It’s time for another interview in the How to Start a Subscription Box Company series. Today’s Q&A is with Sarah Jayne of Unbound, an adult subscription that ships quarterly.
What made you decide to start a subscription box service? We loved the idea of providing product guidance and curation to women in the erotic product market. A quarterly subscription service provides a really nice change of pace for those looking to change things up in the bedroom.
How did you choose your subscription niche? It’s no secret that many women (and men) feel awkward about purchasing adult products in a shop. Also, there’s very little brand knowledge within this market so choosing products that are exciting, safe and vetted is tricky. We take the guess work out of it while adding helpful guidance so our users know how to get the best out of their products. Sending great product straight to their doors seemed like a very natural process.
How much was your initial investment? We’ve been bootstrapping since we started. Essentially, it’s more of a time investment than a financial one. Under $10,000 for certain but we’re reaching the (exciting) point of pursuing funding so we can continue grow.
Do you work out of your home or an offsite location? We’ve recently moved into a small shared office space. More than anything, we were running out of space for the product in our small NYC apartments. Turns out there is a point in which boxes and boxes of toys can be a bad thing. (Its when a box of organic lubricant becomes your coffee table.)
How long did it take between idea and official launch? How long to profit? It took us about a year from idea to launch. We also publish erotica and sexual lifestyle content on our site so there was some added work to get that up and running. We’re a bit more than just a subscription service. We’re not quite to profit yet but we’re seeing some really great progress.
Are your ongoing costs on par with what you anticipated? So far, our costs have been fairly predictable. A few things seem to be higher than we’d like but we’re fairly certain over time that we can edge those down a bit.
Do you handle all of your business operations yourself or have employees? There are five of us that work equally as part of the company.
How do you source the products that will be included each month? We work very hard to build a great relationship with companies in this industry. It’s a mix of reaching out to companies to see what they’re putting out soon and what are subscribers might be interested to try. We follow a theme so we look to our favorite brands for product that fits the tone of that theme. We work with the companies directly or work through a wholesaler.
What marketing avenues did you use to get the word out? Any memorable successes or failures? We were featured in Cosmopolitan which gave us a wonderful boost in traffic and interest. Although we would absolutely consider it a success, our website wasn’t listed so perhaps it could have driven even more attention. We were thrilled either way.
What was your biggest surprise – good or bad – with your new business? Our greatest surprise has been the industry itself. There’s a perception that any company that operates within the adult product or entertainment space might be unprofessional or even shady. It’s been a wonderful surprise to experience the opposite.
What would you change if you had to start over? It would be wonderful to have more physical space to grow or more time to dedicate but I assume that’s the feeling with most businesses. We’re so fortunate to be based in New York so maybe the lack of space just comes with the territory.
Where do you see your business five years from now? Any changes in the works? We have a lot of interesting ideas in the pipeline. We’d love to see Unbound grow its enthusiastic customer base. Since we’re still new, I am sure we’ll refine our model along the way but for now, we’re very dedicated to keeping our story and mission intact- providing women with a fun, informed and appealing erotic product experience.
Thanks to Sarah for today’s interview! Come back next Monday for the next post about starting a subscription box service.