BookCon in NYC is a bibliophiles dream. Filled with new authors, favorite tomes, and more ARCs (advanced reader copies) than you can carry, it’s something every book lover should experience at least once. But one of the most exciting things about BookCon might be the exhibitor giveaways. Free book related swag as far as the eye can see. When we visited this past summer, the booth with the longest line for the entire weekend was that of Owlcrate, where founder Korrina Ede serves as CEO. Owlcrate is more than just a YA subscription box; it is a true community filled with people whose lives have been changed by the written word (seriously, check out their amazing fan-filled Instagram).
Q: Origin story time – what were you doing before and what led you to this?
A: I was a manager at an independent children’s toy store from 2009 – 2015. Although this job caused me a lot of stress in many ways, I am so grateful for the experiences I had working there. It was where I met my boyfriend and partner, Robert, as well as all of the people who would become my inner circle of friends. I’ve always wanted to own my own business, but I had a really hard time finding a business idea that stuck. I had an Etsy shop selling handmade earrings and sweater clips, which I loved doing on the side. Being a part of the Etsy community opened my eyes to so many small businesses and creative people. I feel like the mixture of managing a brick-and-mortar store, as well as allowing myself to be creative through an online store, really helped build the foundation for OwlCrate.
My boyfriend Robert has also been incredibly supportive of me the entire time we’ve been together. I wanted to launch a business with him because we’re such a good team through and through. I came to him with the idea of starting an online store full of gifts for bookworms, and he had the brilliant thought to offer it as a subscription service instead. Thus, the idea of OwlCrate was born, and it’s just been non-stop ever since. We officially launched OwlCrate in February 2015, and I left my full-time job that September, with Robert following that December. We haven’t looked back since!
Q: What resources and tools helped you grow your business/brand? (i.e. Self-learning, school, books, mentors) What would you recommend?
A: One book that really helped me take the leap and launch my business was The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. This book opened my eyes to the idea that I didn’t need to take out huge loans to start a business (the idea of being in debt terrifies me). I think the hardest part for a lot of people is simply getting started, and this book really helps with that. Once my business was up and running, another book that inspired me SO much was Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (owner of Zappos). It’s hard to explain just how amazing this book is, but if you value good customer service, you absolutely need to read it. It’s a book I plan on reading at least once a year because it constantly gives me new ideas for my business, my team, and my customers. And finally, another great book that taught me how to value myself, and find value in staff members, was Linchpin by Seth Godin. It shows you how to treat your work/business like art, and how to recognize irreplaceable traits in others as well. I could go on and on about awesome business books. I absolutely love reading them whenever I can!
Q: Did you have a mentor or tribe of people you turned to?
A: I feel really lucky to have a tribe of wonderful geeky girl bosses now that I can turn to at any time, but it wasn’t like that at the beginning. My partner and I were really just winging it as we went. But through a stroke of luck, we were introduced to two fellow entrepreneurs pretty early on in our journey. Their names are Olivia and Francois, and they own Meowbox (a subscription box for cats). Meeting up with them for coffee every couple of months made all the difference in the world. They were constantly inspiring us to take leaps of faith in our business. Even though their clientele is quite different from ours, being able to talk to people who understood what we were going through was so helpful.
Q: How do you grow your network and community of clients/fans and collaborators?
A: A lot of time and effort, to be honest! I am so lucky in that I get to work with awesome people every single month for OwlCrate. But I also try really hard to stay in touch with them after our initial collaboration has ended, and I often end up working with the same people more than once because of this. It’s the same with our fans. I really do try to reply to as many comments/messages on social media as I can. It’s amazing what a simple comment can do! Just trying to be an active member of the community can make a huge difference.
Q: Can you name a time a mistake has led you to success?
A: In the early days of OwlCrate, we were constantly selling out and not able to keep up with demand. We were putting boxes together by ourselves in our basement suite at the time and physically could not grow any larger because of it. Our friends Olivia and Francois (mentioned above) urged us to try a fulfillment center (a company who would pack and ship our boxes for us). We were really nervous to do so, but took the plunge and were able to double our customer base almost immediately. However, the first fulfillment center we used charged us way too much, and wouldn’t negotiate with us. We stayed with them for around six months, and at the time it felt like a mistake to do so. In hindsight, although we lost quite a bit of profit by working with them for a few months, it was absolutely necessary in order for OwlCrate to grow. And I am happy to say that we now have a fulfillment team we absolutely adore!
Q: Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.
A: Honestly, just the fear that this could all be over tomorrow. Our journey with this business has been a very smooth one, all things considered, and I’m constantly waiting for something to go wrong haha. I also suffer from anxiety, so I think that has a lot to do with it. And I have insecurities that I’m not “cool” enough to be a legit girl boss. Working hard to get rid of that mindset though!
Q: Time management – how do you fit it all in?
A: It can be incredibly challenging trying to manage everything yourself. As soon as we felt that we were financially stable enough, we hired a few staff members. Now I have people helping me with social media and customer service, which was taking up so much time and zapping my creative energy. Now I can focus much more on making each OwlCrate box as awesome as can be, and come up with new ideas for the future. There are still days when I feel like I’m struggling to get everything done, but knowing I have a team behind me that can help me is something I don’t take for granted. I know a lot of business owners also struggle with keeping up with social media and customer service, and I really advise seeking a bit of help in those areas, so you don’t burn out!
Q: What are some key personality traits needed to do what you do?
A: Creativity: it’s so important to always be working on improving your business and offering fun new things, and also using creativity when it comes to solving problems. Organization: running a subscription box company requires so much constant planning many months in advance and keeping everything organized is a MUST. Compassion: remembering that the people you deal with, whether it be other businesses, customers, suppliers, etc…everyone is human and should be treated with respect. Honesty: I try and be as real and upfront with our customers as possible. If we make a mistake, we own up to it. I think for a lot of customers, it’s extremely refreshing to know they are dealing with real people behind this business, especially since everything takes place online.
Q: Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences.
A: Stepping outside of my comfort zone time and time again. I’ve always been a pretty shy and somewhat insecure person, and this business has caused me to really push myself to do things I NEVER thought I would, like starting a YouTube channel, or doing live interviews with authors, organizing meet-ups at book festivals, or exhibiting at some of the book conventions in the world. Sometimes I look back at all of these mini accomplishments, and I can’t believe this is my life now! I still get super nervous before attempting these types of things, but the difference now is that I don’t let the nerves stop me.
Q: In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
A: This is something I’m struggling with a bit lately, so I wanted to address it. When I feel self-doubt, I try and channel that energy into brainstorming ways I can make my business better. I find it feels a lot better to be working towards something new, instead of just sitting with the terrible feelings of self-doubt and doing nothing. I also turn to my team, or my online geek boss pals, for advice. And if all else fails, then ice cream and Harry Potter can usually turn things around!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: For the rest of the year, I’m focusing on refining our service to make it as awesome as can be. We’ve been so focused on growth for so long, and now I want to put my energy into making the customers we already have even happier!We also recently launched a new box for kids, OwlCrate Jr, so my team and I will be working on really getting that off the ground.
For more info on Korrina or to order your first OwlCrate, check out the following links: