How We Built a £5k/month
Business With a Luxury CBD Subscription Box
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Serenity Box Co. is CBD made easy. It is the UK’s first luxury CBD subscription box service with offerings for newbies and experienced CBD consumers alike. Subscribers pay a low monthly cost to receive an assortment of premium, lab-tested, hemp-derived CBD products from around the world.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Damien is a management consultant for financial services companies, focusing on managing risk and regulatory change programmes. Michelle is a consultant for local government authorities. We have a range of interests; Damien – a recent obstacle course race and crossfit convert – enjoys rugby, cycling and socialising with friends. Michelle loves going to the theatre, reading and discovering new restaurants.
Being lazy, internet-based shoppers, we wanted to experience the benefits of luxury CBD without having to do too much work. We had already found benefit in using subscription box services from companies like Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club and wanted to understand if CBD oil could improve our poor sleeping habits and joint injuries from yesteryear.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
We have faced two large challenges. Our first and arguably most critical challenge was trying to implement the front to back payment infrastructure. The vast majority of banks and payment gateways still consider CBD products to be a prohibited substance.
We received communications from institutions effectively stating that they could not support a narcotics subscription service. The attitude towards CBD in the financial services industry is surprisingly slow-moving and there remain few options for a business like ours in the market.
It took approximately 6 months of significant research (and lots of rejections) when we were applying for a merchant account, a payment gateway and a business bank account. Few financial institutions are willing to underwrite ‘high-risk industries’; those that do, often wouldn’t give us approval due to our subscription box model.
Since being approved, we have been contacted by several providers that had previously turned us down. Their appetite and attitude towards CBD businesses having seemingly now changed.
Our second challenge has been advertising online. Platforms such as Google, Facebook and Instagram have a strict zero-tolerance stance on CBD advertising, which has resulted in us having to resort to other creative forms of advertising to attract attention to our brand. We place massive value on our customers being happy with our product and as such, benefit from word of mouth advertising.
Who is your target market?
Serenity Box Co. is a ‘business to consumer’ product. Our target market is both men and women, and primarily focusing on middle-high income, time-poor earners.
Our typical customers are 25+ and inquisitive individuals who seek to improve their lives by enhancing their mental and physical wellbeing. Quite often, people within this demographic are evangelical early adopters; people who track and test embryonic health and beauty trends.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Owing to the difficulties that we face with advertising CBD products online, we focus instead on using social media micro-influencers to review our products and promote them to their audiences. We have also found that running competitions on our social media platforms both increases our exposure and in turn increases our sales.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The quality of our product has been praised widely, both in terms of the products we curate and how they are presented. Since we are a luxury product, we take the maximum time and effort into both of these areas. Also, our pre and post-sale customer service has been effective in attracting and retaining customers.
We place a high value on every customer interaction. We appreciate that people are interested in CBD but may need more information about its benefits before committing to buying a box. As such, we endeavour to be as informative as possible, helping the customer to understand the products at their pace.
Every sale for us is the start of someone’s personal experience with CBD and we take our role as the agents of that introduction seriously. We reach out to every customer to make sure that they are happy with their products and collect information on how we can improve their CBD experience in future.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Trust is at the centre of our company culture. We recognise that, as a small business, everyone has to chip in where necessary to get any job done. We believe in working smart rather than working hard, and we appreciate the value of thinking things through with our team before taking key decisions. A sense of humour is also vital!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We use simple, over the counter software for our accounting and bookkeeping. A lot of our project management activity occurs in Microsoft Office. For our logos, photography and other creative design work, we use Adobe Photoshop. Outside of that, Canva has proved to be invaluable and we use it daily for most of our social media posts and email communications.
For ‘business to business’ customer relationship management (CRM), we use PipeDrive. For scheduling, we use Later, which allows us to manage all of our social media accounts in one place.
We use Mailchimp as our integrated marketing platform to interact with our customers through emails and newsletters.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Our most important lessons have been:
- Patience needs to be a part of your business strategy as you will have to mention it as part of your success story.
- “Measure twice, cut once”
If we had to start again we would change our initial focus to building the front to back payment infrastructure to save time. We would keep our culture the same. We are a collaborative team with everyone eager to make a difference to ensure the business succeeds.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
No two days are the same. Founding your own business is an adventure where you will know your desired destination, but at every step along the way you will be faced with challenges and rewards you might not have anticipated.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The hours are long and unforgiving, especially in the early stages. You have to be aware that your business lives and breathes according to your level of effort. This will most likely have an impact on your social life, so prepare to put your business first!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
The Entrepreneur On Fire (EO Fire Podcast) is packed with helpful tips and tricks for new entrepreneurs. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler and Tribes by Seth Godin are fantastic books for those trying to understand what you want your brand to communicate and how to make it attractive to like-minded potential customers.