Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, there I’m Leeanne Antonio a trail-blazing, first-generation Asian American entrepreneur, bringing the world empathy in a box. I am the Founder and CEO of Bad Day Box, and an advocate for self-care and mental health.
When life didn’t go as expected a couple of years ago, I channeled my bad days into finding healthy ways to heal. Crying in showers, adventuring around glaciers, rock climbing on granite, and eventually starting a business. What resonated in the world surrounding me — is that there is no shortage of bad days that need a little brightening.
Self-care is personal and can come in many forms. When people are going through hard times, they might find comfort in staying at home and focusing on wellness, or being distracted by traveling, getting outside, or trying something new. Bad Day Box brings personally curated gifts with self-care and better days in mind for anyone, featuring handmade, small-batch, women-owned, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ-owned, eco-friendly, and charitable products.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The road that led me to start Bad Day Box stemmed from heartbreak. I had a couple of challenging years in my personal and professional life the fallout of what I thought was a very long-term and committed relationship, and the loss of a job that I thought was my dream job. It was a dark time, but I was fortunate enough to have so many people show up for me.
At a time when there was definitely “no card for this,” they found ways to express love and remind me to eat, sleep and be kind to myself. One of my friends flew me across the country the next day, another friend took me on an ice climbing adventure paid for on all her points. I received sleeping aids, a snack box, a massage, and a place to stay.
Gratitude is such a fundamental part of being human and I think when you can recognize it, acknowledge it and pay it forward, the world is truly a better place because of it. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have friends who would stay on the phone with me when it was 3 am their time or let me drink all of their wine or borrow their car to clear my head when I was visiting. I will forever be grateful for the ways they showed up for me. All of this would later lead to my inspiration for Bad Day Box.
Many people will feel put off by the idea of asking for help. But when it feels like you’re the only one going through a professional rut, chances are, someone else has been there too and might be willing to lend an ear or helping hand, and if they can’t, that’s ok.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I designed Bad Day Box as a way to package up the empathy shown to me when I hit bumps in the road so that others could easily send and receive self-care when they need it the most. I looked around and saw friends going through health issues, grieving deaths, and struggling with heartbreak. I realized that we all have bad days sometimes, and there is not always a card or a gift that feels right. There are times when we don’t know what to say, but we still want to show that we care. The traditional flowers, plants, or edible arrangements can feel generic.
I didn’t create a product, I specifically created a brand with lots of marketing opportunities; no detail is too small. I leaned into my knack for stretching no budget and focused on storytelling and ways to visually reinforce the logo and Bad Day Box sentiment. With the curveballs of this pandemic, I reminded myself what this brand stands for: showing up for each other.
Each box is themed to inspire healing in hard times with options for all genders. Two big personas I wanted to target were males and busy moms. There are not enough gifting options for either of these groups. It’s easy to buy someone a drink or bring them some treats but what if they live across the country? I wanted to make sure that sentiment was acknowledged from wherever you’re located.
Moms (new ones especially) have very little time for any kind of care. A very good friend of mine is the mom of two sets of twins. I wanted to create something she could use in her normal routine and that’s how the Shower Crying box came to life. Because let’s be honest, the shower is the most adult place to cry.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I introduced the brand to my family and friends back in December 2019 over my birthday and showcased what I called Beta Boxes and sold two initial boxes called Expletives & Hygge. In March 2020, I planned to launch a Kickstarter. The world shut down simultaneously and it didn’t feel like the right time to launch and ask for funding.
I spent the remainder of 2020 creatively and scrappily pivoting. While I held off on launching my Kickstarter, I reminded myself what this brand stands for: showing up. So I launched giveaways for our frontline medical community, sending gratitude in a box to nurses and other heroes. In a year when all small businesses were struggling, I found ways to keep Bad Day Box growing while supporting my friends’ businesses in the same breath.
Before the end of the year, I took on a custom holiday gift order and it triggered financing terms with my wholesale website that enabled me to launch 8 new boxes just in time for the holidays. The shifting landscape of 2020 forced me to make some natural leaps and some uncomfortable ones too. I didn’t expect any of this to happen the way it did but I’m so grateful for the foundation it built. Sometimes you don’t have a Plan B but it unfolds anyway with your community and good intentions.
