Today we're introducing you to Lauren Rodgers of Box + Bow. We first connected with Lauren on instagram, then were lucky enough to meet her at Bloom Bash San Clemente, last October. She is the sweetest + brilliant and very business-savvy. We're really excited to have Lauren putting together our gift boxes for Bloom Bash Carmel again in April! Hope you enjoy getting to know her below...
When did you start your business/blog?
Back in March of 2015, I was taking my then 5 month old, Avery, for a morning walk around our neighborhood. That same week, I had made the difficult decision to leave my marketing position at a tech website subsidiary of Hearst Corporation. I was going on three years with the company and was fortunate to work from home. When Ryan and I started talking about having children, I *thought* I had the perfect scenario for being able to work from home while being a full time mom. Boy was I wrong!!! Two months post maternity leave, I realized it was nearly impossible to complete my job tasks on top of the diaper changes, nursing, naptime, playtime, you name it. I quickly realized I had two choices: continue my career and start looking at daycare options, or leave my position to stay at home with Ave. I wish I could say it was an easy decision to put in my notice, but I had worked hard to achieve my position...not to mention we had gotten comfortable with our lifestyle on two salaries! I tried for two months to wear both hats, but was exhausted and miserable. It wasn’t working. Ryan had been fully supportive of me leaving since I had come back from maternity leave (in fact, he was probably hoping I wouldn’t go back to work at all), but I had to convince myself. In tears, I called my manager, (who happened to also be a family friend) and told him my decision to leave. I felt defeated because I “couldn't do it all” but was honestly excited for this new chapter to come.
I joke that I’m happier when I’m busy. I NEVER have free time, because I’ll find something to fill it with. As if being a full-time mom isn’t being “busy” enough, I thought I could use a little side project while caring for an infant, you know, during that “free time” while Ave napped. While on that morning walk, I had an “ah-ha” moment that I should start a gifting boutique. I applied for my business license 3 days later, got the necessary permits, designed my website, and officially made my first sale in May. I started off selling only local hand delivered boxes, gaining my exposure from referrals. I received multiple requests to ship throughout the US so I went back to the drawing board and created enclosed gift boxes that could ship nationally. My business tripled almost immediately, and I have been adding new collections and packaging options since. I truly never dreamed that my nap time side project would turn into a full blown business!
Where does your passion stem from? So I’m going to go wayyyy back to where it all began. Growing up, I was always intrigued by thinking of creative ways to earn money. My younger brother and I were those kids on the street corner with our lemonade stand and fresh baked cookies ready to sell. Of course, the idea was my doing, but I somehow bribed him to be my “assistant.” Fast forward to my college years – I turned my love of baking into a full blown side business called Berry Delicious (I had a professionally designed logo and everything!) selling decorated chocolate dipped strawberries in my local area. I even incorporated it into a college class project selling them to raise money on campus for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even while working for Hearst, I spent many late hours writing posts for Lovelies by Lo, my creative outlet where I blogged about styled parties and DIY event décor.
Gifting, though, has always been my love language. I enjoy thinking about the recipient, their interests, their hobbies, and how I can thoughtfully give them something that has meaning. I’ve always been one to scour multiple stores to find the PERFECT products that I could assemble into fun gift baskets. It almost became a personal challenge to think of a gift theme – let’s say a DIY Cold Brew Coffee Kit for example (which was a real box I gifted in the past!) – and hunt for the coffee carafe, glass tumblers, dark roast coffee, and pirouette cookies from my favorite stores. As fun as it was to search for the perfect products, its definitely time consuming to go from store to store to build an entire gift box from scratch. Who has time for that?! When I started Box and Bow, I wanted to create a simplified platform for gifting unique, trendy products and gift boxes all in one place. I knew I wanted to support the little guys – the stay at home moms like myself who want to be present and raise their children, while pursuing their passions. The small business owners who spend years perfecting their craft and still put every ounce of love into each piece. The Etsy shop owners who are true artists and design stunning pieces that tell a story. THOSE are the products and people that inspire me.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? (business, social media, balancing personal and business life, etc.) As mentioned, when I started Box and Bow, I intended to just build a few gift boxes here and there while Avery took naps. Once I started shipping nationwide, 3-5 orders per month quickly turned to 3-5 orders per day. I gained a lot of attention from publications, bloggers, and influencers who offered to help promote my growing business. I started out so small, that I declined many of those opportunities because I was hesitant to grow faster than I was ready for and was struggling to keep up with the workload I already had. In hindsight, I wholeheartedly wish I had taken the bull by the horns and accepted those opportunities. Yes, growth is scary, especially when you’re starting out small; but opportunities don’t always present themselves and when they do, I’ve learned to embrace the hesitancy and accept the challenge!
