Posted: Mon 10th Nov 2014
Andy Stephenson was last week crowned StartUp of the Year in the 2014 StartUp Loans Awards. He's Founder and CEO of Weekend Box Club; a subscription business delivering activity boxes to kids. We ask Andy for his story and tips on building a subscription business, raising finance, and persevering to realise a vision.
When did you start the business and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Weekend Box in April 2013 when I was looking for gift ideas for my nieces and nephews: I was looking for something that was educational but engaging, something fun and definitely not something plasticky made in China. I couldn't find anything so I quit my job and started Weekend Box.
What does the business deliver and why did you decide on the subscription model?
Weekend Box delivers fun-filled activities through the post for children aged 3-6 so you can make, bake, explore and more together all weekend long! I've always been a fan of subscription models: if you get it right it means that you spend less on marketing and more on your product, so it's a win-win for everyone.
In raising funds, what encouraged you to go down the Start-Up Loans route?
I remember receiving two pieces of advice just after starting Weekend Box:
Two types of companies raise money: those in a position of strength or weakness.
The longer you wait before you raise, the better deal you get.
As I was essentially creating a new market in children's activity boxes by post I had no idea whether it was going to work, so rather than go through the process of raising money (typically 3-6 months from those I know who've done it) I thought I'd just start putting together boxes and seeing if people would buy them. In my mind, there's no stronger indicator of demand than people parting with their cash, so I just kept my costs low and kept selling boxes.
When we needed some more cash to expand the business, Start-Up Loans was exactly what we needed. The loan was approved within a matter of days and came with loads of other opportunities (like being part of a delegation to meet the Prime Minister and give Weekend Boxes to his daughters).
How has the loan helped the business?
Our loan was taken to improve the design of our boxes and then to sell more of them. We'd worked through some of our early marketing channels and thought we could scale them. It hasn't all been plain sailing but the loan allowed us the flexibility to test new marketing channels in a confined way and then ramp them up when we saw results. Aside from that, our boxes are now completely awesome!
What has been your most successful marketing activity to date?
A Facebook campaign where a feature bug in their advertising platform meant we were only charged for acquisitions when customers reached the completion page on our site (rather than paying for clicks or impressions). This meant we were achieving a $1 CPA (cost per acquisition) but then Facebook anonymously changed their platform and this went away overnight; we've never managed to get it that low again!
What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?
I'm really excited for the year ahead: we're working on some huge opportunities that will see Weekend Box feature in all the major supermarkets across the UK as well as looking at expanding our product line and going international too!
At the moment we've proven there's an appetite for our concept of changing the way children learn (from teacher-led to experience-led) and I'm keen to engage as many families as I can in that vision.
What would be your one top tip to anyone starting a business?
Start today. Don't faff around with a business plan or financial forecasts; if you know what you want to make, do or create then just get going: sales speak louder than words.
Meet Andy at our event on 'Building a subscription model in your business' on Wednesday 3 December at Somerset House.
Click for further details about the event or book your place today below: