Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child had their own personal stylist? One who sent a box of ultra-chic small-scale goodies to you every month? (Side note: doesn’t this box [above] have Prince George’s name written all over it?)
Wish no longer. Box Upon a Time is a simple – but very clever – concept. Simply complete a fashion profile of your child and your preferences – and Box Upon A Time’s stylists will send you a hand-picked selection of gorgeous clothes from some of the most fabulous baby brands (Miniature, Louis & Louise, Marie Chantal, Their Nibs, Poppy & Ned…) Boxes are delivered monthly (at several price points), exchanges are free and you’re guaranteed to save 40% on the retail price. Now that is a what we call a brilliant present for a new baby. Or a service a time-pressed, but stylish parent, needs in their life. We asked co-founder, mother of three (Rachel, Juliette and Noah), former lawyer and canny business-brain, Caroline Kendal, to talk us through setting up Box Upon a Time – and how she copes with the work-family juggle…
You’ve worked in law and the city – but did you always have the desire to set up on your own?
It was always my long term plan to set up my own business. My family were in business so it’s in my blood. However, they were keen for me to pursue a profession first. I enjoyed the academic study of law and my legal training has proved to be invaluable in the day to day running of my businesses
How did you come up with the concept behind Box Upon a Time? Was there a ‘eureka’ moment, or did it arise from having set up your first online venture, miniwardrobe.com?
Fashion and clothing is in ingrained in me. My grandmother was in womenswear and then set up her own menswear business. Box Upon a Time is a successor to MiniWardrobe, which was a classic e-commerce business. However, retail giants like Amazon and flash sales sites started to threaten. Box Upon a Time is a natural progression from MiniWardrobe and provides both brands and customers with a far more appealing and exciting way to shop for discounted luxury and designer brands.
What made you think the time was right?
Although our economic climate is improving, customers still demand good value and have almost come to expect promotions and rewards as the norm now. Coupled with that is the need for brands to have more creative sales channels plus shopping for children’s clothes is a necessity and is not fun for children and cannot compete as a family pastime with the more exciting activities on offer to families.
How did you research the sector; establishing that there was a market for what you wanted the company to do and that there were brands willing to come on board?
I had developed great relationships with brands at MiniWardrobe and they like me wanted only to maximise interest in and sales of their collections. Similar concepts to Box Upon a Time have launched with great success in other product areas and in other countries. As babies and small children grow and have a constant need for clothes and the majority of parents take pride in their children’s appearance, the opportunity seemed perfect to be able to offer parents the quickest and easiest way to shop for fabulous clothes at extremely competitive prices.
What were your first steps in terms of setting it up?
The business has been self-funded at first. We then raised funds specifically to test our marketing strategies. Off the back of that, we are close to raising our first round of investment from external investors.
Do you have any advice for women seeking investors for their business?
I think the same advice is relevant for men too. Fundraising is extremely time consuming and will always take more time and effort than you expect. It also takes you away from the running of your business, so be prepared to have to make sacrifices. And, if like me, you are a mother too, it is essential to have strong support at home too.
What have been your biggest successes thus far? Any setbacks – or moments which required fast talking?
Successes have revolved around the brands we’ve secured to our site and the fantastic feedback we’ve had from our first customers, but we’ve also had to go through some teething problems as we’ve fine-tuned the way we put together and send out our customer boxes.
What are your top 5 tips for women who have an entrepreneurial yearning?
1. Although in theory you can work around your family when you have your own business; in practice, I’ve ended up working a whole lot harder than I ever did when I was employed. Although I tend to go to bed fairly early, most days I am up and at my computer before 5am so that I get almost three hours work done before waking my children up for school
2. Go into business with your eyes wide open. However long you think it’s going to take, treble it!
3. Lessons are normally learnt the hard way – and I usually learn what doesn’t work in business rather than what does. You’ve got to want to learn and improve what you’re doing constantly and then revise timelines. I don’t think quick wins exist anymore.
4. I strongly believe in helping others as much as you can. I’ve found that what goes around comes around and that being helpful has brought be wonderful opportunities along the way.
5. And finally, don’t be afraid to revisit your strategies. You may believe your initial business idea is brilliant as it is but the market and your advisors and investors may believe differently. Don’t be stubborn. Be open to developing your business even into something quite different as the potential for success may become even greater.
How do you make the family/business balance (aka the perpetual juggle work)?
In my experience, when you have your own business you end up working a whole lot harder than you ever did for someone else. Yes, you can work around your kids, but you pay the price. You have to be unafraid of hard work and prepared to make sacrifices.
I think that as a mother there are three pulls on your time – kids, career and your own personal social time. In my experience you can have two out of the three successfully, but it’s not easy to have all three, without making serious compromises. So, a great social life is a luxury that I don’t have at the moment!
On the plus side, you are doing something you are passionate about, for yourself and you are in control of your day. You don’t need to ask for time off for sports days and parents evenings. You can just take an hour or two out to be there for your children, and make up the time later.
Boxes start from £29 and go up to £69 per month. Head to Box Upon a Time for more details and to subscribe.