Last year, Patrice Bradley, founder and CEO of Swim Creative, went to hang out with some friends at Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth’s Lincoln Park, and she left with something unexpected – a new offshoot to add to her marketing strategy company.
On that evening, Bradley bumped into Dirk Meyer, who in 2016 along with Paula Polasky launched MinnBox, a subscriber service that delivered hyper-green, locally made products. She asked how the new venture was going. Turns out, it no longer was.
When she first heard of MinnBox, Bradley had been taken with the idea of promoting Minnesota products through a regularly delivered sampler. After her conversation with Meyer, she said, “I just kept thinking about it. That would be a really good vertical business for Swim.”
To her marketing mind, the boxes could become an extension of the services they provided clients – giving them a chance to send their products around, get their names on social media and find new customers.
She worked out the details with Meyer and Polasky and bought out the MinnBox brand late summer 2018. Bradley was confident that MinnBox could thrive … and take the products featured along with it.
“With our marketing chops, we can quickly pull that business back into the success column,” she recalled thinking. “Why not give local, Minnesota companies the opportunity to share in its success?”
Once she bought MinnBox, all Bradley had to do was find multiple Minnesota products to fill up boxes and subscribers to which she could send them. Piece of cake – or rather, boxes of Burgess Family Sugarhouse maple syrup, HomespunTrades fleece blankets, pine-scented candles by Woodchuck USA plus books by Minnesota author Douglas Wood.
By Christmas, the Swim Creative team had pulled together a winter gift box that could be purchased for corporate or personal giving.
A survey of past MinnBox subscribers revealed a few insights about the potential customers: Local, Minnesota products were the N o. 1 reason they subscribed; most subscribers wanted more bath and beauty products; and most, while enjoying the surprise of not knowing what would arrive, liked the idea of themed boxes. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, those surveyed were happy to hear MinnBox was back.
In the rebranding of what the Swim team calls “a curated encounter with Minnesota culture,” the new MinnBox will retain its Minnesota-based business to focus with an emphasis on sustainable and green products, though it won’t eschew the occasional plastic part on certain items. The products are also chosen to be more gender neutral, rather than items mostly for women.
Putting a MinnBox together means more than finding a few Minnesota-based wares. “It’s size, shape, quality, what it looks like, what the user experience is,” said Bradley. “It’s quite a puzzle.”
The boxes are assembled in Swim Creative’s offices on the second floor of the building at 310 E. Superior St.
Swim Creative already has contacted more than 200 Minnesota vendors about products that might work in the box. Swim clients, though, are first on their list of potentials, and they’ve been able to feature products like Mike & Jen’s Cocoa Mix, one of their Duluth clients, in the box. “We’re going to put in our clients, building Swim and MinnBox at the same time.”
The boxes are sent to subscribers, but also to chosen social media influencers. The products are promoted on the MinnBox.com website and on Facebook, Instagram and other social media.
Currently a MinnBox subscription runs $55 per box, of which one arrives every other month. The Swim Creative crew also plans specialty boxes for a higher one-time price. Right now they are working on a Lumberjack Box with a variety of woodsy products, such as a Paul Bunyan and Babe pair of candles in glass containers that can become drinking glasses, a plaid muffler from Bemidji Woolen Mills, a Sven-Saw and beard oil.
You never know what might be in the box, Bradley noted, but she has no doubt you’ll be pleased at what Minnesota creates.
“What you get in your box are products that you never would have known about, never would have tried, that you’ll fall in love with. … It’s all about delight.”