Welcome to the third installment of Cratejoy’s new merchant success series, “Unboxed.” Each month, we’ll learn tips, tricks, and subscription box secrets from Cratejoy’s top merchants.
Today, we’re featuring Rachael Lake from International Meal Kits by Takeout Kit! (Find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.)
How did you get the idea for Takeout Kits? And what made you pursue it?
Simply put, Takeout Kits are meal kits that teach you how to cook exotic international dishes. Three years ago I was inspired by Blue Apron, which got me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen and saved me trips to the grocery store or international market.
As a finance professional working 12+ hour days, however, I soon realized that these meal kits that were meant to be more convenient were adding more stress to my life; the recipes had to be cooked in 3-5 days, and some weeks I just could not commit to cooking 3 nights (or even one night!) for 45-60 minutes.
So I started turning my favorite dishes (they happened to be globally-inspired like chicken tikka masala and pho) into quick and easy meal kits with a longer shelf life to cook whenever I had the energy and time. It was my own #lifehack as an insanely busy professional woman and I thought others could benefit from it too.
At the time there was no other woman-backed meal kit company who really understood what it meant to be a super time-strapped lady in need of a more flexible meal kit solution. Another great thing: I made them so easy that even my husband, a novice home chef, could cook a fantastic dinner if I [were] tied up.
Take Action: Want to start a subscription box business but haven’t had that moment of inspiration yet? Check out Cratejoy’s list of 50 ideas to build a box around.
Why did you choose Cratejoy?
The marketplace! We already had a site hosted on Shopify, so I was mostly drawn to Cratejoy for the marketplace referrals. In the beginning, success is all about growing your subscriber base and gathering reviews and feedback. Being on Cratejoy gets you access to very targeted subscription box shoppers that enjoy supporting new concepts and are candid with feedback.
Helpful Hint: We included an incentive gift for anyone who wrote a review and promised to include it in their next box – so you get more reviews and more repeat subscribers too!
How did you acquire your first 25 (or so) subscribers?
To be completely honest, our first 25 subscribers were all friends and family. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way because your friends are willing to give you feedback that you don’t want to hear (but need to!). Our first 25 “real” customers came from partnerships with My Subscription Addiction, HelloSubscription, and Cratejoy. Don’t be afraid to give away free product to get content out there.
How did you go about starting your advertising efforts?
One thing that has worked really well for us was our PR efforts. Our goal was to avoid paying for ads altogether, simply because we could not afford them in the beginning.
We liked the idea of focusing on organic “earned media” through mentions and reviews in top-ranked articles on Google. The meal kit market was growing in popularity and we wanted to ride that wave as much as we could. Here’s our #growthhack approach:
- Identify what your target customers are searching for or where your competitors are being written about, like “best meal kit subscriptions” or “meal delivery services”
- Reach out to journalists that wrote the top-ranking (first-page) articles of Google searches describing why your product is different from competitors, or your point of differentiation
- Use your success from #1 and #2 to establish credibility for other mentions.
For us, getting into our first Forbes article gave us credibility and leverage to pitch the “why” to other journalists.
The goal is to always be part of the conversation.
Our mention in the Forbes article was also how we secured our partnership with Walmart – they reached out to us simply because we were listed as one of the top meal kit services. Then we started seeing mentions in TechCrunch, Delish, and Business Insider. We owe that Forbes journalist a lot…
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Our packaging for the first 2 years was very basic (and inexpensive). We used Uline boxes and a logo sticker from Vistaprint for a total cost of $1.35/box.
If I could go back, I would have invested in custom packaging much earlier because subscription box customers have come to expect high-quality packaging; cool boxes encourage conversations/referrals/social media shares/gifting; and custom boxes are not as expensive as you might expect. Reasonably-priced and professional box designers can be found on sites like 99designs.
Digital printing technology eliminates the need for expensive and limiting printing dies. Yes, our boxes cost more now but we are getting much more leverage and we think of every box as a marketing investment.
Take Action: Check out Cratejoy’s partnership with BoxUp and work on designing your own custom packaging! BoxUp offers 15% off the first order for Cratejoy sellers and 5% off for life.
What mistake(s) do you wish you could have avoided along the way?
I think many entrepreneurs can relate to this, but my biggest mistake was chaining myself to my desk until “things take off.”
I put my health, friends, and family second for at least the first year. I wish I had the confidence to know that the road to success would be long and tumultuous. I also took customer service wayyy too seriously. It’s important to be responsive and helpful, but don’t give up your weekends to be on Facebook chat just in case a customer needs you. Customers expect you to be closed on weekends and holidays – make sure you take some time for yourself too!
Take Action: Learn how to balance a strong customer service presence with your home life by reading Cratejoy’s #bosshacks for social media customer support and customer communication. Questions about Instagram specifically? We cover that too.
Anything else you’d like to share about your success story?
Be patient, try to focus on things that will move the needle instead of smaller day-to-day tasks, and view customer service as an opportunity rather than a burden. We’ve converted more customers (and gotten valuable feedback) because of great customer service than any other method. Remember that if someone is taking the time to express a problem, they are doing you a favor. Always reward them for that and they will most likely reciprocate with a great review, referral, or become a VIP customer.