In just a little over a year, Ella Ozery of BarBella Box watched her subscription box business transform from an unknown company into a cult favorite in the female CrossFit community.
BarBella Box, a subscription box including gear, apparel, snacks, and accessories specifically curated for the female CrossFit athlete, launched in January 2016. Within a one-year period from February 2016 to February 2017, BarBella Box grew 687.8% in total subscriber count and 7x in gross revenue.
Currently, BarBella Box boasts an impressive 91% retention rate in subscriber count. How does Ella do it? With a combination of her marketing background, Cratejoy’s platform, and a perfect understanding of her target niche market, Ella lassoed in a dedicated subscriber base that continues to grow steadily month-by-month.
Combining Ella’s Marketing Background and Passion for CrossFit
Ella’s full-time job at a small marketing agency allowed her to work with many companies that featured subscription-based products. During her time there, not only did she gain exposure to many aspects of marketing that she would later leverage for BarBella Box, but she also gained insight into how the subscription model worked and why recurring revenue is so important.
Around July 2015, Ella began heavily researching the subscription box business and found Subscription School, Cratejoy’s sister site for subscription box entrepreneurs.
At the time, Ella, already a fitness lover, recounts that she was “really big into CrossFit.”
The CrossFitters she followed on Instagram wore knee sleeves, elbow supports, and wrist wraps, and she wondered where they got their gear.
“I was very familiar with subscription boxes already, and had heard of ones like Birchbox and Barkbox,” Ella says. “But when I tried to look, there wasn’t one specifically for CrossFit, only supplement boxes and ones that had different mobility tools.”
And that’s when the idea of starting BarBella Box hit her.
Ella’s goal with BarBella was twofold: she wanted to start a female-specific CrossFit box, and she also wanted to build a community of strong and empowered women.
The Advantages of Cratejoy‘s “All-in-One” Platform
Ella knew from the get-go that she didn’t want to figure out every aspect of the subscription box business. Therefore, Cratejoy was the perfect all-in-one solution. She appreciated that Cratejoy had already thought of all of the ins and outs of how a subscription box works.
“Instead of sitting there trying to figure out what to add or remove, I knew I could just sit down and have it all done right there. Everything was all-in-one; I didn’t have to hire a developer to build anything for me.”
“If I ever have any questions, I just email support and they’re able to take care of it for me. For example, when I sold out in February, I emailed support and the tech team was able to move 87 people to March’s shipment. If I were doing it by myself on my own platform, I wouldn’t be able to do it that easily,” she continues.
Beyond Ella’s appreciation of Cratejoy’s support team, she cites the Subscription School Facebook group as one of the biggest Cratejoy benefits. “Everyone is so helpful, supportive, and willing to give advice, and it’s interesting to read what other people are going through, because a lot of us have been there.”
While Ella is invested more in her other platforms, she acknowledges how incredibly valuable Cratejoy’s Marketplace is, especially for somebody without a lot of marketing experience. She concludes, “Cratejoy has just been very easy and a very smooth process. For anyone starting a subscription box business that doesn’t have tech experience or doesn’t know how to code up a site, I think Cratejoy is the best solution.”
A Successful Prelaunch Driven by Influencer Marketing
After extensive research, Ella decided on a prelaunch to build an email list, drive buzz, and grow her social following. Ella’s successful prelaunch attracted a couple hundred subscribers before she even sent out her first box, a victory she attributes to her focus on influencer marketing on Instagram.
Ella reached out to influencers in the CrossFit niche who had promoted similar products to BarBella in the past. Since she had targeted the right people, the influencers were excited about, receptive to, and supportive of BarBella Box. By building these influencer relationships, Ella was able to see 2-3 subscribers from each influencer’s social media post.
Ella credits her influencer marketing success to her understanding of her target market and niche.
“Determining my target market was easy, because I am my target market. I know where I buy and why I buy. I don’t have to worry about ‘What do these people want?’ Instead, I think about ‘What do I want?’ and ‘What attracts me?’”
Instagram turned out to be the perfect channel for growing BarBella’s brand awareness and social following. (As of August 2018, BarBella Box’s Instagram’s page has over 88,000 followers!) “The amazing thing is that the niche that I chose has such a large social media presence. They’re very vocal, and they’re sharing everything that they purchase and tagging me in each post,” Ella says.
“It’s not necessarily CrossFitters that are like this, I think I’ve narrowed my niche down so specifically to find these women who are looking to be part of a community, and that’s where I have the advantage,” Ella explains. “It’s not the typical CrossFitter who’s buying, it’s the CrossFitter who is looking to be inspired, they’re looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re looking to connect with people. And that’s what has been really successful.”
Building a Community Around BarBella
Like any company, Ella’s faced her share of challenges, but she hasn’t let them stop or discourage her.
“I want to remind people in the Subscription School Facebook group that recurring revenue is the success of any company. You’re not looking for that one-time buyer, you’re looking for somebody who’s going to come back. And we have that literally built in to subscription box model, and that’s a huge part of the business! Don’t lose sight of that.”
In fact, Ella started a closed Facebook group filled with subscribers, past subscribers, and people interested in the community. The group serves as a safe space and forum, and everyone encourages each other in their personal posts. “It’s unbelievable to see these like-minded women pushing each other,” Ella says. “It has been so rewarding to see the positive presence BarBella Box actually has on their lives. For some women, [receiving BarBella Box] is the one time of the month that they are able to do something for themselves because they are worrying about everything else – they have kids, they have work, and they have jobs.”
Because of BarBella’s tremendous growth, Ella made the decision to quit her full-time job in December 2016.
“It was a difficult decision because I loved my job and company, but BarBella was turning into a real business that I needed to give all my attention to. Just thinking about how I started a year ago, watching it grow, and seeing people be so passionate about this box has been absolutely amazing,” Ella says.