Episodes > Season 3 Episode 10

The Bookish Box - a monthly literary subscription

How The Bookish Box turned a hobby into a business

Justine Woods & Rebecca Woods, CEO & Head of Logistics @ The Bookish Box

What's in this episode?

Hey I’m Scotty, host of Hit Subscribe. This episode we’re chatting with Justine Woods, Creator and CEO of The Bookish Box, alongside Rebecca Woods, Head of Logistics & Fulfillment Manager.

The Bookish Box is a monthly literary subscription sending a newly released book and themed items to subscribers every month.

We chat about how Justine turned a hobby into a business, the importance of community when building a brand as well as how strong values drive The Bookish Box.

So let’s get started!

Check out The Bookish Box.

Episode transcript

Scott Meiklejohn: Hey, I'm Scotty host to Hit Subscribe. This episode, we're chatting with Justine Woods creator and CEO of The Bookish Box, alongside Rebecca Woods, Head of Logistics and Fulfillment Manager. The Bookish Box is a monthly literary subscription, sending a newly released book and themed items to subscribers every month. We chat about how Justine turned a hobby into a business, the importance of community when building a brand, as well as how strong values drive The Bookish Box. So let's get started. Justine, Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us.

Rebecca Woods: Hello.

Justine Woods: Hi.

Scott Meiklejohn: So really excited to talk about everything The Bookish Box today. Justine, why don't we start with you? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about The Bookish Box?

Justine Woods: I am the owner of The Bookish Box. I launched it a long time ago. I started by myself and now we've grown a lot. And so we have other employees who do a lot of the heavy lifting now. So now I get to just do the parts that I really enjoy.

Scott Meiklejohn: And Becca, when did you come to the picture of The Bookish Box?

Rebecca Woods: I've been on the team now for, I want to say about two and a half years. When I heard that the other day, I was blown away. Because I was telling Justine, I was like, "It feels like I've been here since forever, since it started." But, officially, I started two and a half years ago.

Scott Meiklejohn: So Justine just because I know some of this stuff from our pre-call, but if I was to tell back in 2012, you're creating a 100 shirts for 50 Shades of Grey, the publishers, when they contacted you. If I was to talk to you then and say, "Hey, 10 years from now, you're going to be the CEO of your own company," what would you have said?

Justine Woods: No, I don't know. I don't think I would've believed you, because this was never in my framework of dreaming. I never thought that it would be any more than this. I always assumed it would be cool hobby money and to support my husband's income, basically. But I didn't ever think it would be like, this is what we're thriving on. And that it would become the income of so many other people too, so no idea.

Scott Meiklejohn: Can you tell me a little bit about that change? How did it start as this hobby and then how did it slowly evolve into this business?

Justine Woods: So originally it started as a book review blog, and really that originated because I am such an avid reader, and I was on a very low income, and I want to say it was before Kindle Unlimited, and now there's a lot of free opportunities for people who don't... Even eBooks from your library, there's all those opportunities now. But when I was really, really heavy into reading there wasn't. So by the time that happened, I just really wanted to read a lot and I didn't have the means to do it. So I started to do reviews. I started this review blog, because it was an opportunity for me to review books. And especially at that time, if you are a book reviewer, publishers would send you copies of books to review. So I was able to uphold my heavy reading habit without having to buy these books, but also contribute to the book community.

Justine Woods: And then eventually it started doing, I would make shirts, because as I got more into the book community, I wanted to do things like got to book signing events, and those things cost money. So I started making shirts, and I was literally getting a glue, I forget what it's called, but it's basically an iron on material. So I would get it. I would take a razor and cut out a design, and then iron it on a shirt, and then hand paint it, and then pull it off. And then I found out what a screen is, and I was like, "Oh, that's way better than I'm doing." So I would make screens and screen print shirts. And then, at that time, that was it. That's all I was doing.

Justine Woods: And that was a long time ago. The blog started in, I want to say 2012, 2013. I just know I was pregnant with my daughter and she was born in 2013, and the shirts started in that same area. So I think they also started in 2013, and it started as just an Etsy shop.

