Fans of greeting cards know how wonderful (nay, thrilling!) it is to find just the right one. So imagine how wonderful (nay, thrilling!) it would be to have someone else find a whole bunch of just-right ones for you. And send them to your house! Today I’m talking about a subscription service that does just that and (AND!) sharing some insights from the two young entrepreneurs who created it.
CardBox is a brand-new (like two months new!) monthly greeting card and stationery service created by Terry and Tanya, two thirty-something go-getters in Toronto. For $15 to $20/month (depending on the length of your subscription) you get a surprise box of goodies from Terry and Tanya’s favourite designers. The October box included five cards, a notebook and four gift tags from Toronto’s Sea and Lake Paper Co., as well as six gift tags Terry and Tanya designed.
I had a huge smile when I opened the box and saw the You’re Fantastical card since I’d bought the same one from Sea and Lake at a craft show in the Spring. I love it so much that I haven’t yet sent it to anyone (terrible!). Now I can keep one and send the other! (It’s coming to you, Catherine!)
I love the style and tone of the the cards and gift tags and I’m really impressed with the value. The October box was worth $50 easily and everything arrived in perfect condition, ready for giving.
CardBox is Terry and Tanya’s second venture. In 2013 they created Sendtiment, a free greeting card app for Windows users. Terry was kind enough to tell me a little more about how Sendtiment and CardBox came to be and some of the challenges of entrepreneurship.
How did Sendtiment and CardBox come about?
For Tanya and I, the tradition of giving greeting cards has been a meaningful expression of personal affection for each other and has played in important part in our relationship. We make cards because we hope that users of our app and CardBox subscribers will also continue this time-honored tradition and become more thoughtful with the ones they love.
For a couple of years Tanya and I were in a long distance relationship. She lived in Montreal at the time and every other week I would visit her for the weekend. Since I worked downtown, I would always take an early morning Porter flight back home and without fail she would slip a little cute/funny note in my luggage for me to find when I got home. That became a highlight of my visit and it always meant a lot to me. In a way, that little gesture also inspired us to get into this business.
We created the Sendtiment Windows Phone Greeting Cards app because we wanted a quick and easy way to send our families birthday cards from our Windows phones. There were no apps for Windows Phone that we liked so we dared ourselves to build one. We bought books and watched tutorials online and essentially taught ourselves how to build it.
You both have other work outside of Sendtiment. How do you balance everything?
There really is no balance. My advice for anyone starting a business is to do something you love because that’s the only way you can make it all work. Be prepared to work hard and never give up too quickly. There’s no real magic to it. You have to start, work hard at becoming better, and a have sincere love for what you do.
Many people I know wish they were doing what they genuinely love but give up before even starting. Mostly because people around them, or society in general, tells them that they can’t do it, that it’s foolish to quit their jobs even if those jobs are making them miserable. I remember what Will Smith once said: “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they are going to tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”
To anyone searching for the answer to achieving balance in entrepreneurship I highly recommend Arlene Dickinson’s book, All In.
What makes a great thank you card?
Any card that is sent with the intention of saying thank you is a great thank you card. The ones we tend to like are the ones that are for no specific reason other than just thanking someone for being a fantastic human!
What’s next for the November box? And down the line?
We still can’t believe that our first box sold out! The CardBox that will ship in November will have Christmas cards because we wanted to make sure that everyone had cards and gift tags in time for the holidays. For that particular box we went the traditional route. We have the most exquisite letterpress cards and others with gouache painting prints, both from really talented artists based in Toronto and Markham.
Our goal has always been to help people be there for moments that matter, in fact that is our official slogan, so we hope that in the coming years we will continue to do that. That’s what’s amazing about CardBox, it’s one of of those few subscription services that’s purely about giving and not consuming. So for now we are focused on exploring new ideas with the app and delighting our CardBox subscribers.
What advice would you give to other couples who work together? (And live together!)
Be honest with each other about what you’re getting yourselves into or better yet, admit that you have no idea what will happen but no matter what the business will never be bigger than your relationship. You cannot separate “business emotions” from “relationship emotions” — anyone who tells you that isn’t being honest with you. After all, this is one coworker that you cannot say goodbye to at the end of your shift and go home to your partner to vent about. You have to sit and have dinner with this coworker even though you may be upset that they screwed up one thing or another. Tanya and I have had our fair share of downs in the relationship because of the business and in the early days we really had no clue how to deal with it because no one out there prepares you for being in business together. What has really helped us is learning over time the right way to have open, honest and most importantly, kind communication. Communication is the secret. You can’t make it work otherwise. Celebrate victories big or small as spectacularly as you can.
And don’t forget, the business is part of your life — not the other way around so schedule time for fun away from the business. Tanya and I binge on TV (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Empire and Big Bang Theory are our favorites) on Tuesdays, and (prepare to cringe) we also have date night every Friday that no one is allowed to cancel and it helps us unwind and reconnect as a couple.
You and Tanya love to travel. Where will you go next?
The next trip is to take Tanya to see my childhood home Zimbabwe. This would be the first time she gets to meet my mother and my sisters so it will be a very special trip for us both. While we’re there we’ll probably visit the mysterious Great Zimbabwe Ruins, go big game watching in Hwange and most definitely visit the majestic Victoria Falls. Who knows where we else we may go in 2016. Perhaps your readers can give us some ideas!
Thanks to Tanya and Terry, one lucky try small things reader is going to win their own CardBox! To enter, subscribe to Sendtiment and follow Sendtiment on Instagram or Facebook and leave a comment here telling me you subscribed and your Instagram handle or Facebook name.
For a second entry, tweet the following and leave me a comment here with a link to your tweet. (Feel free to tweet once a day, just leave me a comment here with a link to your tweet.)
The giveaway is open to Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) ages 18+ and ends December 4 at midnight EST.
Update December 5, 2015: Congratulations to Alison B!
Thanks to Terry and Tanya for sending me a box to review! All opinions are my own. I love sharing my favourite products with my readers!