We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Cristin Frank”, Owner Of the NY – USA based startup “Pampered Teacher”
Below is the interview we conducted with her:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Pampered Teacher sends teachers a subscription box filled with hand-selects 4-6 teacher gifts. Our start-up was created as a way for teachers to treat themselves or family members and student’s parents to show appreciation for awesome teachers.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
We were founded in late November of 2014, just in time for the holiday season. We have reached the number one position in Google searches for teacher subscription box and are gaining brand awareness.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
Our business model is to feature Pampered Teacher branded products as well as partner with other relevant brands to promote and distribute their products through our subscription boxes. This has allowed us to make our product offerings more robust while still building our own brand.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Pampered Teacher is a family run business. I am the owner, operator and buyer. My husband manages the finances and we hire out for services that go beyond our skill set.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
While there are many subscription boxes, we are focused on bringing products in the categories of fashion, beauty and classroom to female teachers. Our products are stylish, useful and classroom appropriate. We also offer a unique variety. Where many boxes are only for a particular category like beauty or jewelry, our boxes have everything from jewelry, personal care products to peanut-free snacks and teaching supplies.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
Growth has been steady but not explosive. We’ve had many loyal, repeat customers and new customers as far as Hawaii and Alaska. An important milestone was getting teachers to purchase for themselves. Our first 4 months of business saw only gift sales. After a site redesign we have attracted teachers who are excited about getting our boxes for themselves.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Our competitors are other subscription boxes and well established stores. Before Pampered Teacher, there was no solid answer to what to get a teacher for a class gift besides a gift certificate. As for other subscription boxes, our boxes are not just product samples or teaser items that cost extra or get sent back. Customers get thoughtful gifts with no hidden or extra costs.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
A big obstacle we faced was being sure we were sending products that teachers would love. Yes, we heavily researched teacher’s needs, but not every teacher is the same. It’s a niche, not a stereotype. So we added style preference questions to the checkout process. This makes us much more confident that we’re meeting individual needs.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
A key element to e-commerce success is networking. I have reached out to others and people have come to me to ask if they can pick my brain. I have made some great connections with like-minded people. We have been able to help and support each other. I have benefited from having a mentor, master-mind and friends that I’ve met along the way. Entrepreneurship cannot be successful in a vacuum. Help others and they will help you. Everyone wins.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Pampered Teacher will be successful because we are constantly adapting. We can see what success looks like. We value and seek feedback that keeps us constantly improving. Our customer service is top notch.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
When my subscription box is widely successful, I would like to create unique products for teachers that can be sold individually, outside of box subscriptions.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
I choose this idea for my start-up for two reasons. First, my most popular pin on Pinterest was a teacher gift. It made me realize that people were curious about how to say thank you to teachers. Second, I heard a podcast interview with a woman who ran a subscription box for moms. After hearing the interview I was sold on the idea. I could SEE how it was such a great fit for my skill set and interest.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
I have learner, above all, that nothing goes smoothly. The best laid plans need tweaking. Being a business owner I know that I cannot be married to one course of action. I’ve also learned not to fear criticism because it usually offers an opportunity for improvement.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
My biggest upcoming problem will be space. As we gain subscribers and inventory a greater variety of products we’ll need to expand to a larger space. I guess this is a good problem to have.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
The benefit to our customers is gifts on auto-pilot. Men especially love our boxes because we take all the work out of figuring out what to buy. For room parents buying for a teacher, when they collect money for a class gift, they can send parents to our site and get them excited about the teacher’s gift. We also offer a gift announcement that can be instantly downloaded.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Since we come up at the top of a Google search for teacher subscription box, most customers find us that way. We also run Promoted Pins on Pinterest, which has grown our reach tremendously.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our current customers are teachers, family members of teachers and parents of students. Our target audience are moms and teachers who we’ve successfully reached through reviews and blogger events and giveaways.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Most new customers come from a Google search or current customer referral. New customers purchase through our store because they understand the product and we offer many box photos so they can see the types of products we send out. We also review products on our blog to offer unique and helpful ways to use the items in the box.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Customers have said they wished they found us sooner. We often hear that we’re their new go-to place for teacher’s gifts. Customers have also remarked at specific product that they’ve really liked.
20. How are you going to scale?
We’re working to attract more subscribers with our continuous social media presence. We’ve also been invited to give away our boxes at a huge teacher blogger networking event this summer that has upwards of 500 attendees. Our systems are in place for major growth.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
The biggest missing element is a way for users to go in and change their style preferences afterwards. Right now we do it manually, which only takes a minute, but we’d like to make that more user-friendly.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
No, we have no intention to take this outside of the US, because we don’t offer a specific product. But we would consider expanding to Canada, just not outside North America.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Because we fit a small niche, we do not intend to get astronomically huge. The whole point of our business was a manageable family business that we would grow with but that wouldn’t grow out of us.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are not looking to hire a new workforce. We are however always looking for partnerships with other companies who offer great products for pampering teachers.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if th first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Pampered Teacher is a self-sustaining business and is not in need of VC funding. We are happy to partner with other companies for dual promotions and other such mutually beneficial opportunities.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
My best advice for new start-ups is to be confident in your research. Be sure that your business / product is something that people can easily understand, stands out and can be described in a term that consumers are searching for.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I have no further comments, but I thank you for this opportunity!