Scott Meiklejohn: That's so cool. I love hearing that. And I love learning as you go. I find that's the best way to do it. You just have to start, and then the learnings come as you do it.

Scott Meiklejohn: Let's talk about the growth since then though. Becca, when you came on board, you were finding, we need space for some of this stuff as The Bookish Box has grown and involved into this subscription box. Can you tell us a little bit about that journey of warehouses and finding space to store these boxes?

Rebecca Woods: When I first came, we had just moved everything from, it was being done in the basement of Justine's house, and that's where everything happened was the basement. And then they moved into a warehouse, and that's when I first came on. And I remember all of us were just like, "This is so amazing. We have all this space." It felt so professional. And we were like, "We're a real business now, it's happening." And we had a conference room. We we're like, "When are we ever going to use that?" And then little did we know, three, four months later we were like, "We have no room. There's no space in this warehouse. Everything is on top of us. We can't move." We're getting shipments, and we're having to be like, "Can we leave it outside for a few hours until we can make a space to bring it inside?"

Rebecca Woods: And it was honestly scary, because we went from being a smaller company and so quickly growing that much and feeling like, how are we going to keep up with this with the space that we have? And then we recently just moved again to another larger warehouse. And then the same thing happened. We were like, "This is incredible. We have so much space. This is it." I remember when they were looking, Justine was like, "Wow, the one that we're getting is really big. It's way more space than we need, but we have to move." And we're very excited. And now even, we're like, "Oh my gosh, we could expand. If the people next to us move out, we should see if we can get their spots, so we can make this bigger, because we need more space."

Rebecca Woods: Because I mean, we went from having four employees and now we have almost 30 or I think we do have 30. And so even just space for people to be around that takes up so much. Our customer service has grown from one person to four people, and we're hiring. We're like, "My goodness, how do we fit it?" And we just seem to figure it out. It always falls into place. And it's kind of a puzzle every day, and that's something that I like about it.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love that. I love to hear about that growth. I know we're kind of jumping around on the timeline here, but Justine, for you, when it first started out, The Bookish Box, it wasn't necessarily books, that came a little later. It was more like the merch around books. So when did that slowly grow? And can you tell me how the box evolved through the years?

Justine Woods: When we first launched, because of my background in doing press and reviews and being sent books, I didn't have a need for books, personally, because I had them. I was getting them months prior. And a lot of the people in the book community that I surrounded myself with were those same kind of people, who were also reviewers. So the idea of having a book box where it was stuff to support what you loved and not necessarily include a book, because you might have already had it. And especially because you're paying now for this box, and when a company give it to you, you're not. So I didn't want to take someone's money to give them a duplicate book. And that was really where my thought process was.

Justine Woods: So we started with a shirt and we called it Shirt and Goodies. And it was just three to four items that I would source from small shops. And it was things chapstick or a headband or a little tiny candle or something like that and a shirt. And I sold it for the same price as what my shirts sold as. So you're basically getting those goodies for free, if you were pre-ordering. And we sold out immediately and then every month we would double and sell out quickly. And we stayed that. And then at the same time book boxes were coming on the market. There was maybe two other companies and they had books in their boxes, and that's when I started seeing customers request, like, "Can you put a book in the box?" And at first I was kind of like, that's really just never been part of what I've done, and I just backed off on it.

Justine Woods: And I don't know, I think that to the same idea of that, it's a puzzle. So with customers demands, you have to weigh what demands are ones you want to meet and what demands are you ones you would say, like, "That's just not part of my brand." And I was realizing that maybe this need to be part of my brand, because there's a bigger community than just book reviewers. There's readers, who don't review, but just read and really enjoy it. So I added a book to the box and that was in, I want to say it was in 2018, somewhere in there, we added our first book.

