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?
I've always loved finding and trying wonderfully-aged spirits, my Dad does too, but unfortunately, due to a disability, he can no longer travel himself to find rare beauties from around the world.
A couple of years ago I wanted to find a club that would send him a fantastic bottle every month as a present, importantly nothing that he'd get in a supermarket - it needed to be special.
I couldn't find anyone doing it, so I started doing it myself! Now, my Dad gets a fantastic bottle every month and so do all of our members.
What attracted you to the subscription box model?
I'm already a member of several wine clubs, so I believed in the model from the outset.
How did you validate your idea and test the market?
I started with my Dad, then went out to friends and family, who all loved it.
How did you acquire your first customers?
Friends and family first, then onto social media and the local newspaper.
Did you raise any seed or investor funding to help you grow?
No, we've been self-funded.
How long have you been running now and what are your most successful achievements and milestones so far?
We launched in January, that was the first milestone. Then it was our first paid customer that wasn't either friends or family. After that, one that hasn't gone live yet is that we have sourced our first spirit that's not available in the UK.
With the rise of new boxes launching all the time, what do you see as your USP that sets you apart from your competitors?
Currently, we sit alone as a premium aged spirits subscription that offers more than just whisky or rum, allowing us to take our members on a unique journey through wonderfully-aged masterpieces.
How does your business continue to find new and exciting products to keep your customers engaged and excited every month?
We work tirelessly to hunt down and provide our members with exceptional and sought-after spirits from around the world - we have the variety on our side.
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?
We have outsourced our warehousing and fulfilment to a team of experts, as this is a vital part of our interaction with our customers and we didn't want to learn as we go. Apart from this, we have assembled a great team to manage every other part of our business as this is how we deliver our character and uniqueness.
What types of challenges do you face with fulfilment, delivery and customer service?
Our biggest worry is the delivery, as this is the one part of the process that we are completely removed from. As a result, we have taken a lot of advice and guidance with picking and entrusting this with our provider.
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?
The industry is going from strength to strength and is already seen as a great way to get products directly to consumers. The biggest challenge is that there are so many new boxes launching almost every day, so it's getting difficult for any new box to gain the awareness it needs to break through.
What do you enjoy most about running your subscription box business?
I love finding new masterpieces, it was a hobby of mine before I started the Summerton Club, so this is my perfect role.
What excites you about uOpen, and how do you see the marketplace featuring in your business' future?
uOpen can be a focal point for customers looking for that perfect subscription, particularly around the gifting season, making it quicker and easier for them to find the perfect gift for their loved ones. I see uOpen as being key in providing cut-through in a crowded market and thus a vital source of new members.