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 played around with ideas and loved wellbeing and subscriptions. One day it just clicked, I looked at the person to my right who was a mum, and asked what she thought of a 'Unibox' for her child - needless to say, she liked the idea!
What attracted you to the subscription box model?
First off, my love for other subscription boxes. Furthermore, this model fits perfectly with my target market - students. Students evolve and have different needs throughout the year, and I loved the idea of The Unibox being a regular part of a student's journey throughout the year.
How did you validate your idea and test the market?
We did surveys and talked to a lot of people. However, the real research started when we started shipping out boxes and receiving actual customer feedback.
How did you acquire your first customers?
I will always remember our very first order, turns out they were looking for a student gift and found us via Google. After that, it was mainly word of mouth and Facebook ads.
Did you raise any seed or investor funding to help you grow?
We got some pre-seed funding from an angel investor at the idea stage.
How long have you been running now and what are your most successful achievements and milestones so far?
We've now shipped 16 boxes, and this September is going to be our second run at a full academic year! Finding great people to come and be a part of the adventure has been an awesome achievement alongside the fact that we are still going and growing!
With the rise of new boxes launching all the time, what do you see as your USP that sets you apart from your competitors?
The fact that we focus on students, wellbeing and have monthly themes makes us different from our competitors. We strive to have the best customer service possible and give as much as we can to our students.
How does your business continue to find new and exciting products to keep your customers engaged and excited every month?
Thankfully for us, there are always new and exciting brands being created in the UK! We love working with startups and independent brands who keep things interesting. We also create some unique items every month just for our subscribers.
Have there been any particularly pivotal moments so far that have required you to make changes to how you operate?
There came the point where packing ourselves wasn't an option anymore, and we had to start working with a fulfilment company. It was a scary change and not being in control of the final product is terrifying, but it has been for the best.
How large is your team? What type of roles do they have?
The team is currently wholly outsourced and varies in number depending on our needs each month. From marketing, comms, sales, partnerships to packing and shipping.
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?
Curation, content and creation are all in-house. All of our packing and shipping is outsourced though.
What types of challenges do you face with fulfilment, delivery and customer service?
The main challenge is shipping. It's a big part of the business, yet it's not something we are in control of, and it affects how we are perceived in terms of customer service.
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?
UK customers are still discovering subscription services generally, which is exciting, but also means there are more being created every single day. Keeping The Unibox exciting for students to subscribe throughout their journey is our biggest goal.
What do you enjoy most about running your subscription box business?
Nothing makes me happier than receiving messages and emails from students and parents about how much they love receiving their Unibox and the positive impact its had on them. By far this is what I enjoy the most, impacting people's lives one box at a time.
What excites you about uOpen, and how do you see the marketplace featuring in your business' future?
Hopefully, uOpen helps us reach more people who are still discovering subscriptions and haven't quite made that leap yet!