Dalton Hamilton, the founder of guitarist subscription High-Strung, starts each day with a casual business meeting. Literally – right at the breakfast table. Why’s that? Well, High-Strung recently won the Grand Prize of Cratejoy’s inaugural Accelerator Program, and it looks like there’s no slowing the company’s success anytime soon.
It helps that Dalton’s longtime partner is a subscription box entrepreneur herself: the founder of Owl Post Books, Cassie Padgett. Every morning, the couple identifies their primary business goals for the day and develops a to-do list. “I consider myself incredibly lucky and am honored to have her as a partner,” Dalton says. “It’s nice to have someone that’s not in front of you or beneath you, but standing by your side when you’re working towards a goal together.”
Journey to the Accelerator
Dalton’s work ethic, dedication to improvement and sustainable growth, and support of fellow merchants led to High-Strung’s Grand Prize win. But Cassie’s book box motivated Dalton to embrace the subscription model – and, as a result, apply to the Accelerator Program.
Seeing Owl Post launch “with the help of the Cratejoy community,” he says, “inspired me to give it a shot.” So Dalton conducted research to validate his idea: monthly deliveries of guitar strings, picks, and accessories to play your best. Then, they put in the work to narrow down High-Strung’s target audience and applied to Cratejoy’s Accelerator Program.
Because of the course’s structure – weekly lessons – “the Accelerator Program made this process much more manageable,” Dalton says. The massive workload required to launch a business was broken into sections so each merchant could focus on smaller goals.
“By focusing on specific parts, and making those things the absolute best they could be, it allowed me to hone in on the different aspects of building my business, instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture.”
Growing a Community
In the first month after launch, High-Strung gained 10x as many subscribers as Owl Post had in the same timeframe! It’s no wonder why. Dalton and Cassie were integral to our Facebook community, asking for (and offering) guidance, and strove to learn as much as they could.
Fun fact: Over their two-month prelaunch, High-Strung collected 1,200 email addresses! Hosting giveaways on Facebook and Instagram went a long way to generating interest in their business. (See how to do it here.)
“One of the things we learned from our first box was that it can feel a bit lonely sometimes running this type of business,” he says, “so making connections with people that are in the same industry was wonderful.”
After the Accelerator ended, Dalton and Cassie invited local subscription box entrepreneurs to grab coffee, pitch ideas, and discuss challenges. “This created a real-world sharing of knowledge and support that honestly felt like a bit of small family,” he tells us.
That attitude doesn’t stop at coffee, either. Cassie and Dalton regularly participate in local fairs and festivals to vend their wares and meet potential subscribers. They even welcomed any Accelerator merchants in town to come over for Thanksgiving this year!
Challenges and Growth
Recently, Dalton left his day job to focus on High-Strung full-time, an outcome he credits to the Accelerator community’s support.
“The feedback given to us by experts,” Dalton says, “as well as people that are going through the process, was invaluable and helped us continue to move forward in a positive manner, as opposed to second-guessing our methodology.”
A huge benefit of listing High-Strung on the Cratejoy Marketplace, he says, “is having the opportunity to showcase our product in front of a far larger audience than traditional marketing endeavors would allow.”
One of the biggest challenges High-Strung came across was sourcing products for the box. “I’ve been playing guitar for 18 years and I still found it difficult to fine-tune what products were going to be in my box every month and balance that with the cost of goods.”
To succeed, Dalton immersed himself in the Cratejoy blog archives, Accelerator homework, and research. “I had always heard terms like ‘profit margin’ and ‘conversion,’ and never really understood what they actually were or why they were important,” he admits. “Now those are everyday discussions and planning sessions in our house.” The last step was to overcome his nerves in negotiating with vendors. But once he realized that High-Strung and their vendors shared the same goal – generating business – he found negotiation much easier.
“Some days, it’s easier to just put the work in then it is to worry about doing the work.”
Learning to Adapt
Another challenge was learning how to balance work and personal life. “We were told owning a business is like being on a rollercoaster, and initially, we did not realize that included emotionally,” Dalton says. Luckily, having Cassie in his life – and vice versa – helps him stay on track. “When one of us has been working for 13 hours straight, the other is there to remind them to take care of themselves. When one of us needs help auditing shipping logs and comparing them to our subscriber lists, the other is there with a handy Google Sheets formula that saves us hours.”
Learning to balance self-care and your work ethic is an invaluable lesson for all sub box business owners. Ultimately, Dalton says, “Taking time for yourself is so important, almost as much as having someone to encourage you.”
What’s Next for High-Strung
In 2019, the company intends to build an advertising campaign to cultivate their web traffic and customer acquisition.
The $10,000 included in the Grand Prize will go toward this effort, as well as expanding High-Strung’s product offerings. By the start of 2020, Dalton plans to offer subscription tiers for bass and ukelele players too. “We also have some design changes and cool new features in the works for our online presence,” he tells us. “Stay tuned for more details!”
We intend to, Dalton – and our guitars will too!