Today we’d like to introduce you to Vicki Sanders.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Vicki. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Over the last few years, while working as a graphic designer, I knew there was something more than I should be doing with my creative skills. I have always enjoyed searching for and giving meaningful gifts that would bring smiles and joy. Back in 2005, at a turning point in my design career, I had some thoughts of starting a gift basket business or to create something associated with hugs, since I always believed that hugs were the best medicine.
I thought of hug-o-grams or a hug mug. But these ideas were just left in journals and sketchbooks. Then in 2014, it all started happening again. You know that saying ‘it was a blessing in disguise.’ That’s what happened. I unexpectedly lost my job one day. And I believe it happened for many good reasons and for more to come. I had been thinking of my gift business again, and now I had the time to focus on it.
As I continued to work as a designer on a freelance basis, I also worked diligently on the gift business brand and plan. My gift business had to have the word ‘hug’ in the name because that was the main reason for the gift… to ‘send a hug.’ And of course, instead of a basket, it would be a recycled ‘box.’
With an endless list of names, I kept coming back to my original, the Hug Box. After much time researching for eco-friendly artisan products that fit the Hug Box brand and contacting each artisan, learning about all of the administrative legwork to get a retail business up and running, designing the logo, packaging, notecards, etc., and creating an e-commerce website, I finally launched my gift business, the Hug Box.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a very slow and long, but scenic drive. Being the one and only person in the car with one small bank account and no navigation brings many hard and lone decision making on the next turn. And being a creative person, and knowing nothing about starting a retail business, meant a lot of learning.
And refusing to get a loan, meant not much of a budget. I used my creative skills for branding, packaging, marketing materials, social media, signage, advertising, photography, the website, events – it’s endless and my computer to research and learn as much as I could about everything else and do every day still. I sought a brilliant creative mentor during the beginning stages but never had luck finding the right business or financial mentor.
When people find out about a new business, a lot of people start asking you to spend your money with them. That was the tough part because I didn’t know where to smartly start for growth with a very minimal budget. I made some wise choices, mainly of new relationships, and I made some not-so fruitful choices where my money could have been better spent. It’s rough sometimes, but I let those bad choices go and continue to learn along the way.
My most recent turn on this road was opening a brick and mortar. You never know until you try and that was always another dream of mine. It helps when you have such wonderful family and friends supporting you on the roadside, and you keep the faith. I still would love to find a business or financial mentor to help grow my business, because I don’t have much time for the creative and connection side. The sides I really want to focus on.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
The Hug Box™ is a happy and healthy gift that ‘sends a hug’ for getting well, cheer up, birthday, thank you… any occasion.
The Hug Box was created, first and foremost, to bring smiles of joy, especially when you can’t be there in person to give a hug. Each client can send a message for their Hug Box notecard to make it even more meaningful. I get orders from all over, sending hugs from California to Texas, from Vermont to Alaska, and of course local, and even from the UK and Australia, sending hugs all across the USA. The best part of the Hug Box is reading reviews and hearing personally about the smiles from both the clients and recipients. That is when I realize my creative skills have a purpose.
But the Hug Box was not only going to be a happy gift but a healthy and give-back gift. So the vision grew to create a gift box that was eco-friendly, artisan-focused and made in the USA. Over the last 20 years, I have focused on being healthier in my choices of food and products and doing my best to be loving to the earth by watching my footprint. This led to the following attributes of the Hug Box brand – creating an eco-friendly gift basket, well-recycled gift box, and curating eco-friendly, all-natural and handmade artisan products.
First, the package design would consist of reusable and recycled materials and be made by USA small businesses. So each Hug Box is custom-wrapped with a recycled, reusable and USA-Made box, ribbon and shreds and adorned with an artisan-made wooden Hug Box tag. The notecard and envelope are printed on recycled paper. The mailer box is also recycled and made in the USA. Also to protect the Hug Box inside the mailer box, recycled newspaper/paper or protective materials saved from shipments of products from the artisans are used.
And second, the Hug Box gift products are eco-friendly, all-natural and handmade, created by artisans from across the USA, but mostly local here in Georgia. They like myself, have the vision to give back to the earth and to people by providing healthy all-natural products. Most use sustainable materials, processes, and packaging as well.
Which leads to another attribute of the Hug Box brand. There is a lot of giving back when you send a Hug Box. Aside from supporting artisans and small businesses, with a purchase of a Hug Box containing their products and packaging materials and services, a lot of the artisans and small businesses give back to their communities and nonprofits as well. The Hug Box also donates often to local nonprofits and is building a fund to start the Hug-a-Child Campaign. Stay tuned.
I am grateful that I get to use my 25 plus years of creative experience in an entrepreneurial aspect, to give back. I love that the Hug Box is one big circle of hugging it forward.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I moved to Atlanta in 2006 from Hilton Head Island, so it was a big change for me. The city and the people gave me so much energy to expand my creativity over the years and to grow as a person. With that, I believe it helped lead me to my business creation in 2014. I also believe my business was part of His plan for me, that it was in the works for years prior and coming to Atlanta was part of that plan.
It could have happened anywhere I suppose, but I have met some amazing people in and around Atlanta along the way, mainly my husband. We met the same year the Hug Box was launched online and married in 2015. I then moved from midtown to Newnan – the Southside of Atlanta. This is where I met the most wonderful community of fellow entrepreneur women who embraced me and encouraged me.
This year, I had a wonderful opportunity in downtown Newnan and opened the Hug Box brick and mortar where you can come build your own Hug Box (and I still work as a freelance graphic designer every day and also paint at the studio shop). So I think there is always room for more small businesses. If you listen to your heart, connect and build relationships. If it is meant to be, it can be.
- There are pre-curated themed Hug Boxes online at www.thehugbox.com for easy and meaningful gift delivery. I ship all over the USA for a flat rate of $4.99 for each Hug Box. They range from $50-$70.
- Address: 13 W. Washington St., Newnan, GA 30263
- Website: www.thehugbox.com
- Phone: 4045944841
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @thehugbox
- Facebook: @thehugbox
- Twitter: @thehugbox
Susan Crutchfield Photography