I gave crowdfunding another go in 2021, trying again to launch on International Women’s Day, and in less than 48 hours my project was declined by Kickstarter because it included a resale component. I searched through various Facebook groups I belonged to while I was in line for my second vaccine. Later that night, I submitted my project to iFundWomen and when I woke up with a very sore arm, it was approved and I launched as planned. In a lot of ways, those stars aligned for me. It’s a much smaller community that is invested in women in business, and women of color and provides resources and opportunities. I was able to recoup some of my expenses from starting up but more importantly, I was able to pay my designer and dear friend who brought my vision to life.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I had a lot of visibility and forward momentum with my crowdfunding campaign. Because of this, I was able to be featured in Forbes. This was such a pivotal moment for me because it showed me this idea had equity. You can read the entire article here.
Without this Forbes article, I would not have been able to get an email from CNN. Yes, CNN, is the news media channel. They wanted to feature my business on a segment called Start Small, Think Big. I would not believe this opportunity was real until a producer and photojournalist showed up to film in San Diego. This opened up my business to the eyes of the masses. You can watch the video below:
Both of these features provided me with great SEO and a lot of credibility for future features with other content producers. Say yes to any opportunity that provides you with SEO! This also is great networking whether you realize it or not!
There will always be someone who has more financial wherewithal than you, who is more educated than you, or who has more direct experience than you. It’s truly up to you to believe in yourself and realize what you bring to the table.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The appetite for this business is here and it’s really about capturing people so they keep you in mind for the right occasion. It’s not like other retail, a specific event needs to trigger a Bad Day Box gift.
I’m still working full time so my goals are to focus on my top-of-funnel strategy and refine it. Building my following on social media and newsletter subscriber lists will continue to be a priority.
I’m hoping the future brings some good collaboration with other like-minded brands and figures so we can turn bad days into good days together.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
When you’re first launching a business it can feel overwhelming. Understanding where you have room to learn and seeking those who have experience is vital. Many people will feel put off by the idea of asking for help. But when it feels like you’re the only one going through a professional rut, chances are, someone else has been there too and might be willing to lend an ear or helping hand, and if they can’t, that’s ok. It’s still ok to ask, but make sure to figure out a way to make it worth their while too, because even time is not free.
I do wish someone told me how important it is to find a business coach. I recently started working with one and she keeps me focused and has direct experience in direct-to-consumer eCommerce businesses.
Just remember, there is a community for everything. So I hope this makes you feel hopeful for the help you need.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Because I still work full-time, I look for platforms that are intuitive and easy to use. I use Shopify for my website and it’s been great to easily incorporate my brand with their templates.
I recently moved my emails from Mailchimp to Klayvio as they have so many great Shopify integrations. I spent the last few weeks building out my email flows with my business coach and I was able to do so swiftly with the templates available in Klayvio.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Before starting my business, I was a long-time How I Built This fan. In some ways, listening to this podcast before starting my business made it a little less scary. You learn so many people are building the plane as they are starting to fly it. This is still my dream podcast feature, so hey to Guy Raz and his producers!
iFundWomen saved the day with my crowdfunding campaign and from this community I’ve been able to connect with so many wonderful women who reached out to me or whom I connected with because I learned about them through this platform. 1000% recommend.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The most important thing I can tell a young woman starting her career or starting her own business is: there is room at the table for you. There are plenty of brands who are killing it in the gift-giving world, but not many who positioned it the way I have. There will always be someone who has more financial wherewithal than you, who is more educated than you, or who has more direct experience than you. It’s truly up to you to believe in yourself and realize what you bring to the table.
In my journey with Bad Day Box, I’ve found ways to collaborate with and learn from others. I am lucky to live in a world where so many people I know are incredibly talented. I want to acknowledge their skills, give them credit and be able to work with them in meaningful ways. There is a lot to say about the company you keep. Pay attention to who you surround yourself with. Are they doing great things? How do they speak about themselves? How do you speak of them? Can you learn from them? Can you put aside your ego and take notes?
Loving yourself can be hard but it’s an important base for success and only you as an individual can define success. It has always been important to me to produce work that is creative, meaningful, and makes a positive impact on the world. I see Bad Day Box as that opportunity, and it would be regrettable of me not to explore it.
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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