Julie Schechter, Founder of Small Packages
We are seeing a shift in our society where we are growing an appetite for things to be more personal and thoughtful in this digitally-crazed age. Julie, the founder of Small Packages, saw an opportunity in the market as well as a personal need for customized and thoughtful packages sent to loved ones—whether it was a milestone achievement, or simply Thinking Of You. Learn about how it is beyond a small package, but a human connection in today’s feature.
Julie, why are relationships (friendships, family, romantic partners, etc.) important to you?
I think relationships are our human foundation. Right now, I really see our generation trying to foster a sense of community that we feel is lacking.
We’re a really mobile group: we move often to go to school, or to take new jobs, and we often find ourselves thousands of miles away from the people we love. And then the pace of life is full-tilt: we’re working demanding jobs, running businesses, caring for kids, all without the traditional support network that the generations before us had.
And so I think we’re trying to find ways to maintain the networks that we do have, because they give us life. The women who knew you before you were a doctor or a teacher or someone’s wife or mother, they know you as the core of yourself. They remind you of all the funny ideas you had about hosting a late-night talk show, or how you’re incredibly cool under pressure. Being a human is tough, but maintaining our ties to the people who know us makes feel more grounded, more seen. We might not be able to be with our closest friends every day, but refusing to let that bond be broken makes us feel supported and loved anyway.
What inspired you to launch Small Packages, and why is it so special?
I was really looking to fill a need. Most of the people I care about live pretty far away, so I can’t usually show up with a bottle of wine for a break-up or a housewarming. When my friends were celebrating a win, or recovering from a loss, I wanted to be able to do more than call or text them. I wanted to send something tangible in my place, because it’s so rare to receive physical mail, and getting a care package is such a sign of love.
But I also was dealing with the same lack of bandwidth as everybody else I know. I’d try to put together these care packages, and they’d kind of languish in my apartment: I didn’t have the right box laying around, or I couldn’t find time to go to the Post Office. And when I looked at what was available in the market, a lot of what I found was kind of cheesy or crazy expensive. I didn’t really want to send my best friend a box of pears, you know? (No offense to pears. They’re delicious.)
I wanted to create something that allowed people to send love in the same moment they thought of it. That’s what I think makes Small Packages special: it removes the barrier. If you have five minutes and a cellphone, you can act on the thought the minute you have it, instead of having to add it to your to-do list and hoping you can somehow get it done. We all want to be that friend who reaches out and takes care of people during life’s big moments, and Small Packages makes that possible.
Right now, Small Packages is catered to the women and women-identifying demographic, did you intend to expand your audience?
We might! Right now we’re focused on a female-identifying audience as recipients of Small Packages, but it’s also a great resource for men who are trying to find the right gift to send to women in their lives, like a mother or sister. We’ve received a lot of feedback from guys that our Birthday boxes have made them look like a hero, when they weren’t at all sure what to pick out.
Can you tell us what challenges have you faced in starting your business and how you overcame that?
I think the challenge for a lot of product-based businesses is finding the necessary capital to get started. There’s an immediate wall in front of you: if you don’t have the $X you need to purchase your first round of inventory and supplies, you just can’t get started. You can’t ramp up slowly, like a services-based business, because there are (usually pretty substantial) order minimums for everything you need to purchase.
I decided to tackle it two different ways: a friends and family round of investment, and a crowdfunding campaign. I think they really serve two different purposes. Friends and family are investing more in you, in your track record and what they know about your work ethic and creativity. Crowdfunding still relies heavily on your network to get the word out, but if you structure your rewards right, they can act as pre-orders. This lets you know whether people are interested in the product before it ever hits the market, and guarantees your first round of customers. If the campaign is a success, it’s also a great proof of concept for later fundraising.
I used iFundWomen to do our crowdfunding campaign, and I can’t say enough good things about it. There’s a real infrastructure in place there, one that’s centered on the founder and what you need, and that seriously makes all the difference. So often, those of us who are cheerleaders for others and have these huge goals for ourselves tend to forget that we really need support and encouragement too. iFundWomen definitely has that in spades, and they also have all the practical tools (like video production assistance, for instance...that’s a seriously big one, since a professional-looking video is a game-changer in crowdfunding).
What’s next for you, Julie?
I’m really interested in finding more ways to build the community element of Small Packages. I feel excited about what we’ve built so far, with removing this barrier to sending love, and I’d like to explore other ways to extend that, so that we could be more full service in helping people maintain their connections.
Interview by Chary