Entrepreneur Robert Rice is not afraid to call himself a geek. That’s because he found a way to share his lifelong hobby of collecting with others through his own small business. The Columbia, South Carolina resident launched Big Ol’ Box of Stuff, LLC in March 2015. He and his family manage the operation right out of their home.
“We are a box subscription service catering to nerds and geeks like myself who love comic books, movies, games, toys, and collectibles,” Rice explains. “The whole premise for this business came about in 2014 when a coworker introduced me to a similar online service. But with that company, you only get one set of items in any box you order. With mine, you can fully customize your box by filling out a questionnaire so that you’ll get everything you actually want in your box.”
Rice’s wife, Noelle, and 11-year-old daughter, Judy, also assist in the startup business. Judy paints the cardboard boxes with special designs for each recipient and helped design the company’s logo.
Customers can purchase one box for $35 and have it shipped right to their doorstep. The service also offers a 3-month subscription in which customers receive new boxes over the course of that timeframe for a lower price per box than only buying a single box.
In addition to sending fun-filled boxes to his customers, Rice has created a large social media community of his fans who all enjoy comics and fantasy characters. They often record themselves opening the boxes and post these videos on YouTube. Or, they’ll simply start discussions about the different items.
“Everyone really converses well with each other and supports each other,” he explains. “I had one guy post on one of our pages that he wanted a box but couldn’t afford it. So, someone stepped up and bought it for him.”
According to Rice, it’s the customers who truly make his entrepreneurial endeavor exciting.
“I really enjoy the people who are just so nice, cool, and understanding,” he says. “I manage a restaurant as my full-time job, so this business is a wonderful change of pace compared to the challenges of dealing with customers at a restaurant. I love seeing the people open their boxes and just how excited they get. This has taken off far more than I ever imagined it would.”
Rice obtains the items he ships in his boxes through various sources, including antique shops, Toys ‘R’ Us, Wal-Mart, Target, and through a wholesale distributor. As for those interested in collecting these items, he says it’s mostly men and women ages 24 to 48, but many parents buy the boxes for their young children.
To make potential customers aware of Big Ol’ Box of Stuff, LLC, Rice has primarily relied on Internet marketing through a website and social media. He has company pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. He plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign and attend comic book shows and other relevant events.
Like fellow entrepreneurs, Rice admits he has had a few tough challenges along the road to startup success and the long-term maintenance of a small business.
“The biggest challenge has been the fact that these boxes are fully customizable. Sometimes it’s hard to find certain items. When I do, some of them can be very expensive since they are collector’s items at this point. It’s also challenging to fit certain items in the boxes.
He offers up some handy tips for small business owners.
“One of the big things is that your business doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. If you wait until everything is perfect, it’s never going to happen. So, just be smart about how you approach everything. Put the big things in place first, and don’t get hung up on the little-bitty things because they can wait. Most entrepreneurs have OCD, so you have to be even-tempered about everything. Customers pick up on this as well.”
Rice is a client of 1-800Accountant and says he has had a great experience with the national tax and accounting firm.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has been so nice and helpful,” he says.
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog post was provided by Big Ol’ Box of Stuff, LLC and is used with permission.