Justine Woods: And it wasn't a special edition or anything that. And at that time, no, no one was really doing special editions in their boxes. It was just a new release book, and it was really fun. And we started doing that. We just added it as another option people could choose, so they could stay with the other ones or they could gravitate to this one that offered a book. And now all of our options include books, because we really wanted to center ourself on the books, and all of our books are special edition. So the books that we ship, you can't get anywhere else. You could only get them from us. And they're all limited special additions, which is really cool.

Scott Meiklejohn: I think it's so cool. It's this awesome mix of a curated box, but then also offering the exclusivity of like, "Hey, if you're in the subscription program, you're going to get your hands on these special additions." I think it's so neat. I am a book nerd myself. So, obviously, I relate to that, but I think that's really cool. You mentioned this growth, just boom, doubling, continuing to sell out and moving along. But I know from talking to you guys, it was around, what? 2020, the start of the pandemic that you started to notice a little bit of a slowdown and a plateau in your growth.

Justine Woods: Yeah.

Scott Meiklejohn: What happened next from there? I'd love you to elaborate on.

Justine Woods: I would say early days it felt we were just growing, growing, growing, and then it kind of happened where we looked around and we were like, "Oh, there are a lot of people doing what we're doing now." This market has become very, very saturated, where every month I knew box was popping up. And because people have fear of missing out, they would just like, "I'm going to switch and I'll come back. I just want to try something new." And we were like, "We want to make it so that people don't want to risk missing. We want to make it so that our boxes are so amazing that you don't have a doubt." And we were doing marketing and everything that. And I kind of just stopped doing marketing, I'm not sure why.

Justine Woods: But in 2020, it was kind of at pandemic, right before a pandemic, I kind of looked up, and I was like, "Our numbers have stayed the same for the last year, maybe this is just our number. Maybe this is where we're at." And I was talking to a friend of mine, who's also in this industry, and she was like, "Well, what are you spending on ad spend?" And I was like, 'I kind of just stopped doing that." And she was like, "Well, that's what you've done wrong. You're just talking to the same market you've been talking to. That's why you're not seeing growth anymore."

Justine Woods: So we got an advertising agency and they came in and were very helpful. And we also switched our backend site. We were on a different company site to host and it felt kind of they were antiquated. They also changed things around, like when they first launched, we were one of the few companies who were with them, and they kind of used our growth to propel theirs. And then they started this marketplace, and then, it was supposed to be a benefit of working with them. And then they suddenly changed the terms where anybody you acquired in the marketplace, they were going to take a retainer fee for, for the life of that customer. So even if my ads brought them to that marketplace, I was paying them forever for that customer. Which we were like, "That's crazy."

Justine Woods: And subscription boxes already have such a low, low, margin that me paying someone for nothing felt crazy. So that's when we also switched. So in 2020 we made a bunch of big changes, because we were kind of cautioning ourselves, because it was very new, the pandemic, and we really know how it was going to go. So we did, we hired on a really incredible advertising company. And then ever since then, our growth has been out of this world.

Justine Woods: And at the same time we switched backend sites. So we were able to have more money to spend on marketing and give it better... Because we had this shop, too, so when we would advertise, it was either sending people to a shop or to the subscription box, and we were able to put them together. So now we were spending one dollar and getting them right where we want them as opposed to having to split that between two sites.

Scott Meiklejohn: That's awesome. And, Becca, what do you remember about this time when this switch is going underway and seeing some of that growth?

Rebecca Woods: I remember being terrified. The first month that we had grown a lot, we had done a box for a book that is very popular, and that box went nuts. I remember seeing the numbers and being like, "We have to make all those candles. Oh, my goodness, this is insane. How are we going to do it?" And then we just kept thinking, after that, though, they're going to drop back down. They're going to drop back down. And then they just kept getting higher and bigger every month that we would pull our numbers, we were like, "Oh my gosh, we did more. We did more." And it was, one, so reassuring.

