Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Meredith Vaish. I’m a speaker, writer, retreat designer and founder of Pause Box, a company devoted to helping people go from busyness to breakthrough with the power of the intentional pause.
As a high achieving, type-A gal, I thought the only way to be successful is to constantly do, strive and effort. But now, as a recovering overdoer, I can tell you that breakthroughs come when you STOP the doing, the performing, and the fixing and invite intuition and clarity through Pause.
In my first year, I offered Recharge-and-Get-Clear virtual retreats and a personalized Pause Day Design (yes, that’s a thing!) to midlife women. This year, I’ve introduced a Pause Box experience that contains retreat essentials and guided content to help set the stage for a skillful, DIY pause.
In addition to my services this year, I plan to grow sales of the box itself. First, through collaboration with authors and leaders of retreats and masterminds and second, to provide Pause Boxes directly to consumers.
In my first year of business, I’ve been focused on proof of concepts and iterating. My revenue during this time has been nearly $1k per month. All proceeds have gone back into my business with the exception of 10% of my box revenue going to an organization I’m passionate about Enneagram Prison Project.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In June 2018, I left my corporate gig after 16 years. I had a severe repetitive stress injury in my neck and shoulder that just wasn’t improving. I figured there was no way cubicle culture was going to allow me to get better. I told colleagues I was leaving to pursue “creative projects.”
Don’t wait until you know what you’re doing. Just start. Say yes more than you say no.
Those projects turned out to include naps, walks with my dog, cooking healthy meals, journaling, yoga, meditation and a series of personal growth courses.
In that year, I gave myself big, open blocks of time in my calendar to DO NOTHING... with the intention to clarify my wonderings, get present and hear my own inner guidance.
Over time, I got really clear on my inner questions and really good at receiving clear answers in playful, intuitive ways. The more I practiced taking an intentional, skillful pause, the clearer I got, and the easier time I had moving forward on decisions.
The idea of my company came after considering a coaching program and realizing that the thing I was most excited about were the retreats --the time away for reflection, quiet, inner listening and inspiration. I knew that spiritual retreat is a practice of many of the world’s religions, but what if I could make it accessible to the modern, non-religious overdoer?
What if I could design a break from being always-on that left women recharged far longer than a “me” day. What if by tuning out the noise and tuning into inner guidance women can get clear about what matters to them and take inspired, confident action toward that vision?
In starting this company I brought with me more than 20 years of brand and email marketing expertise including strong copywriting skills. I also had a deep affinity for the entrepreneurial culture of the San Francisco Bay Area due to working in startups and start-up-like orgs.
I also have a passion for product experience and design and a lifelong interest in personal development and transformation.
Financially, I negotiated with my spouse to take a one-year “soulbbatical” so I could discover what was next for me. I continued some light consulting for my previous employer during that time to keep me connected. I also used funds from my savings as seed money.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I sold tickets to my first virtual retreat through Eventbrite and conducted it via Zoom. I used Google forms to survey my attendees. As for the content, I had a clear intention of the retreat and what I wanted women to take away.
I marketed the event before I finalized the content. I offered the 4-hour retreat for $247. I did a run-through of the format with friends and family and then conducted it a month later with three paying clients. Reviews were very positive.
Earlier this year, I designed* Pause Box for Sourced Experience*. This box was a collaboration with Darla LeDoux, a luminary in the transformational retreat space. She was looking for a way to deepen the experience with her clients while on a virtual retreat. I designed a luxury Pause Box for her group that contained artisan-quality objects and sacred ritual practices. I sourced some of the objects from Faire.com, a wholesale marketplace.
This was my first time shipping boxes across the U.S. and Canada. Some of the harder trade-offs for me were walking the line between profitability and quality. Pause Box is a luxury experience so I had to be deliberate with what I included and what I didn’t in order to keep the quality but still ensure profit. Also, I naively included free shipping in my proposal which ended up costing me 10% because I had to ship some boxes to Canada. I will be updating my terms based on what I learned in this process.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I incorporated it in April 2019 and launched it in September 2019. In the month of September, I aimed to have sales conversations every day and make offers where it fit. This helped me refine my messaging and validate my customer avatar. I was promoting a virtual retreat at the time but also doing some early research on my box offering. Luckily, I was interviewed by one of my mentors that month and promoted to her audience. I also had a download available inviting people to join my mailing list. In addition, I launched my newsletter to my list of friends and colleagues.
Finally, I offered a ticket to my virtual retreat as a raffle prize to a retreat leader colleague in exchange for promotion.
Since it was a virtual product, the costs were minor and mostly overhead (WordPress, Mailchimp, Leadpages, Canva). You can see my lead page here.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The best leads I receive are from Podcast interviews and FB live interviews. I suggest developing general content that helps people solve a problem. For me, I teach people about the 4 types of Pause and which one you need to practice to prevent burnout. I’m also an expert on how to design virtual retreats for maximum shifts.
