boutique): barre3 

brand you’d love to work with: w hotels 
go-to beauty product: skii essence 
female founder you admire: oprah 
one meal for the rest of your life, what is it? avocado toast with two eggs, over hard 🙂 
nyc neighborhood: west village & soho 
if you were doing something other than satc, what would it be? this is a hard one! i did really like working in advertising – so possible something in that area. 
me-time / social media break activity / thing that keeps you sane: meditation therapy – i go weekly, it’s the best! 

sweats and the city - blankbox female founder feature the fill

favorite workout (boutique): bunda (la) or any dance-cardio-sculpt mix (“body” by amanda kloots, isaac boots “torchd”, “sculpt society” by megan roup, “sculpt” dancebody).

favorite workout (not boutique): barre, core power yoga 

brand you’d love to work with: equinox 
go-to beauty product: laura mercier tinted moisturizer 
female founder you admire: sara blakely 
one meal for the rest of your life, what is it? yogurt bowl, with granola, berries and almond butter! 
nyc neighborhood: noho 
if you were doing something other than satc, what would it be? most likely still be in fashion! 
me-time / social media break activity / thing that keeps you sane: walking with my headphones in, listening to a podcast or one of our sweats playlists!  

dale and elizabeth, thank you for keeping it real on the [sometimes crazy, sometimes expensive, sometimes culty, sometimes hard for the coordination-challenged, but always fun + healthy for us] scene that is NYC fitness! and for reminding us that while it’s usually a good idea to work out, it’s also okay to skip it and binge watch netflix on your couch and having yourself a SNACKTIME.  

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of sweats and the city 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

june gift guide: the SATC 'summer essentials' gift box

summer months are perfect for getting sweaty [if you take the subway, you’re already sweaty anyways so might as well keep it going, right?! here are the summer essentials you need from our favorite sweat-perts. 

sweaty stuff sweats and the city - blankbox gift guide the fill

riley versa - sweaty stuff bag

satc partnered with riley versa to create the perfect pouch! a luxurious navy velvet pouch with "sweaty stuff" embroidered across the front. perfect to slip all your post gym or beach essentials in and guess what?! they just restocked in a new style! 

ice roller - blankbox gift guide the fill

esarora - ice roller

historically we've been fans of jade rollers, but after the SATC ladies told us about this ice roller we were quick to convert. it doubles the coolness of a jade roller and covers more ground. highly suggest for sunburns and sushi sodium hangovers. 

supergoop mineral matte sunscreen - blankbox gift guide the fill

supergoop - matte sunscreen

daily spf is the most underrated anti-aging trick in the book and the satc babes have beautiful skin. supergoop is non-greasy and blends perfectly into your skin. catherine uses their every single day moisturizer with 40 SPF… yup, every single day.   

slip silk mask - blankbox gift guide the fill

slip silk - pure silk sleep mask

if you peep our instagram you’ll also realize we are huge fans of this product as well. the slip sleep eye mask is a sure-safe way to reduce wrinkles while you sleep (any other face down sleepers reading this?).

all images are property of respective companies

now get off your butt and get to that workout class.

rebecca minkoff - female founder feature the fill

may: the fourth issue

may: the fourth issue

female founder feature: rebecca minkoff
founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective

it’s officially may, and that means a few things: first and foremost, the opportunity to post the ‘it’s gonna be may’ meme. don’t pretend you’re above it. secondly, it means thanking your mom for not putting you up for adoption during your angsty teenage years. but really, we often wonder how moms do it all.  to our moms, our psuedo-moms, and all the new mamas and mamas-to-be in our lives, we love you. 

speaking of moms who do it all…we’re excited to introduce this month’s female founder feature rebecca minkoff, founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective….and mama of 3.  

rebecca was 21 years old when she started her namesake brand + the rest, as they say, is herstory.

tell us the story of how you started your namesake brand. it’s one of our favorites! 

i started the company in 2001 when i was 21 years old. i had just launched a five-piece collection with this “i love new york” t-shirt that i had kind of cut up and bedazzled, because that was on trend then, believe it or not! i had sent it to an actress [and friend], jenna elfman, on september 9. she wore it on jay leno [just after 9/11]. and [she] said my name. that impacted me in a big way. everything shut down when 9/11 happened. so the only thing that really kept it going was that i was donating all the proceeds to the red cross. that kept the orders coming in. 

 

some years later, jenna called me again and asked if i wanted to do a bag for an upcoming film. i was happy to help, thinking, ‘why not? i’ll try a bag,’ and that was the moment that led to the ‘morning after bag’. i had made one for jenna and one for myself and even though it didn’t make it into the film, i planned to add it into the clothing line: as an accessory piece, nonetheless. i had no intention of designing handbags, but when daily candy wrote about it shortly thereafter, it took off. at that moment, ii transitioned to exclusively handbags, only offering the ‘morning after bag’ in different colorways. i kept the focus on the details (i.e. theme and story around each bag), using beautiful leathers and trims. at that time, the showroom i was with told me i had to offer more than one bag and that is where it all began. 

 

the ‘i love ny’ shirt signified the beginning of me taking that step towards being a designer with my own line. i had always loved working with patterns, constructing and draping garments, but this was the first moment i could actually start working towards creating pieces under my name. once the daily candy wrote about [the mab] it was the perfect storm. more orders than i could have ever imagined started coming in and that’s when i decided to really put my full focus on bags. 

 

who were your first 3 key hires? what impact did they have on your growth? 

sales, finance and production; everything was around staffing up with things that would take me off design or pr so we hired strong people in those backgrounds with extensive experience. we doubled for 3 years in a row and kept having year over year growth. 

 

as new founders, we talk a lot about “what keeps us up at night” relative to our brand. how has “what keeps you up at night” changed from when you first started to now? do the early challenges ever get better?! 

challenges never get better. they actually get harder and the issues more challenging and complicated. you just get used to thinking about and approaching them. what keeps me up now is how we’re going to become a global brand without relying on traditional media the way that huge luxury brands do. they have money and buying power and can dominate a new market far quicker. how do we as david, beat goliath. 

 

you started your business with your brother uri. what’s it like working with family and how do you divide the roles? more broadly, what advice do you have for new or soon to be founders when looking for a business partner? 

he’s ceo, i am creative director. we have and respect our lanes but also try and support and help each other within our areas if we can. we fight. we make up. we see a career coach. 

 

when you’re with someone more hours in the day than your spouse, you have to make sure you know it’s okay not to agree, how to get through it and do what’s best for the business. 

the first few times we met you in person, we realized you’re your own best brand ambassador. you’re always in head to toe rm. talk to us about why that’s important. 

it’s simple: why would my customer want my goods if i didn’t? i am the customer, so i live and breathe rm and show others how to as well.

 

who is the rebecca minkoff customer? how are you able to identify and interact with her?

she is a multi-faceted woman. she is complicated. she is busy. she wants rm to make her day easier but also more meaningful. she knows she belongs to a tribe where other women have her back.

 

what differs your brand from the others? 

we have evolved our value proposition outside of a product. our customer comes to us because she knows we support and care about women, that we put our money where our mouth is and that beyond a product there is good being given back to our communities.

 

we were shocked to find out you have 3 kids (and 1 under a year!) first off, how do you do it?! do you follow any specific guidelines to balance the two roles? 

yes. i’ve used the last 7 years of having kids to test my boundaries, so i know what is too much for me. i now structure my schedule around this as much as possible. each person should do that for their own values, not for instagram.

 

we heard you speak at theskimm live podcast event, where you mentioned that your #1 interview question for nannies is “how fast can you run off the playground carrying three kids” (lol). what tips do you have for new moms & working moms who may be hesitant to leave their children under the care of someone else? 

make sure you hire someone who has the same values as you, who is there to help take a load off of you and help the household. that is responsible and more importantly, has the purpose of nurturing and raising children. sadly, this nanny is going to spend more time with your kids than you during a work week so you want to know they have the children’s interests at heart. trust your gut.

 

everyone who’s ever had more than a 5 minute conversation with us knows how much we love ffc. where do you see ffc in 5 years and how has it changed from today? 

in 5 years, i hope to have conquered some of the bigger milestones such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change their shopping behaviors. i want a global community that is the go-to for female founded businesses for a directory. i want women who have joined to be vocal about how coming together made their companies soar and that we went from 80 cents on the dollar to 90 to 100….

 

as the founder of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think are the top 3 things that make a brand successful? 

telling a story on social
customer service is king.
using a network to shortcut the problems others have already experienced.

