Episode 55: Paul Chambers of The Gentleman’s Box [Podcast]

Welcome to Episode 55 of the Indie Business Podcast! In this episode, I'll introduce you to Paul Chambers of The Gentleman's Box and The Subscription Summit. A few years back, through his web design company, Paul was asked to design a website for a subscription box company. Seeing more than just a website design gig, Paul offered to design the site in exchange for part ownership in the box. Today, the Gentleman's Box, reaches thousands of subscribers in several countries, with grooming, apparel and lifestyle supplies for the modern gentleman.

In this episode of Indie Business Podcast, Paul shares details about how The Gentleman's Box works, and also offers tips to help you manage a profitable and fun subscription box business. He also shares his upcoming event, the Subscription Summit, and why you should go if you are interested in succeeding in your subscription box business. Enjoy my interview with Paul NOW!

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Episode Show Notes

Here are the topics discussed in this episode, with time stamps to help you find the information that most interests you:

  1. How The Gentleman's Box started with a simple web design gig, and how the Subscription Summit evolved out of that. (starting at 2:45)
  2. Paul shares his view about the rise of subscription boxes as a business model, starting with Birch Box and other examples experiencing rapid growth, and how subscription boxes are changing how consumers shop. (starting at 5:40)
  3. Two types of product-based subscription boxes: curated and repeat purchase, and the growth of customized box experiences. (starting at 8:04)
  4. How micro companies can create recurring revenue from their most popular products. (starting at 10:50)
  5. Look at the unit economics of your subscription box idea, and a few places where you can cut costs by building out your first five boxes first. (starting at 14:09)
  6. What are the best ways to spread the word about your subscription box? (Facebook, Instagram, and influencer marketing) (starting at 16:38)
  7. Creating the best customer experience through email, texting, Facebook messenger, etc. (starting at 17:51)
  8. How to forge relationships with influencers, including negotiating to get the best win/win situation. (starting at 18:50)
  9. How to encourage buyers to share their box experience on social media, including giveaways, using hash tags and challenges to create awareness and encourage social connectedness. (starting at 20:29)
  10. What sort of marketing collateral should you put in your subscription box? (starting at 22:05)
  11. How do you handle subscriber burnout and subscription cancellations? (starting at 23:47)
  12. Innovating by giving your boxes a monthly personality or theme. (starting at 25:14)
  13. How do you pitch yourself for a box, and what are the biggest turnoffs? (starting at 26:20)
  14. “The Gentleman's Council” focus group (starting at 27:06)
  15. Tips for curating relationships with product suppliers and other partners (starting at 28:00)
  16. Why The Gentleman's Box did fulfillment in-house, then outsourced it, then brought it back in-house using a local non-profit that employs mentally and physically handicapped individuals to do box fulfillment (starting at 29:46)
  17. Summarizing the steps that need to be taken and the hats that need to be worn, from start to finish, to get a subscription box out the door (starting at 31:07)
  18. About the The Subscription Summit (starting at 33:43)
  19. Summary of tips for a successful subscription box (starting at 37:40)
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Paul Chambers, The Gentleman's Box and the Subscription Summit

Episode 55: Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

  1. Mastermind opportunity: Maker Mastermind Live: Boston
  2. Subscription box conference: Subscription Summit
  3. Subscription box: The Gentlemen's Box
  4. Subscription box: Birch Box
  5. Subscription box: Hello Fresh
  6. Subscription box: Blue Apron
  7. Recurring billing app for Shopify: ReCharge for Shopify
  8. Recurring billing app for BigCommerce: PayWhirl for BigCommerce
  9. Subscription box: Cratejoy
  10. Custom boxes in lower quantities: Pack Lane
  11. Customer relationship software in the cloud: Zendesk
  12. Male grooming influencer: Alpha M
  13. Red swimsuit incident: The Instagram promotion that was so successful that it failed
  14. Distribution center: Ascendia
  15. Distribution center: Fostdick Fulfillment

An Indie Business Network Member in the Gentleman's Box

Check out one of our members, AJ Murray's, and their Kentucky Bourbon Lotion, featured in the May 2017 Gentleman's Box!

Summary of Paul's Tips for a Successful Subscription Box

  1. Lay out your boxes first: Take the guesswork out by ironing out all the kinks in advance. Use a spreadsheet or even physical box prototypes if you'd like — whatever works for you to get your proposed subscription box totally laid out in advance.
  2. Run your numbers: Make sure you have a solid profit margin or a plan to get to one. Paul says that the margins for The Gentleman's Box are great now, but that was not always the case. Chart out in advance how your profit margin can start out small (or even non-existent), but grow as quickly as possible over time.
  3. Ask questions and set up a focus group of loyal customers: The chief way to maximize success is to ask your customers questions so you can deliver what they want. The Gentleman's Council is such a great idea in this regard.

Attend The Subscription Summit!

Attend The Subscription Summit May 31 to June 1, 2017 at the Sheraton Hotel in Austin, Texas. Here is the registration link, and check out the agenda, and meet the sponsors.

Connect with Paul Chambers and The Gentleman's Box

Visit Paul Chambers and The Gentleman's Box at his website, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Instagram.

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.