Rebecca Woods: I had left my full-time job that I had been at for about six years just to come over here, because I enjoyed it when I was working instead of before, where I didn't. And I was like, "It's worth it. It's a little scary, but it's worth it." And then when we just kept seeing the growth, I was like, "I can't believe it. I made a good decision. I came to the right company at the right time, and now I get to work and be happy all at the same time." And that was honestly my only thoughts in the moment. I didn't think anything about money or raises or anything that. I was just like, "Oh my gosh, security, job security. We've done it. We're good to go for life."

Scott Meiklejohn: I love when you make a bet on yourself and something else, and it definitely works out. I think that's so great. I'm kind of amazed by, in, obviously, just how much forethought has to go into planning out these boxes. How far out right now, do you guys have planned? Justine, you're thinking about it. It's a lot, aye?

Justine Woods: It's a lot, because we right now we have a young adult box and an adult box, and they go at a different pace. Because the adult box, we tend to work with more indie authors, where the YA box, we're working with more of a publisher base, typically. So the YA box we're picking books for fall of this year. And actually with the adult box, it's about the same. And that's for the monthly subscriptions. But we also do specialty, a special edition that will drop as just a purchase, not part of the box. And those we have a giant calendar in my office, it takes up the whole wall, of the year, and we have stuff the whole year, and into next year. We have contracts we're signing that are something we're going to start on this in the next year.

Justine Woods: So really far out, especially with everything that's going on in today's world with like printers. There's so much going on with printers that we are needing to give publishers nine months notice on a book that we want to do for a special edition.

Scott Meiklejohn: Wow.

Justine Woods: We're not just reading early releases or whatever, we're reading manuscripts and sometimes uncorrected manuscripts to pick a book. So that way we know we it and just hope that any pacing issues or whatever are going to be you corrected, because that's how far in advance they need us to pick.

Scott Meiklejohn: That's wild.

Justine Woods: Wow.

Scott Meiklejohn: And so, Becca, that must be an exciting challenge for you to make sure you got the inventory. You got the warehouse. You got to make sure things are running smoothly.

Rebecca Woods: Yeah. It feels our brain is constantly thinking about 50 things at one on time. We go, I'll be talking to our team about, we're doing January and February and then they'll hear me say for April, and they're like, "What are you talking about? why would we be talking about April?" I'm like, "You're right. You're right. Let me bring my brain back. We're not to April yet." But our brains are on April and thinking about things that. So just keeping all of the to dos in order for multiple months so far in advance, and then making sure we have space for it. I mean, we have containers coming for our February stuff and our March stuff and two special editions right now that we're watching as they come. And I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, it's all coming at the same time. We're all going to have to unload it."

Rebecca Woods: And making sure that we have that space available to do it, and the staffing to ensure that when it comes, we get to check in, that we're not shorted on anything, and we're ready to go. And then having them prep all those items that need to get prepped. It is a lot happening in our hand. But it, again, that's the fun part about it, because it's never boring. There's never a day that I come in and I'm like, "We don't have much going on today." It's like, there is a million things that we could be working on at any time. So it's a lot of puzzles, and I think I just really like puzzles.

Scott Meiklejohn: That's the gist of this. It sounds a lot-

Rebecca Woods: It sounds like I like a puzzle.

Scott Meiklejohn: ... of spinning plates puzzle. Yeah. You're just keeping those plates spinning, adding at another plane on keep that spinning too. I love it. Justine you mentioned earlier, you were talking about community, hearing from your community something they wanted, thinking about how it benefits you. Is it a part of the brand, and moving off of that? How important is community? As you've now been with this community for 10 years, how important is it to The Bookish Box?

Justine Woods: Deeply important. I mean, I think at this time we're kind of trying to find a positive balance between us, our identity, and our community. Because I think the bigger we've gotten, the more we've seen different sides of the community that are not always great. But there's this really incredible side to our community that we like to just really hang out in, which is people talking about books they love, recommending that. Even some of the coolest things that we've got to do is because somebody in our or Facebook group was like, "Oh, I would love if you guys did something this." And we were like, "Me too, actually, cool idea." And then we get to do it. So the community's been really cool in that way that they are almost this whole other group of people who have these really I great ideas.

