This is a follow up story for Lunchbox. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
An important note:
Hi there! My name is Tom Worcester, and I founded lunchbox nearly two years ago in response to issues faced in the live events space. I serve as our CEO and CMO today. However, lunchbox and its accomplishments cannot be tied to just me, but instead tied to our entire team of young, talented operators. As such, this update is written from the perspective of our team, who has had the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop together along this unconventional journey. For those of you considering this journey, it’s so worth it, for no other reason than the memories you’ll make with people you love and admire.
So, without further ado...
We’re the team behind lunchbox, a D2C brand that develops products that improve your live event experiences. Our core product, the lunchbox, is a hydration pack that solves several pain points of the live event experience, such as theft in crowds, long water refill lines, and non-standardized security restrictions around what bags are allowed into an event. Within this, we build customization into every aspect of our products so that each lunchbox is a reflection of the person wearing it, rather than all looking the same. We focus on millennial consumers engaged in the experience economy, working to improve all forms of active adventure experience. In our first year in the market, we achieved over 250k in online sales and have continuously grown in sales and social media exposure through organic traffic from our community.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
In the last year, the company has developed from its infancy (via Kickstarter) to a fully functioning eCommerce brand with over 250k in sales and multiple product lines on the way. We’ve been able to deepen our offering of designs through partnerships with key community artists, and have worked to listen to our community feedback, with hopes to deliver with several new products scheduled to launch later this year. All of our new products serve the same purpose -- improving the live event experience. By recognizing the power and efficacy of organic traffic in driving our brand growth, we’ve grown our affiliate community to the hundreds, which helps to share the lunchbox message in tight-knit communities built around live events. We’ve also found success in compiling UGC, engaging our community, and growing our brand awareness in the space through creating places for our online community to live, such as building an exclusive Facebook group of over 400 ‘lunchbox fam’ members.
Build a team that is bought in on a cohesive mission and message, and centered together around a long term collective goal (rather than individual tasks or achievement).
Since last year we have added three new full-time members of our lunchbox team: a Chief Revenue Officer, a Creative Director, and a Director of Operations. We’ve also added a roster of part-time team members covering our community management, content production, customer service needs, and more. While we initially focused on Facebook and Instagram CPC marketing for our initial awareness campaigns, we have since shifted our focus to referral traffic, youtube organic content production, and platform-specific content across our social channels, as these sources are more reliable and in line with our brand goals and strengths.
Continuing to engage with our existing customers is fundamental to how our company has evolved over the last year. We’ve hosted meetups at events, used our exclusive Facebook group to bring members of our lunchbox fam together for giveaways, exclusive merchandise, and really tried to listen to the members of our community regarding new product development. Short version - we’d rather spend our advertising budget on making the experience better for our existing customers. We’ve involved them in every step of our new product development, reaching out to our customers to hear their feedback, continued to discover their pain points in live event experiences, and where they (not us) want our company to go in the future.
To improve our brand touches, we’ve focused on improving our welcome, abandoned cart, and post-purchase email flows to fit the evolution of our brand style. We’ve been recently featured by publications such as Ashton Kutcher’s media arm ‘APlus’ as well as music industry publications like Dancing Astronaut to bring awareness not just to our product but the steps we’re taking to make the live event space safer for everyone.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
At lunchbox, we fully own our mistakes - it’s the only way you can learn and get better for the next challenge you’ll face. One of the biggest mistakes we’ve learned from the most this year is preemptively basing an inventory order off of pre-order sales volume, and overstocking on certain products as a result. This lesson was further emphasized through the challenges of navigating our first off-season sales period since our launch. We’ve learned to wait for a more robust dataset to dictate major production purchases.
Fortunately, we were also able to grow from that challenge, focusing on building up the base infrastructure of the company and launching a series of creative new campaigns that kept sales going through the winter. By bringing our production team in house, we’ve been able to produce much of our own content to keep the cost of these campaigns down and lower the barrier of launching new creative.
We also had some growing pains in managing and building a team culture, as our team more than tripled in size in a three-month span. However, this gave us the opportunity to intentionally build a company culture of mutual respect, something we’ve stressed since day one. Through weekly standups, a robust operational calendar, and team members with complementary skill sets, we have been able to develop more clear organizational roles and structures, streamlining several processes and giving everyone individual accountability over their projects. Other lessons we’ve learned include experimenting as cheaply as possible to discover new market opportunities, finding authentic ways to tell our story, and staying open-minded and adaptable around solutions.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In the short term, our main goal is to continue our momentum in building a radically authentic community of lunchbox fam members. We try to make ourselves accessible to the community in the form of live streams, FAQs, and personal involvement in our community groups. In taking the time to talk and listen to that very community, we will continue to expand our product catalog within live events to fill needs faced by attendees and hope to become a world leader for products in live event experiences.
Our next steps are to expand our shipping to international communities for both live events and outdoor adventure, staying adaptable to changes in the market and expanding to include more aspects of life experiences such as the component of traveling to the event itself.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Our team reads together, and often. We’ve read several books this year that have taught us about and highlighted several different aspects of entrepreneurship. The first is The Four by Scott Galloway, which gives a conceptual understanding of the biggest four businesses in the world and what they appeal to for any customer. Another is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, which demonstrates the persistence and innovation necessary to build a brand at all costs from the bottom up.
Our team has also read Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson and Good to Great by Jim Collins, about the necessity of being adaptable in entrepreneurship and the importance of discovering the “one thing” (hedgehog concept) that you’re the absolute best at in order to drive real growth. For podcasts, our team learns a lot from the Ecommerce Influence podcast on best strategies for online D2C growth, hosted by Austin Brawner and Andrew Foxwell.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Our advice for other entrepreneurs struggling to grow their business would be to build a team that is bought in on a cohesive mission and message and centered together around a long term collective goal (rather than individual tasks or achievement). Spend the time that doesn’t scale talking to and engaging with customers; personal touches not only build brand loyalty but they help orient your company to which challenges you should be working to solve for your consumers. Make sure all your products fall under the same brand thesis, building on each other to improve related issues that support the core product. At lunchbox, we build products that improve your live event experiences. Our litmus test when developing new products is asking ourselves “does this new product serve our core message and core audience?”
Mistakes we’ve seen other people make: copying other brands instead of innovating, not focusing on all the issues your product could solve, not starting a business with nearly enough capital (whatever you think you’ll need to start….triple it), and only improving slightly upon the market standard rather than creating a product that’s 10x better than its competitors. Be careful not to rely too heavily on paid search marketing, as this leaves you vulnerable in shifts in how advertising costs on key platforms like Facebook, IG, and Google Ads may be calculated (example: low CPC on FB in 2015 is extremely different to how brands acquire customers on Facebook in 2020). Instead, build strong consumer loyalty and find innovative new ways to increase awareness to supplement traditional advertising.
Ultimately, our team is composed of a driven group of 20-somethings who noticed a series of problems in our community and figured out a way to solve them. Through creativity, persistence, product-market fit, and more we’ve been able to turn our passions into a career. Turning your passion into a career is much more attainable than we’re often led to think.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
No, we are not currently looking to hire. Actually, we have yet to actively hire for any position. As a need arises, there has been someone in our network/community that already understands how to fill that need, and believes in the mission of our company we’ve been able to bring on in a more legitimate capacity. We care about that belief over all else.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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