 

the question the people have been waiting for….talk to us about elisabeth! you both have done an incredible amount of work in such a short time as a 2-woman team of #workwives. how do you balance the responsibilities of executing the now vs. strategizing the future? 

elisabeth is a godsend. she is an incredible leader. we’ve divided and conquered; her passion for the community and its growth has allowed me to be able to do larger partnerships and activations that make ffc more well known, which in turn helps more of our members as we highlight them and help their products become known and therefore sold. we really are a true team with no set lanes, so she really helps with it all! i couldn’t do this without her!

rebecca minkoff - blankbox female founder feature the fill

favorite piece in the rm collection: kate circle bag 

female founder who inspires you: jessica alba 

favorite me-time activity: sleep 

favorite nyc restaurant: in the dez 

go-to brands (other than rm): nike, rachel comey 

personal mantra / favorite quote: no is just the beginning of yes (in all areas except dating) 

introvert or extrovert: extrovert mostly 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i’m scared of zombies

we always talk about the “transformative yes” moments that have and will change the trajectory of our business. becoming part of the female founder collective was and will continue to be one of those. rebecca, we cannot thank you enough for being the inspiring soul you are – we adore you!   

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of rebecca minkoff 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

behind the scenes with the woman, the myth, the legend: elisabeth leonard

elisabeth is the special projects manager for rebecca minkoff [a role she balances with that of #workwife] and the other half of the female founder collective! there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes of ffc, so we’re taking you #bts with the one who makes it all happen. but first, in true team blankbox fashion, a story…

we first applied to the female founder collective when it was completely new…and so were we. we emailed elisabeth saying we weren’t sure if we qualified to join as we had just launched, but to let us know what we had to do to be part of it. this was word for word her response: “don’t sell yourself short! you are FOUNDERS and there is power in that. big or small, a founder is a founder; and that’s something you should be proud of. we’re all in this together, we need to support each other in order to make a change! that being said, we’d love to have you be a part of the collective!” 

this is one of those moments we won’t ever forget. the first time someone included us at the table, and the last time we ever assumed we weren’t part of it. we love you, elisabeth! without further ado…

start from the beginning…from birth. only kidding. how did you meet rebecca and start working on the rebecca minkoff team? 

i actually started as a temp receptionist at the company! it was only meant to be a three-month situation, but that changed quickly! rebecca and i had an immediate connection, and from the first day i met her, i knew she was someone i wanted to learn from and work with. 

one of the very first things rebecca told me was that “no is just the beginning of yes”. since that day, it’s always stuck with me. after my first few months as the receptionist, i took on the role of being ea to the ceo, cfo, president and rm. being the receptionist taught me a lot of things that i’ve carried with me to where i am today. 

i took all of my earlier roles as an opportunity to learn as much as i could. when you’re starting out, you can’t be afraid to ask questions. do all the jobs—no matter how “small” they might seem; that is where you will learn incredible lessons that will serve you well later in your career. 

 

how would you describe her leadership style? from your perspective, what else do you think makes the brand so successful? 

one of the greatest things about rebecca is she leads with compassion and empowerment. she isn’t possessive of accomplishments. when you’re on a team, everyone is in it together. rebecca always celebrates wins as a team, never as one person. rebecca is also a great listener. there’s a difference between leadership and being a boss. leaders show you what to do and bosses tell you what to do. and rebecca is always showing, teaching and helping others to learn more. 

one of the most important lessons rebecca has ever taught me is “no is just the beginning of yes”. don’t give up. don’t be afraid to ask questions. keep striving for what you’re passionate about! 

 

what’s your favorite personal mantra and how has it helped shape your life? 

don’t stop until you’re proud!– if you knew today was your last day, would you be happy with what you’re doing? if the answer is no, then change it. do what makes you happy. and live each day without denying your happiness. so, dream big, go after your dreams, do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be. 

get out there and show the world what you’re made of. there is no right or wrong way to exist. being human is messy. find glory in your own beautiful mess + be proud of who you are. 

 

let’s talk female founder collective! how did the idea come about and what’s your role within the team? 

the idea for the ffc came out of a meeting that rebecca was in where she was trying to work with only female founded companies and realized there was no way to find them easily. she then came across a study by berlin cameron that said the 82% of women are more likely to support female founded companies if they only knew how. that proved to rebecca that a symbol or a seal for consumers to recognize would be key for us to find ways to support and give our money to female founders. 

i focus a lot on community + brand partnerships as well as the growth of the community, but i love to help with anything and everything i can! i’m so lucky that i get to work alongside one of the most badass female entrepreneurs i know who also doubles as my work wife, rebecca minkoff!

 

as the co-leader of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think makes a brand successful and can you share some “best practices” you’ve seen from ffc brands? 

success can be defined in so many ways. i think it’s important to remain humble and hardworking, be confident and believe in what you’re doing. if you don’t, who else will? you can never get comfortable in your own knowledge; it’s important to learn every day. and there is always more work to be done! 

one of the greatest practices that i have watched our members display is the power of collaboration. the amount of support these women provide for one another is truly admirable.  

rebecca shared where she sees ffc in 5 years – tell us where you see it going + how it’s changed from today? 

i agree with rebecca. we really hope to have conquered bigger milestones, such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change consumer shopping behavior. the ffc seal lets everyone know that a woman is in charge! i hope that the collective will continue to grow, not only in the us, but globally, and that this community encourages not only women, but everyone, to buy and support women owned businesses. 

 

i hope we see a big consumer adoption and acceptance of the ffc symbol that changes their buying decisions. 

 

how do you balance having roles at rebecca minkoff and at ffc? how do these roles differ? 

“the most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.” – dwight d. eisenhower 

 

a few months ago, i read an article about eisenhower’s urgent/important matrix. the basic premise is pretty simple: some tasks are urgent, and others are not. when you organize those, you make better use of your time. 

 

while it may not always feel like it, i’ve learned that there is a big difference between urgent and important. this way of thinking helped me learned how to separate the things that absolutely need to get done from the things that i really want to get done. this concept has played a huge role in how i balance my two roles. 

 

my role at ffc is more of a managerial role while at rm, i am part of a larger team. i have the best of both worlds! 

 

what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a female founder you’ve met through ffc? any advice you’d give to women thinking to start their own business? 

 

the women of ffc in general have shown me firsthand the power of collaboration over competition; advice: take every opportunity and make the best of it. you never know where it may lead!  

favorite piece in the rm collection: bree belt bag 

female founder who inspires you: jen gotch 

favorite me-time activity: binge watching greys anatomy with a nice glass of wine and tons of candles! 

favorite nyc restaurant: rubirosa (best damn pizza!) 

go-to brands (other than rm): alala, terez, nike, lively, eberjey 

introvert or extrovert: extrovert, most of the time! 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i currently live and work remotely from santiago, chile!    

may gift guide: the 'mother's day' gift box

as if we needed another mama to be grateful for….the founders of these products aren’t just raising kids. they’re also building the brands we know + love, and making our mother’s day gifting a little easier along the way. if your mom is anything like ours, she hasn’t sat down since 1999. these founded-by-mamas gifts will upgrade her on the go!

meant simply whole shower kit - blankbox gift guide the fill

meant - whole shower kit

"marie kondo your entire shower and morning routine with time-saving, short-cutting, ass-kicking products" need we say more? this line is founded by a mom who really knows what she's doing when it comes to gifting for busy mamas + their sacred shower alone time.

rebecca minkoff aceline mules in black - blankbox gift guide the fill

rebecca minkoff - aceline mules in black

we're all about elevated basics that stay comfortable while we run around the city getting sh*t done. if your mom is anything like ours, she hasn't sat down since 1999. might as well give her a stylish shoe that can be worn day to night, to work or to play. can we found in gabi's mom's closet... and hers, because #treatyourself.

stephanie gottlieb - blankbox gift guide the fill

stephanie gottlieb - mini initial bracelet

they say diamonds are a girl's best friend but we think gold jewelry is pretty high up there too. we love SG because its a mix of timeless pieces + quality you know will last. also highly suggested as a push gift. shop her mother's day sale...your mom deserves it for dealing with you.

stasher bag - blankbox gift guide the fill

stasher bag - reusable silicone bags

there are a lot of things to say about stasher bags, but we'll lead with this: they keep your avocado green. we repeat, keep your avocado green. also perfect for packing portions, whether it's a pack carrots + smoothie ingredients kind of day or a 'how many cookies can I stuff in one bag' kind of day.

all images are property of respective companies

drake said it best: i only love my bed + my momma, i'm sorry.