Interview: Subscription Box for Teacher Gifts

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Cristin Frank, Founder, Pampered Teacher subscription box brought her idea to life after leaving the Corporate world.

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Aha Moment:

After I left the Corporate world, I kept noticing that a teacher gift that I’d pinned on Pinterest was always my most popular pin. Then last year I contributed to my son’s end of year teacher gift from the class. When I saw the random rubbish the room moms bought it was clear to me that meaningful and useful teacher gifts are not easy to come by, especially “the big gift.”

Product:

My product is the Pampered Teacher subscription box. It is the best way to thank the teacher who has nurtured, inspired and encouraged your child all year. If you’re looking for a way to thank her with gifts that she’ll actually use and appreciate, the Pampered Teacher specializes in delivering handpicked gifts specific to a teacher’s lifestyle. Gifts include something special for her, like jewelry and fashion accessories plus useful supplies for the classroom. Upon checkout we ask questions so we can best understand the teacher’s personal preferences and choose gifts accordingly.
Subscriptions come as single boxes, a quarterly subscription (4x/year) and a school year subscription (10x/year). We offer free shipping on all subscriptions.
We just launched adorable Teacher’s Day Cards for instant download.
Next up are $10 teacher gift bags!

Target Audience + How to Reach them:

My target consumer is room moms and friends/family members of teachers. I’ve had great success with word of mouth, but mainly I use social media to connect with mom bloggers and teacher bloggers for reviews.
I am part of some very supportive Facebook groups which have been excellent for networking and content sharing.
As part of my daily routine I reach out to new contacts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook so I am always expanding my network.

Greatest Success:

My greatest success has been positive customer feedback.
When you have an idea that you think is all that and a bag of chips, it means nothing until the market echoes back with the same level of applause. So for a business like a teacher subscription box, I can run the search stats and research trends but there is never a solid confirmation of your idea until you get sales, then customer validation and then repeat customers. I’ve gotten all three so that has been a great feeling.

Biggest Challenge:

My biggest challenge was one I didn’t even know I had. It was totally invisible to me, and not something that ever came up in my road to entrepreneurship.
When I created my website I thought I’d followed the formula for success: smiling, attractive woman, bright colors, clear bullet points stating the features.
I was wrong. Catching someone’s eye means nothing if you cannot catch their heart. Nothing about my site said or showed WHY you would want to buy a box of gifts for a woman who is totally dedicated to working educational miracles with other people’s children.
By my very nature I’m not an emotionally expressive person. Drama is not my middle name. My website was as pragmatic as my personality and that wasn’t going to fly in business.
I had to emotionally motivate not only customers, but media and social influencers if I wanted to get anyone else excited about my business.
No one is doing cart-wheels over free shipping.
But how many parents are looking at how far their child has come in the last 10 months, knowing it was their teacher who was in the trenches making sure they were safe but challenged.

 

Overcoming the Challenge:

I may not be a bleeding heart, but I am a very visual person, so I turned to imagery to help tell the story of my business.
I started with a photo of a teacher working with a young student. This replaced the photo of the smiling woman who looked like possibly she just stole someone’s boyfriend and received a check for a million dollars. Yes, my original image was that vague.
I included a hero shot of one of my boxes followed by bullet points. Except instead of literally a list of features following a little dot, I created icons to go with each feature because the brain reads pictures better than words.
Next, I changed the way I talked about my product. I went from “look at what you get” to “there’s why you need to know about Pampered Teacher.”

When you imagine success, what does it look like?

Success for Pampered Teacher would be becoming a household name as the go-to resource for teacher gifts.

What steps are you taking to achieve your goals?

We are expanding our product offerings to hit all price points and seeking the best products for teachers.

 

What PR + Marketing activities have you done and what were the results?

Product reviews have been a great way for us to get product feedback and brand exposure.
We’ve never had a single sale using a coupon code but have used them as an excuse for publicity. Creating graphics with a coupon code and sharing it on relevant Facebook group pages has opened the door to new relationships and partnerships.
We recently donated boxes to school auctions but the ROI is still TBD.

As an entrepreneur, how do you decide what to do yourself and what to hire someone to do?

I feel that authenticity is paramount so when it comes to day to day activities, customer service, content creation, product sourcing and all communications I am front and center.
When it comes to technical things that make me shutter, I farm that out. For instance there was no way I was going to use open source for my website/shopping cart. I pay monthly for a fully hosted, easy peasy, ecommerce site. I don’t need to know how to code to have an online business, so I leave that to the professionals.

How do you manage family and business?

I work on my business while my sons are at school.To stay focused I keep a list of tasks so that my time is used most efficiently.

What advice do you have to fellow mom entrepreneurs?

I wish I listened when people talked about SEO. I’d pretty much had been allergic because I thought it was just about conforming content to buzz words. Not true.
When you can understand what people are searching and insert your passion and talents into a niche that’s underserved you will be in the best position for success.
Knowing what people are looking for is at least half the battle of being an entrepreneur.

What have you learned about yourself being an entrepreneur?

I’ve learned that you have to get uncomfortable.
Networking is not my strong-suit so it’s something that I work at every day.
I love being creative, but if that’s all I did, I’d never get anywhere. I had to reach out, start conversations, face rejections and keep learning.

If you could wave a magic wand and be given anything to help your business right now, what would it be?

I would love the capital to send free boxes to teachers across the country so they could experience some pampering for all their hard work.

What is your favorite go-to resource, tool, book, app and why?

I have read “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk several times because Gary is hardcore when it comes to self promotion. I need positive reminders about getting out of my little world and diversifying my media reach.

What is your favorite indulgence?

A yearly vacation

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