(The following article is property of Avenue Code, LLC, and was originally published with permission at Total Retail on November 7, 2019.)
Isabelle Fesale, Founder and CEO of The Izzy Box, tells the story behind the subscription box-based business dedicated to delivering customers products from minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Avenue Code: The Izzy Box launched Sept. 30 of 2019. For those who haven’t yet heard about The Izzy Box, can you give us a brief introduction?
Isabelle Fesale: The Izzy Box is a subscription box-based business that’s unique in a couple of ways. First, our mission is to support minority-owned and women-owned businesses, so all of our products are crafted by these brands. By purchasing our subscription boxes, customers are supporting these businesses while enjoying, in each box, eight full and sample-size, health-conscious products that they won’t typically find elsewhere.
Secondly, The Izzy Box’s products aren’t targeted toward a specific demographic. They're for both men and women, and provide a wide range of products, from fashion to beauty, grooming, skin, hair, health, and packaged food items.
AC: Tell us about your personal career path. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
IF: I was about 19 when I decided to become an entrepreneur. During and after college, I held several marketing internships with startups, small businesses, and women-owned companies. It was a great learning experience, but in retrospect, I can see I was always meant to create and own my own business. My passion for other jobs was always fleeting, and ultimately, I wanted to leave my own legacy.
While I was in college, my dad fell ill, and I took time off to care for him. Later, my mom was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Because my family is from the Caribbean, we started by pursuing holistic remedies for both of them.
Because of these experiences, I couldn’t stop thinking about creating a business that was both health-conscious and philanthropic in nature, but it wasn’t until I stumbled on a motivational Instagram post that I decided to act on my idea for The Izzy Box. The post said, “If you can’t stop thinking about something, go pursue it.” So I moved to Florida and started The Izzy Box at 24 years old!
AC: How did you come up with the idea for The Izzy Box?
IF: The inspiration came in 2017 when I was riding a train home from work. I had recently read an article on the exponential growth in subscription box businesses. I realized that almost every subscription box business served a niche market, whether that was Dollar Shave Club for men or Scentbird, a fragrance company for men and women.
I wanted to create a box with a variety of products for men and women of all demographics. At the same time, I knew I needed to do something philanthropic. Consumers want their purchasing power to go to businesses that intentionally yearn to have a positive impact on the world.
That’s the story of The Izzy Box: our customers get everything they want and need while supporting small businesses run by minorities and women. The businesses our customers support are often home-based, run by a young mom trying her best to craft products she’s passionate about.
AC: Tell us about your personal experience as a minority and a woman starting your own business. Where did this passion and heart come from to help others in the same situation?
IF: I haven’t personally encountered too many roadblocks in starting The Izzy Box, but I take pride in giving a voice to other women and minorities who have faced struggles of their own in the business world. I’ve always believed in the underdog. Those whose voices we don’t hear are those we should invest in the most.
Growing up, I felt I didn’t have my own voice. When I became an entrepreneur, I became tenacious, passionate, creative and brave. I'm confident and expressive because I'm pursuing my purpose, and I want to give other women and minorities that same opportunity.
Let me give you an example. One of the products we’re launching with is a prebiotic coffee drink created by a woman who has her products in a few local cafes. Her personal story is profound: she has adopted children and, while caring for them, is also promoting health by creating and distributing her drinks to local consumers. Most people have never heard about her products or her story, but they need to. If I can help make her voice heard, my purpose is fulfilled.
AC: Beyond working with women and minority-owned companies, how do you decide which brands to partner with? What products might come in a typical Izzy Box?
IF: For our launch, our initial products include beauty, fashion, grooming, hair, skin, health, and packaged foods. When we partner with brands, we ensure their products are clean, cruelty-free, and sustainable. Our makeup and skincare products have no carcinogens, our coffee is fair trade, and our health-conscious foods can be GF (and hopefully paleo soon as well!). Even our packaging is BPA-free.
Beyond this, you’ll receive unique products you won’t find elsewhere. For example, our razors and shaving products for men have a very unique design. I asked several people on the street about their shaving preferences, and that led me to a women-owned razor business with unique razors and natural shaving products.
The Izzy Box is the easiest way to support small, minority and women-owned businesses, and our products hit all the categories consumers want. Our customers receive high-quality, unique items that make them feel whole, whether that’s essential oils, healthy snacks, or ties, scarves and other fashion items that are made from high-quality fabrics.
AC: What are your pricing plans?
IF: For our quarterly subscription boxes, you receive a box filled with eight items every three months. You can pay $49.99 quarterly for each box or pay $174.99 annually for all boxes. We also know that, as consumers, we like to sample before we buy, so we’ve created a one-time sample box with three to five items for $29.99. Some of our products can also be purchased directly through our website . All of our boxes, even our sample box, contain personalized items when our consumers complete The Izzy Taste Test.
AC: Tell us about The Izzy Taste Test and how you designed it.
IF: The Izzy Taste Test is a fun, short quiz our customers take prior to paying for their subscription boxes. It allows us to get a sense of who they are, what they like, and what they need. No two customers are alike. You can have people from the same city of the same demographic who like totally different products.
We're not pushing products on customers. I want to hear each of my customer's voices and give them what they want. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to a subscription box!
AC: We heard there’s a story behind The Izzy Box company name. Can you tell us about that?
IF: My family nickname is Izzy, but because we’re Carribean, the pronunciation sounds like “easy.” The Izzy Box is a pun — it’s the easiest way to support minority- and women-owned businesses while meeting your own personal needs as a consumer. Of course, our Izzy Taste Test is also short and easy. Our customers can even earn Izzy Loyalty Points that go toward free shipping and free items.
AC: The Izzy Box stands for a whole way of life — healthy products for consumers that support small businesses. This mission could create endless possibilities. Where do you see The Izzy Box one year to five years from now?
IF: This question gets me so excited! The Izzy Box isn't just an idea, it’s a vision, and visions are long lasting. Your vision is your legacy, and that’s something you should work on every day.
We’re starting as a quarterly subscription box company, but we’re not going to limit ourselves to products strictly in beauty, health, grooming, etc. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I can’t wait to go into other areas of lifestyle and customer convenience like baby products, home decor, and technology. I see so many possibilities for the products we can bring our customers, but no matter how we evolve, our mission will always remain at the core of what we do.
AC: What would you say you’ve learned along the way?
IF: I want to take a moment to speak directly to entrepreneurs: I’ve learned that fear of failure is what cripples us most in pursuing our dreams, but failure is never actually failure — it’s only a learning experience that directs us to new avenues. In a way, failure should almost be something you’re more excited for than success because it teaches you more.
I’ve been told I’m far too ambitious, but that will never stop me. I grew up in a fear-based environment, but when I moved away, I no longer had any doubts or regrets. The amount of confidence I have in pursuing my business goals is astronomical. If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t let fear cripple you!
AC: Great advice, Izzy. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of the early stages of your journey. We can’t wait to watch how The Izzy Box evolves!
Anna Vander Wall
Anna Vander Wall is a freelance senior editor and writer in the tech industry and beyond. She particularly enjoys collaborating with Avenue Code’s talented Snippets contributors and whitepaper authors.