Justine Woods: And I like that. And I like that, I have weekly lives, where I sit and we talk with them, we answer questions. And if it's not me, it's somebody else on my staff. And it's also really cool, because then we kind of get that connection with them. I think it's been very good for us because that connection has given people, I don't know, a way to view us as people, I guess.

Scott Meiklejohn: Totally.

Justine Woods: And I think that every company will have those kind of challenges where people forget that you're just a person operating in a world, especially in a pandemic world right now. But for the most part, I think all of that community that we've done and built has allowed people to look at us people. So when we make a mistake and we're coming forward, we're saying, "Hey, we want to be transparent. This happened. We're so sorry. Here's how we're fixing it." We're met with a little bit more grace than I think if we were this ominous group that we just sent an email and they've never met us, they don't know who we are, and they don't have faces to names.

Justine Woods: I think it's easier to just get angry at an entity as opposed to angry at this person. And I know what her face looks and she talks like she gives a shit, because I do. And I feel that kind of community has been very positive for us, because they enrich what we're offering, which is all we could ask for.

Scott Meiklejohn: Yeah. I totally agree. I mean, I'm on the social side of Recharge, I see that too. When people just think I'm just going to tweet or yell at this faceless brand. But I think that's such a wise idea, and you mentioned it, and I absolutely loved it when you mentioned it in our pre-call too, that you're doing these weekly, what's it on Instagram Live and just direct you to your community, chatting, showing what's coming up and doing that. Becca, you even mentioned that sometimes in the community you've seen other accounts answer questions for you guys, doing the work for you.

Rebecca Woods: Yeah. I mean, that is really cool. Because, one, they care enough to want to help those other people out, but also it does make it just feel it's our own little family. We always refer to them as our Bookish fam, this is our family that we get to talk books about, but also get to be a part of a business that we have such a passion for. And to see them return with that passion that we have is so exciting to see. And then, also, it's helpful, because we may not be able to, because we only have so many people that can answer those questions.

Rebecca Woods: And if they can get it from a customer who knows that answer, because they've done that with us before or whatever the issue or question they have, they've been there, and they can answer it for them, like that, it's so helpful. Because they can just kind of do it themselves, at that point. When they come to us, their questions are more, they're not the easier things, it's more of like, on the backend, us changing something for them, like that. But anything easy, they just go into that group and they just all figure it out together. And we kind of just get to pop in and be like, "Good job. You guys are great. You're doing good over there. Keep it up."

Scott Meiklejohn: Yes. That is true. Yeah, exactly. That's great.

Rebecca Woods: Yeah. They did say that correctly. It's uncomfortable if they do answer it not correctly. You're like-

Scott Meiklejohn: Sure.

Rebecca Woods: ... "Wait, no. No, not that one, but close. You're close." But it's a blessing.

Scott Meiklejohn: Justine, I'd love to chat more about the culture you've built at The Bookish Box, knowing it started with you, and now you're the CEO there. And you mentioned earlier, and knowing that with fandom, people are so passionate about stories and different things. There can be toxic sides to the fandom and you don't want to cultivate that. You want to get rid of that. But for your own company, how would you describe the culture at The Bookish Box?

Justine Woods: I love it. Actually, one of our employees lately, because we hired more employees just constantly. One of our employees who's been with us for about a year said, I was like, "Well, how are you feeling everything's going?" And she was like, "Oh, they're fitting so well. I don't know how it is, but you just keep hiring all the weirdos. And we really all work together." And I was like, "We do, because we are weirdos." So it is really cool because I think our office has this really bright, positive aura of people who are kind to each other, people who genuinely care about what we're doing. So whether it's customer service and in their interactions with customers, and them going above and beyond.

Justine Woods: We will never get an email from somebody who is telling us that, which is very sad, but we will get emails from family members saying like, "Hey, we need to cancel this, because this customer of yours has died." And anytime that happens, our customer service will message me, and be like, "Can we send them flowers? Can we do something for this family?" And it's not because they're going to get paid extra for doing that. It's because they genuinely feel a connection to our customers. So they want to go to bat for them and they want to stand alongside, and be there as part of, hey, maybe you are not as aware because we're just this company that's been charging your daughter or something. But your daughter has been talking in our Facebook group. So we feel a connection to them. And we want to send something just to feel we're part of... So she feels that.

Justine Woods: And they will always do that. Or even in our shop or our box, they care so much about getting the orders right, and them looking good, that sometimes we have to be like, "You don't have to worry. You're chewing too much on that, just bring it back out, because now we're losing productivity," because they care so much. And I think because of that, we all have, it's [inaudible 00:24:43] mutual respect for each other. I think everybody's had a job where you're working with somebody and they genuinely don't care what they're doing. And even if you don't really care, but you're doing your job, it's frustrating, because you're like, "Well, now, I'm going to do your work for you," which is not going to be a great environment. And everybody there so genuinely cares that I think that fosters this environment of them caring about each other.

Justine Woods: And I hope, I think that they do feel that all of our management staff or me as the CEO, genuinely cares about our employees too. And to the point of that, if we can come in there and help in some area of their life, we're going to. And being considerate of different things in their lives and how people are humans and have to have sick time, because we're going to get sick. And the Arizona standards, which is where we're based for sick time are abysmal, it's horrible. So we really want for when people come to work... And I know not every day of coming to work is going to be like, "What a day, I love it." Some days at work, you're like, "Man, I wish I was at home with my family," and that's okay.

Justine Woods: But we want it to be as good as possible. So we do lots of fun things. And when we have our team parties, I think everybody genuinely has a good time. If I said, "You could leave earlier, stay for the party," I think most people would stay, but we make them stay anyways.

Scott Meiklejohn: Becca, what about from your perspective? What do you value about the culture at The Bookish Box?

Rebecca Woods: I feel like everybody feels welcome when they're here. And I feel like that is a very special thing to have at your job. I feel like a lot of us have work jobs where you feel like you could literally just stop showing up, and nobody's going to call. And you could have gotten in an accident and they're just like, "Well, you didn't show up to work, so don't know what to tell you.' And here it's like, if somebody's more than 10 minutes late and we haven't heard from them, we're full panic. Like, "Are they okay?" And it's not like, "Why aren't they at work?" It's like, "Hey, are they good?"

Justine Woods: "Are they dead?"

Rebecca Woods: Yeah, literally, my first thought every time, I'm like, something happened. That usually is just that they're running late and they forgot to tell us, but you never know. But that's something that I think is just not offered in the lot of workplaces. And it's really important that it is, because I think it makes, like Justine said, when people come to work, they genuinely feel like they want to be here, for the most part. Even if I have one of those days where I'm like, "I just want to lay in bed and hang out with my dog all day." Once I get to work, I'm like, "Oh, I'm happy I can came in. This is pretty good." And even we do have...

Rebecca Woods: We're very transparent when we do hiring. We like to let our values be known, because we don't want, one, making anybody feel uncomfortable, but, two, we want to keep fostering that environment. So we want them to know what they're coming into. And I feel every time we kind of lay down where we're at, what we do, where we support to, we get people who... We had one of our employees in her interview just started crying, because she was like, "I've never had that before. I've never just been told, we want everyone to feel they have a spot here. No matter who you are, where you come from, you deserve to be treated like a human, and we're going to do that." It makes me a little teary. It's just very sweet. And it makes we want-

Justine Woods: This is our safe space and we want to protect it.

Rebecca Woods: It is.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love hearing about all of that. And I totally relate, when you were talking about people not caring, even if it's a amiable office, people get along. I distinctly recall moments where a big life event has happened in my own life, that was intense, and you had to leave work early and then you come in the next day and no one mentions it. No one's like, "Hey, are you all right? What's going on? Did that work out okay?" And it just sticks with you, where you're like, if people don't care, you can tell and it makes you feel less a part of that culture. So I'm so happy to hear those stories. It kind of shines through from talking to you guys that you really do care and you value, not just your community, but each other.

Scott Meiklejohn: And you mentioned supporting when you're sharing what The Bookish Box kind of stands for. And I'd love to hear more about that. Justine, you mentioned that there's a few foundations and charities very near and dear to everyone's heart.

Justine Woods: I don't know, I feel a lot of families are this, but my family, we are not straight. So I am not a straight woman and I have family members who are not. And so, for me, I think it's very important to have an environment where you feel safe at your job. I have family members who were made to feel less safe at their places of employment because of their sexuality. And at that time, I couldn't offer something different. I was a stay-at-home mom who was super broke and didn't have a business, and it just made me angry. So I want our business to be where people can be and feel safe to be who they are, and know that what we, like Becca said, in our things, we purposely put on our things that we are a safe space and we are LGBT plus everything friendly.

Justine Woods: And it kind of ends up filtering out people who are not. And that's part of the goal, is that we don't ever want to bring somebody into the office that all of our existing employees suddenly feel less they can be themselves. And that's something across the board. So with organizations that we support, we want to support organizations that are pushing for those kinds of things as well. So we work with they're called Change Commerce, but, Becca, do you remember their other, Change Commerce is their app, but the name of the company is something else. And I wish I could remember what they're called.

Rebecca Woods: ShoppingGives.

Justine Woods: Yes, thank you, ShoppingGives. And so they're really awesome. If you're on Shopify, I would recommend it to a company, because it's a great way, an easy way to donate a portion of what you're making to an organization, before it ever even hits your bank account. So it's not at the end of the year, trying to figure out how to make that happen. It's every single purchase. So it makes it really easy. And so we do that. And actually we just had a meeting, because I'm so excited about how much we've already done this year. We're about to hit what we did the entire year last year. By the end of this month, I think we'll hit it-

Scott Meiklejohn: Wow.

Justine Woods: ... which is crazy. So last year-

Scott Meiklejohn: We are mid-February, by the way, if you're hearing that now, so that is fantastic.

Justine Woods: So last year we did just under $80,000 in donations to these organizations: we worked with Black Lives Matter, The Trevor Project, The Trans Alliance, there was one other one, and I can't remember.

Rebecca Woods: Planned Parenthood.

Justine Woods: Planned Parenthood. And so what happens is a percentage of every thing that you buy, a percentage of that will go to those organizations, and you see it when you go to our site. It says like, "Check to see who that is." So you can click it and see exactly who we're donating to. And we are using our money, so it's not... the customers can round up if they want, but the donation is coming straight from our profit. And so, obviously, as our company does better or we're able to give more. This year, we've had to switch, because of all the stuff that's coming out with Black Lives Matter, as far as where the donations are going, it's so important to us that it's actually hitting those communities.

Justine Woods: And right now they're trying to figure out where that money is. So we have pivoted to it's called The Bail Project. I looked at a few, so I'm trying to make sure I don't mix them up, but I'm pretty sure it's called The Bail Project. And they are really awesome, especially in communities that need it, but helping people get the bail that they need, so they can then be out of jail, and out of being in holding. So they can also stay and continue to work, because a lot of people, their families won't be helped if they're in jail, that's their income. And especially over things that it feels a little bit, I don't know... That's political, I guess I won't go there. But, anyways, those are the ones that we're supporting right now. And so far this year, as of February 18th, we're at $47,000 that we've given, which is so exciting.

Justine Woods: So in The Trans Alliance, we do a monthly donation that is just automatic, but everything else is a percentage of proceeds situation. And so we just had a meeting where we are talking about maybe trying to find a way for different organizations, because before I kind of wanted to keep it the same, because it wasn't as much. And so if I'm doing only 300 a month in different ones, it's not going to have as much of an impact. But now that we're giving so much, I think all of them have received a little bit over $11,000 at this point, that's a substantial impact. So if we wanted to pivot and try another company, we could and still have that impact. So we're talking about doing things when there is a holiday or Pride Month or something, saying let's pivot all of the ones that we're doing to companies that work for that cause.

