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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

female founder feature: candace ourisman + ashley bronczek, secretly gifting

female founder feature: ashley bronczek + candace ourisman, cofounders of secretly gifting

there is no more appropriate female founder feature at the height of holiday gifting season than the dynamic duo behind secretly gifting! like blankbox, secretly gifting is focused on keeping gifting as thoughtful as possible, with washington dc based cofounders candace + ashley literally flying around the world to source the “most unique, high quality gifts out there”. they’re the faces behind thousands of gifts [and equally as many smiles] since launching their business to “take the guesswork out of gifting”. 

as fellow #giftrepreneurs, cofounders + thoughtful gift enthusiasts, we’re excited to tell their inspiring story! 

where did the inspiration come from to start secretly gifting? and our signature question: how did you come up with the name secretly gifting?

secretly gifting was an idea that came to us because it was something we were organically doing for friends and family. we have always loved treasure hunting for ourselves and for others, so during a lunch with a fellow entrepreneur, a lightbulb went off and we decided to turn our passion into a business. 

our name is inspired by a few things. many of our clients don’t know about the magic behind the scenes so we are in essence, secretly gifting. also, candace’s instagram handle is secretly fancy, which is a nod to the finer things in life but also a reminder to not take yourself so seriously and have fun!

 

we’re cofounders too so we understand that there’s a share in all responsibility, but a natural tendency towards certain ones. what makes your cofounder relationship work and how do you divide and conquer day to day responsibilities?

we like to say that the venn diagram of our skill sets has very little overlap, which is why our partnership has been so successful. ashley is our operations mastermind. she is incredibly detail oriented, which is a huge help since we have a small team. she is also amazing with big picture strategy and keeping us on track. her previous work experience as a gemologist is super helpful for our clients who are looking for that perfect piece of jewelry. i [candace] am the creative mastermind behind our brand and handle everything from our social channels, to copy writing, to pitching to press and beyond. my career started in fashion, working my way up to a buyer and after that i worked for years in real estate on the business development and marketing side of the business. both of these experiences have been tremendously helpful with sg.

 

do you have any advice for new or soon to be entrepreneurs who are deciding between bringing on a cofounder or doing it solo?

we are pro cofounder all the way! it’s such a privilege to be able to have a constant support system when growing a business. we also rely on each other to stay focused and always remember our goals.

editor’s note: so are we! especially when you can leverage different + complementary skill sets.

 

as a two [wo]man band at the beginning, it’s really hard to do it all…but secretly gifting is both a service and a product business… so you pretty much do! talk to us about the evolution of the company and your services since you launched. what have been the two hardest challenges you’ve encountered as a gifting concierge?

our business began as a gift concierge company servicing individuals buying for their friends and family.  since launching almost three years ago, we have had the pleasure of exploring many different avenues. in the beginning we said yes to absolutely everything, which i would recommend to any entrepreneur. it’s a big game of trial and error and you learn as you go in terms of what works and what has the greatest return on investment for your business and brand. 

present day secretly gifting has a few cornerstones of our business: personal gifting, corporate gifting, large scale pop-ups and drum roll… we are launching e-commerce in february!  we are extra excited for e-commerce since it allows us to connect with a larger audience. it is important that all of our fans and followers are able to have a piece of our brand and shopping from our highly curated selection of the most fabulous giftable items will allow people to do just that.

editor’s note: look for blankbox gift boxes on their curated gift site!

 

let’s talk competition: as fellow giftrepreneurs [that’s a word now], we know a little something about competition. what’s your competitive edge + how do you differentiate from the other gift concierge or curated box companies out there?

secretly gifting is not a curated box company, we are also not slap a logo on a corporate gift and call it a day company. we differentiate ourselves by traveling the globe in search of the most unique, high quality gifts out there.  essentially, we are treasure hunters and it is our access to the most fabulous gifts and brands that sets us apart. another differentiator is our commitment to client services. our clients are the priority and we take great pride in delivering customer service that is second to none. finally, with ashley’s background as a gemologist and retail services as well as my experience in fashion and corporate branding, we are uniquely positioned to do what we do, and be the best in our field.

editor’s note: we started blankbox for similar reasons; we didn’t want to be another curated box company, or a “slap a logo on a corporate gift and call it a day” company [thanks candace for our new favorite phrase]. a lot of people ask why blankbox doesn’t have any gifts inside…that’s why! we are a custom gift box company created to make thoughtful gifting chic, custom + convenient. the gifts inside are thoughtfully chosen by YOU! thank you for coming to our ted talk. 

