This is part of uOpen’s 'Industry Insights' interview series - a valuable collection of informative and intelligent insights into how some of the UK's best-known and most-loved subscription box businesses came to be and got to where they are - all shared by the very people who made it happen...
Covering customer acquisition to fulfilment, this blog series offers a behind the scenes look at how the many moving parts of these complex, yet successful operations come together each month to satisfy the ever-growing demand of subscription box customers in the UK.
How did the idea for your subscription box come about?
We have US-based partners and are aware of the success for subscription boxes in a variety of industries. As our customers routinely buy monthly to fulfil their CBD needs to maintain a balanced life, it made sense for uOpen to provide the platform required to launch from our UK company home for our loyal UK customers.
What attracted you to the subscription box model?
Life is busy. Life is stressful. Having an "assistant" to deliver your monthly health and wellness needs to your door is the convenience everyone needs, and uOpen provides this for our Naked Leaf CBD customers.
How did you validate your idea and test the market?
Our idea was and continues to be validated by our repeat customers. When you are out of your cherished CBD, which massively helps with all things life optimisation, you need more, and you need it now. Subscription boxes, as we found out when living in the USA, have thrived through delivering this convenience. It made sense to do the same for a long-term repeat customer-base here.
How did you acquire your first customers?
We launched at a trade show in America, and those we met attending and exhibiting there began the customer flow. Separate to that, the contacts that one of our founders had from previous work experience on a global level has produced many customers organically. Now we are utilising social media and other platforms that expand our e-commerce capabilities to help us grow.
Did you raise any seed or investor funding to help you grow?
We had a small raise which we used to purchase stock and have been working off that alone. We will be seeking future capital investment to accommodate the marketing, operations and demand we have globally across 20 countries.
How long have you been running now and what are your most successful achievements and milestones so far?
We only officially launched on December 3rd, 2018, and incorporated in September 2018. Our research began eight months before the incorporation as we tried and tested suppliers to ensure the organically-grown hemp was effective and palatable for all our customers - both animals and humans.
We sold and reordered our stock within ten days, which also lead to interest from larger global e-commerce platforms for animals and humans looking for us to join and sell on their sites.
Our biggest honour and surprise was the welcome response we received from medical and veterinary professionals as well as prominent pharmaceutical company leaders, who have reached out to our company for education on CBD, plus becoming customers themselves.
With the rise of new boxes launching all the time, what do you see as your USP that sets you apart from your competitors?
Zero-THC therapeutic products which can enhance life as you know it - the science of the hemp plant is now simply rising to the forefront of society's mind once again (thankfully)!
Furthermore, not only do we offer products for all, but we also love to connect with clients, educate and hear the stories behind their successful experiences with Naked Leaf CBD. Our personal interest is genuine and at the very core of the company.
How does your business continue to find new and exciting products to keep your customers engaged and excited every month?
We have Naked Leaf CBD teams based in both the USA and UK. Both locations have R&D in place to create the next generation of unique lifestyle products. We also have biotech scientists and geneticists working diligently on the plants - from soil to oil - to ensure top quality CBD for infusion and use in new, exciting topical and digestible products.
Have there been any particularly pivotal moments so far that have required you to make changes to how you operate?
We took care to assure all our products were compliant with the rules for CBD globally, and have adhered to all the legislative rules making our roll-out seamless to date.
How large is your team? What type of roles do they have?
We have two founders - CEO, Nathan Whitman and COO, Heidi Whitman. Two endorsers - doctor of veterinary medicine, Jill Todd and author, animal communicator and TEDx speaker, Joan Ranquet.
We have a team of people working out at our three hemp farms in the USA. Then in the UK, we have our creative director, Louie Syred, our social media marketing guru, Jael Hatcher, our web developer, Laura Boylan, PTSD ambassador, Phil Campion and photographer/documentarian/videographer, Lauren Joy Kennett.
Across all operational areas of your business, what do you manage in-house and what do you outsource to external suppliers to support you with - and why is this?
At the moment, we handle everything in-house to keep our finger on the pulse as we grow, and we'll keep an eye on which delegated roles are necessary.
We have a pick and pack fulfilment warehouse in the USA (and in the UK on standby), as well as a PR company in place, and administrative and sales staff awaiting our growth.
What types of challenges do you face with fulfilment, delivery and customer service?
At the moment, we have placed ourselves in a position to be able to proceed in a comfortable and achievable manner by operating solely in-house, but we need to be mindful of how we approach this as we grow to ensure we have no issues with any of the aspects of our e-commerce operation.
How do you see the subscription box industry is evolving and what do you believe are going to be your biggest challenges over the next 12 months?
We will always need to promote the educational aspects of our products to allow the customers to make educated decisions for themselves and their families.
We want to find a way to incorporate our Naked Leaf CBD educational speakers into our customer subscribers lives and will want to work with uOpen on this unique service to accompany their subscription.
The challenge we face is that we are ahead of the curve - bringing a US tenured CBD product concept to the UK, on a subscription basis - so it's new to many consumers. That said, we take on all challenges with an optimistic approach and find watching the evolution of a consumer community enthralling!
What do you enjoy most about running your subscription box business?
Feedback! We love hearing the success stories from our products being used in consumer's daily lives.
What excites you about uOpen, and how do you see the marketplace featuring in your business' future?
uOpen is, again, ahead of the curve, just like The Naked Leaf CBD Company. We are so excited to be accompanying a fellow pioneering company, hand-in-hand, box-by-box, which will be what places us on the map for others to emulate.