Justine Woods: And then at the end of the month, we need to tell people like, "Hey, any shopping you this month, it went towards these people. And this is what they do, if you want to look into it." There's also an orphanage in Arizona that we partnered with, especially at Christmas time. But they work specifically with kids who are in the community, especially kids who are trans, who may have a harder time getting placed. And so they basically have a Amazon wish list, so we just go on and wipe it out whenever we can. And they are really awesome for doing what they do. And we just want to get in there when we can. So it's a really great way for us to finally be able to do something that feels meaningful. Because, like I said before, I was not in a position to get to. And now I can't, which is really cool.

Scott Meiklejohn: Becca, when you hear Justine talk so passionately about all of that, how does that make you feel as an employee at The Bookish Box?

Rebecca Woods: As an employee, it makes me proud to work here. As her sister, it makes me just emotional, because it's just so sweet.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love that. Just a few rapid fire questions here at the end, just as very have a few minutes left. Justine, I'll go back to you. What advice would you give to someone who maybe has their own hobby, but is thinking about maybe starting into a business? If you went back 10 years, what advice would you give to someone just starting out then?

Justine Woods: No. I don't know. I would say, do your taxes as soon as you start your business, because that's-

Scott Meiklejohn: That's a great one.

Justine Woods: ... horrible to try to go back and fix. I didn't think it was going to go anywhere, so I thought it was just hobby money. And then when it got out of hand so fast, it was like, "Oh, this is rough." And I have to go back and fix that. So make sure you are doing your taxes from the beginning. Do research, I didn't. I jumped in with both feet immediately, and that's why I think Becca is nervous every time you make a change. Because I am the queen of walking into the office and saying, "So today I decided we're going to do this." And Becca's like, "Oh, okay, cool."

Justine Woods: So I think it worked for me at that time because it was a brand new market, so I had the ability to get traction immediately. I think if today I started a subscription box in this market, not doing research and not realizing how heavy the competition is and the expectation. If you look at our boxes now versus the first box, our customers would not pay for that first box now, because their expectations are so much higher. So I think doing research to understanding if there's a market is so important.

Justine Woods: But I think more than anything, I think loving your audience is what is key. Because me being part of my audience, it made it easy. And I don't think you have to be part of your audience to have a successful business, but loving your audience, I think you do. I think you have to genuinely love and care about the people you're selling to, because I think they can feel it. I feel they can feel our intentions in everything we do. And I think that helps you be successful, and also enjoy life a lot more.

Scott Meiklejohn: Becca, what about for you now, not necessarily starting out the business, but you've got a 100,000 subscribers, any advice you'd give someone who's looking to scale and grow a little bigger?

Rebecca Woods: Honestly, I feel it is about loving your audience, because every time we... I mean, we're humans, so we do make mistakes. Anytime we make a mistake, when we go to reach out to those customers and I'm typing the email, I'm like, just scared. I'm like, "I'm going to hit send." "Read it again, make sure everything looks okay. Are we sure?" But every time we do that, we are met with so much love, every time. And I feel like, if they didn't feel that we genuinely cared about what we were doing, and wanted to make things better, every time, that our goal is to always grow as a company, not only in subscribers, but also as human beings, we want to grow and learn different things about the business, I feel like we wouldn't get that sort of loved.

Rebecca Woods: And when we do make mistakes, I feel like we would see a huge impact in our sales and our growth. And we just don't have that happen, because they know that we have a community with them. So I feel that is the most important part is really bonding with your customers and having them know where your from. That's all.

Scott Meiklejohn: Well, Becca and Justine, we've loved having you on Hit Subscribe. We loved hearing all about The Bookish Box and we just wanted to wish you guys the best of luck for the rest of 2022.

Rebecca Woods: Thank you.

Scott Meiklejohn: We'd to thank Justine and Rebecca so much for joining us. Check out The Bookish Box at thebookishshop.com. If you'd to hear more of our episodes, you can find us at getrecharge.com/hitsubscribe.

Expand to read