 

you talked about saying yes to everything as a new brand to figure out what brings the best roi what has been the best roi-producing marketing or advertising activity you’ve done? 

it has been the combination of both instagram and local and national press that have been the most impactful for our business. we have been incredibly fortunate to have been featured in every major local publication in the washington dc area as well as the wall street journal, yahoo finance and the washington post. 

 

what has produced the least roi that you’ve learned from?

saying yes to hosting numerous events and in-store activations that don’t necessarily align with our brand.

 

we love following you guys on social media and seeing all the amazing trade shows and places around the world you go to find creative + special gifts for your clients. what is each of your favorite gift you’ve curated?

thank you!  this is the impossible question.  it’s like picking a favorite child.  we are pretty obsessed with our cheeky snow globes we discovered in paris. check out our insta to purchase!

editor’s note: cheeky snow globes pair perfectly with a blankbox. just saying. 

 

how do you discover new brands? how can the founders of emerging + growing brands reading this contact you for inclusion in the ‘experts on gifting’ database?

our eyes are always peeled for the latest and greatest.  we make it a priority to travel numerous times of year nationally and internationally. we attend all of the major gift shows and also will pop into any small boutique in random towns.  sometimes we find the coolest items while on personal travel from fabulous local boutiques. 

we’re always looking for new, exciting brands! brands and founders can reach out to us on instagram @secretlygifting or email us at info@secretlygifting.com.

'winter survival guide' gift box by secretly gifting

we asked the gifting gurus of Secretly Gifting to fill a blankbox with their favorite go-to winter survival products. here's what they had to say:

we're both pretty obsessed with the marbleous, darling blankbox! we would fill it with items perfect for surving the cold winter months ahead in style! each item is as glamorous as the fabulous box it inhabits:

-follain just launched a private label moisturizer and we are smitten!
-this stunning mignonne gavigan headband has winter nights out written all over it
-this fenty beauty gloss bomb lip gloss is as hydrating as it is beautiful

shop the products and fill your own blankbox gift box below!

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

female founder feature: neha govindraj, co-founder + coo, glowbar

female founder feature: neha govindraj, co-founder + coo of glowbar

it’s an age old dilemma [no pun intended]: what is the secret to looking young forever? i say this with the full backing of my degree from sephora university: SKINCARE!!!! one strong skincare routine a day keeps the wrinkles at bay, and keeps us youthfully glowing with clear, beautiful skin in the meantime. yes, please. 
co-founder + coo neha govindraj is making glowbar the new secret weapon for your skincare: a cross between a spa and a dermatologist, they use clinical products and science-proven techniques to keep you glowing….and going. everything is under 30 minutes, meaning you can get in, get out, and get on with your day. read their story below!

first things first – you have a super cool story before glowbar. tell us! how did your previous experience help shape glowbar?

 

before glowbar, i was at bain & company as a management consultant and loved it! i primarily consulted businesses in retail / consumer in ideating and implementing strategic decisions. my experience at bain gave me perspective on how businesses grow, what problems they face and how to solve them. i also spent some time at glossier working with their executive team on growth strategy. these experiences helped set me up for success with starting glowbar because i felt so ready to build towards a vision and tackle any problems that came our way.

 

what sets glowbar apart from other facial spas? talk to us about how your differentiators helped you raise money. what questions did investors ask and were there any that surprised you?

 

glowbar is all about real results and professional skincare, offered in 30 minutes. we’re truly an intersection of a spa and a dermatologist: all the brands we use are clinical / professional grade and we aim to do things in the treatment room that you can’t easily do at home–– that is why we even have you cleanse your face for us (at our gorgeous wash bar)!

during the fundraising process, it was so important for us to stress how our differentiators would translate to the consumer. it wasn’t enough to just state what the differentiators were – that was an interesting learning, and it led us to build a strong strategy on educating our potential customers.

 

how do your investors come into play in the day to day of the business (for example – are they more focused on growth or are they ‘in the weeds’, helping you guys decide on what products to sell/hiring/marketing strategy, etc?)?

 

our investors really expand our existing network. they are the best people to go to with any growth-related (or sometimes even, ‘in the weeds’-related) “asks” –– which we often do!  they either weigh in themselves, or put us in touch with whoever they think is best suited to answer. 

 

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

 

rachel (my co-founder) actually did in her apartment one day, and it stuck! we love it because the name ‘glowbar’ gets people in the right mindset of what to expect–– a destination that leaves you glowing.

what advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to open their first retail location? any lessons learned?

 

ask a lot of questions. and continuously follow up with people. brick and mortar was a new beast to me–– there are so many moving pieces, and a lot of instances where things might slip through the cracks. understanding what those are and being on top of it is tough but important!

 

you launched just over a month ago. tell us about the experience – the great, the good, the bad, the ugly.

 

it’s been incredible seeing all the thought and work behind building glowbar starting to come to life. beyond that, watching people experience the brand and build new habits is truly the most rewarding part–– they just get it and it works. the tough part? being consistently on your a-game. we’re open 7 days a week, 11-14 hours a day. that means making changes real-time to continuously optimize for providing the best possible experience for clients and our team, while simultaneously thinking about the future!

 

since launch, you guys have executed super unique and creative marketing strategies. talk to us about them. what marketing strategy has seen the best roi so far? 

 

thank you! one of our favorite initiatives right now is the “tear one” flyers we have posted throughout the city. we’re continuously replenishing them and people have been loving them! they’re a nod to those babysitter flyers back in the day. and hey, they work. some of them have “lucky you” written on them which let you come in for a treatment on us!

we also have a few ‘face it forward’ cards floating around–– if you land your hands on one, you come in for a treatment on us, and then… ‘face it forward’ (aka pass it to a friend to do the same!)

 

you co-founded the company with rachel – what were you looking for in a cofounder and talk to us about your strategy for tackling different roles. 

 

i couldn’t love mine and rachel’s relationship more. we are both so different in what energizes us (making it easy for us to tackle different roles), but are so similar in our values and goals. it was clear off the bat when meeting rachel that she was ego-less, sharp, and in this to start a great business that people needed. with that, i quickly knew she was someone i wanted to build with–– i am forever grateful to have taken the leap and now be in a founder relationship centered in confidence and respect. we continuously put our brains together to make sure that glowbar is the best it can be and nothing slips through the cracks.

 

what’s next for glowbar?!

 

so much. but first, more locations! 😉 

where are you from? south florida

 

favorite brand other than glowbar: peloton

 

biggest mistake you see startups making (drawing on mgmt consulting experience): not questioning every, single, part of what exists today.

 

skincare routine: cleanse, tone, treat, moisturize + spf (am only). morning and night.

 

self-care activity: dancing in front of my mirror by myself.

 

female founder you admire and why: kirsten green. what she’s built with forerunner is incredible, in a space where few female founders exist.

 

favorite place in nyc besides glowbar: my apartment. it sparks so much joy and i love hosting.

 

words you live by: ask enough of the right questions and you will figure it out.

now imagine if you could get a facial in the time it just took you to read this. thanks to neha + rachel, now you can! book glowbar here!

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

all images are property of respective companies

female founder feature: divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty

female founder feature: Divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty

it’s july, which means we’re officially less than 6 months away from 2020 (*what*) and we’re spending the month going back and forth between home and the closest body of water. between the constant travel and hustling to crush those 2019 goals, one thing is for sure: not one of us has time for a 20-step beauty routine. divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty…..just gets it. like her brand name suggests, her mission is to keep us gorgeous on the go. in her own words, “less time spent in front of a mirror, and more time doing”. can we get an amen?!

your background is in tech… how on earth did you go about breaking into the beauty industry? 

i’ve always had a strong interest in beauty, especially as someone who loves to cook (i went to culinary school!) who can be found concocting a face mask with the ingredients in my kitchen. after my last company ‘send the trend’ sold to qvc, i joined the qvc team and led digital innovation where i spent a lot of time on their beauty brands and business. i had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands, but none of them were speaking to my lifestyle. most brands were advocating artistry and 20-step routines, but i was a mom of two working full-time, getting ready on the subway each morning. i didn’t have time or space for that type of routine. i needed products that multitasked the way i did and kept me gorgeous on the go – so my co-founder, lindsay and i created them.

 

being a serial entrepreneur, disrupting industries is in your nature. tell us how you’ve disrupted the beauty industry with wander.

most beauty brands tell you that you need more, more, more: a separate cream for your body than you use on your elbows, five brushes to do a full face. wander beauty is saying the opposite. we’re giving you fewer multitaskers that streamline your routine, without compromising on performance or ingredients. all of our multitaskers set out to solve a problem, whether it’s a our dual-ended dualist concealer that allows you to both conceal and brighten with a two-in-one formula or our play all day translucent powder that eliminates the traditional mess and waste associated with a translucent powder by storing the powder inside of the puff. 

   

talk to us about your marketing ‘message’ to consumers? who is your target customer and why does she value your product? how do you communicate your value prop to her?

our target customer goes beyond sociodemographics – we are catering the time-starved woman who is living her life in motion and doing her beauty routine beyond the bathroom. we are offering her less time spent in front of a mirror, and more time doing

we work to socially co-create all of our products with our community so that we are not just giving her something that she wants, but something that she is asking us for. we are always asking ourselves how we can innovate, from packaging to formula, to give her the best solution to the problem she presents us with. 