What is one way you stay inspired outside of your industry/field? You mean OTHER than going shopping?! :) :) Talking to friends, family, Instagram influencers etc on what their favorite products are. I’m always on the hunt for fabulous products that I think would be a good fit for my gifts. I choose my products verrrryyyyyy selectively, only using items that I personally would want to receive myself. I think gifts should be beautiful, yet practical. And of course, packaging is everything. You can have the most fabulous, tried-and-true product in the world – but if the packaging isn’t spot on, it’s not going to capture my (or anyone else’s) attention!
Favorite project AND most challenging project? One of my favorite projects to date was designing then fiancé of SF Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, Lexi Cozombolidis’, bridesmaid proposal boxes. She reached out to create some personalized gifts for her girls, and even invited me to their home to film a video for her YouTube channel (watch it here!). Being a huge Giants fan myself, that was hands down the biggest highlight of 2016. We are currently designing Opening Day gift boxes together, so check back on my instagram page for the final design!
My most challenging project to date was for an order of 8 day-of bridesmaid gifts for one particular client who lived back East. The gifts were supposed to deliver to the Bride’s home on Thursday before they left out of town for their wedding weekend. The delivery date was delayed and the boxes did not arrive to her home until the day of the wedding – but no one was home, or able to pick up the package! I spent hours on the phone with FedEx trying to reroute, hold at the hub for pickup etc. but they weren’t able to help. The box was delivered to the bride’s home and I arranged to have a courier waiting to pick up the package and drive it to the wedding venue, over two hours away. After all the courier costs, I pretty much broke even on that order, but the gifts delivered in time for the wedding and the bride could not have been more appreciative and even expressed that she will be a customer for life. Hiccups and mistakes will ALWAYS happen, but the way you handle the situation speaks volumes about not only your business, but you personally as a business owner.
Favorite business tool? (Camera, program to do bookkeeping, favorite ribbon to you’re your boxes with Jetc…) One of my favorite packaging supplies is my custom logo stamp from Paper Gold Co. It’s a versatile way to brand multiple pieces of my packaging – wooden boxes, hang tags, notecards, outer shipping boxes, etc. a — that won’t break the bank.
Best business advice you’ve ever received? It’s not technically advice someone has given me, but it’s my own business mantra: “Always, always, under-promise and over-deliver.” This has been the phrase I have kept close at heart with every aspect of Box and Bow. I intentionally list lead times a few days longer than it will actually take, because I know that it’s unexpected and exciting to get that confirmation email that your package shipped early. I sometimes slip little complimentary gifts into bulk bridesmaid gift orders so the bride can feel special and relax during the chaos of wedding planning. It’s little gestures here and there that will establish a rapport with clients and help you stand out from the crowd.
What are you most looking forward to in 2017 for Box + Bow? Up until this point, Box and Bow has been operating from my “home studio” which has consisted of our pool table top as my work space, rolling carts and bookshelves as product storage units, and more cardboard boxes than you’d know what to do with. With year-over-year sales growth of over 400% in 2016, I've been bursting at the seams. Just this past week, we officially signed papers for our brand new office in the heart of downtown Brentwood, CA. To have a functional space that will allow me to grow my business and expand my product and collection offerings is, in all honesty, never something I ever dreamed could happen. To see my little “naptime project” grow to a full blown office is the biggest, most humbling experience. I’m thrilled to be able to facilitate larger orders, stock more products, and work with even more incredible clients in 2017!!
THREE favorite things right now:
-Synergy Gingerberry Kombucha...I blame my sister in law for getting me hooked!
-My LL Bean sheepskin slippers. If you know me at all, I’m ALWAYS cold and these never leave my feet...
-Sitting by our new backyard fire pit...with a glass of wine, my hubby, and my Ave Babe :)
Thanks for being with us here today, Lauren!
Want to hear Lauren speak and be a receiver of one of her beautiful gift boxes?! Sign up for Bloom Bash Carmel Valley today HERE!