For my industry, I’ve learned that attending retreats and workshops expand your network with other like-minded folks. They may not be your customer but they can introduce you to resources and others who might be looking. I’m also a member of a network for midlifers. This helps with introductions and alliances and also provides a community of similarly entrepreneurial types.
One of my best retention methods is my monthly newsletter. I think success is that it’s not promotional. It gives tips or stories that inspire. Sometimes there’s a promo in the P.S. My most popular newsletter to date is the one I wrote about how it feels to be 50 and live life with a pause mindset. I received 3x the responses to that issue since the topic was so universal. It’s featured here.
I’ve also learned that on social, people respond to humor 10 to 1.
Finally, my best advice for growth is to reach out to someone at least once a day. Tune into your intuition and allow it to pick someone you should send a note of hello too. If you’re not reaching out daily, you’re not growing. By the way, it’s very easy to think you’re “too busy” for this.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My business is responding to the stress, disruption and overwhelm caused by the pandemic by offering Practical Pause coworking calls (via zoom) as a way to add sanity back into our day while creating intentional space for attending to what matters--whatever that looks like.
I’ll be offering these intentional spaces 3x a week so that we each have a protected space to be guided, supported, seen and celebrated --and get shit done. Cause, y'know, intentional doing is powerful and soooo satisfying.
The plan is to offer it as a free service for now and if there’s value, turn it into a membership feature.
Since I’ve been in testing mode, I haven’t invested in social ads. My email list is 200 subscribers and I have a couple of hundred followers on social. Most of my sales come through my network.
My first batch of B2B Pause Boxes shipped in February 2020. My Gross Margin is 49% per box. I’m not focused on consumer boxes until fall 2020. I’ll likely use Shopify or Cratejoy for eCommerce.
Future product development includes making more content available online: countdowns, intuitive decision-making toolkit, DIY course. I’m researching course platforms now. Also, I’m looking into what it would take to launch a Pause membership.
I’m also in the midst of revamping my website to make it more box-forward and prototyping a smaller, travel version of my box called the Pause Box Alter Bag(™).
This quarter I’m developing a content strategy for social which will help launch a movement around Pause. I think we can all afford to be a little more counter-culture when it comes to always-doing. Here’s a sample:
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Since I’m still shy of a year since forming my LLC, I consider myself an “entrepre newbie.” This year has been focused on changing the way I work. I’ve set aside old patterns of productivity and “make it work” habits so that I can practice what I preach. When I get in a crunch, I make space to take a walk instead of cram it through. This always recharges me and usually brings new insights to boot. I’ve also dedicated myself to my daily spiritual practices and mindset work where I catch where I’m limiting myself. As I grow into the role of an entrepreneur, this spiritual hygiene is critical.
Here are a handful of suggestions I have for new entrepreneurs:
Get a coach to keep you moving past your comfort zone and expanding your sense of what is possible.
Get a good photo of yourself that aligns with your brand
Be a user of services: sign up for similar programs, get on mailing lists of people in your space, see where they’re speaking, what events are available, look at their pricing, problem/benefit copy, join their communities. One of my favorite activities is the R&D work with other retreat leaders and luminaries. Hire talented writers or designers that can help expand your ideas.
Get visible, don’t hide behind your computer (it’s so easy to work on your website and not get out there and have a conversation).
Say yes, even when you’re not ready.
Don’t be cheap (it’s tempting!).. Get the 1:1 support you need. Don’t always choose the group option.
Help others in their business. Offer feedback, attend their events, like their posts. Be part of their tribe.
Donate a portion of your proceeds to a cause you believe in. It’s helpful to know that your success floats many boats! It also gives you access to people who want to see you succeed.
As far as my lessons learned in year one:
- Canadian customs are harsh.
- Don’t overgive: Have your client pay for shipping.
- Set up a Quickbooks account so you can accurately track tax owed and keep impeccable records.
- Invest in your product - give free samples in exchange for feedback.
- Ask for testimonials and make sure they tell you the barrier to engagement (cost, time, mindset, assumptions) -these are worth their weight in gold in insight.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My go-to podcasts:
- NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz, Motivating stories from other innovators and brands you’ve heard of.
- Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman, Insights from other entrepreneurs and ruminations from Reid on how to make it big.
- TED Radio Hour, Fascinating topics that have been well packaged. A fun way to learn the art of messaging and storytelling.
- Retreat and Grow Rich with Darla LeDoux, If you’re in the transformational retreat space, there’s no better teacher.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t wait until you know what you’re doing. Just start. Say yes more than you say no. Build and iterate. Support others in your industry with your attention, your dollars, your goodwill, and your feedback.
Businesses are relationships and it’s not a zero-sum game. Oh, and remember that sometimes the most powerful doing you can do is to take a break.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! I’m looking for a skilled Virtual Assistant who can take over marketing and admin tasks so I can lift up!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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