 

you serve as ceo of wander, but co-founded the company with former victoria’s secret model lindsay ellingson. how do you divide + conquer in your roles?

lindsay and i come from such different backgrounds, but shared the same problem of not feeling spoken to in the beauty space as women living life on the go. we both have different strengths, which complement each other. she is our creative director and spearheads all of our creative. i’m our ceo and a data junkie and work more on the business side. we overlap on product development, which we are both so passionate about and bring our own unique perspectives to. 

 

wander is currently in it’s last month of it’s pop-up shop on the upper east side. can you tell us a little bit more about that experience and why you decided to do it? is this the store’s first pop-up?

yes! this is the brand’s first-ever pop up store. being a predominantly direct to consumer brand, we rely on our own digital storytelling and content to bring the brand to life through a screen, which is why we own the process internally rather than outsource. beauty is such a tactile experience, and we wanted to bring the brand alive in real life – and what better place to serve an on-the-go consumer than new york city? since our inception, we’ve seen the most growth from owning our own branding and storytelling, and having that then drive our own .com’s growth as well as having a halo effect on our retail growth. by owning our retail experience, our goal was to drive brand awareness while continuing to foster that personal relationship with our community.

 

what challenges have you faced with the pop-up vs. your online direct-to-consumer platform?

if you’re not challenged, you’re not learning! the entire pop up has been a learning experience – especially since i had never launched a pop up space myself. we’re lucky that we are still small and agile enough that we can still experiment and learn from our mistakes and adapt in real time. for example, we tested several types of our daily classes in our first few days to see what topics and times resonated most, and adjusted the following week to better accommodate our consumer and continued to adapt throughout the pop up as we see patterns. at the pop up store, it’s all about human interaction and bringing the brand to life through our ambassadors once they’re through the door. 

 

we spend a lot of time talking about what works in starting + growing a business, but as you know a lot of entrepreneurs live and breathe what doesn’t work (the hard way). tell us something that has worked really well for your brand and something that hasn’t worked for your brand that maybe you expected to?

i think our focus has really worked for us. we want to be something to someone not everything to everyone. we are two modern women who are more time-starved, busy and active. we are always doing beauty beyond the bathroom ™, and we focused on that lifestyle across all age groups, ethnicities and geographies. we are inclusive yet focused on our clients and their lifestyle. we create multitaskers that serve a purpose in their lives and save them time and space. with regards to what doesn’t work well, we thought that being in traditional retail channels would allow new clients to discover us. what we realized is that many retails have a vast array of brands and with limited space both in stores and online we don’t have chance to highlight our innovation and differentiation. so we learned from that and decided to pursue our dtc business and truly own our conversation with our clients and our community.

 

our signature question, how did you come up with the name ‘wander’?

we’re all about staying gorgeous on the go, so travel inspiration is the thread that runs through all of our branding and imagery. ‘wander’ came from the idea that even if your life is busy, whether with the day-to-day of life or a jetsetting adventure, your beauty routine should wander with you.

 

editors note: visit the wander beauty pop up store through july 31st at 787 lexington avenue (between 61st and 62nd street) and mention the fill to get 20% off of your purchase

favorite piece in the wander collection: this is like picking a favorite child! right now, i can’t stop using our trip for two blush and bronzer duo. it’s makes me look like i spent the weekend at the beach without having to go anywhere.  

 

female founder who inspires you: sarah kauss at s’well. at wander we create multitaskers so you can do more with less products. we care about sustainability and that mission lives through our product and packaging decisions. sarah has taken it to the next level with s’well and i admire that.

 

favorite me-time activity: swimming. i call it my “vision time” – completely device-free, and i can be truly alone with myself. 

 

favorite restaurant: novikov in miami- the fish is fresh and spectacular and i have yet to have a less than outstanding meal there.

 

go-to brands (other than wander): obe fitness for home workouts, tamara mellon for comfortable well crafted shoes, giapenta for intimates, primary for my kids clothes, inkbox for when i’m feeling adventurous and want to make a temporary bad decision. 

 

personal mantra / favorite quote: “i do not fix problems. i fix my thinking. then problems fix themselves.” -louise hay

 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i love to travel. i went to 18 countries during my two years doing my masters degree.

you know what they say….we have the same 24 hours in a day as beyonce. divya and lindsay, thank you for letting us use less of that time beautifying and more of that time….becoming beyonce. or as close as possible. 

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of divya gugnani and wander beauty
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies