STARTUP OF THE WEEK: Stashbox
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It’s time to admit it, oh glorious denizens of the 21st century, we are some lazy folks.
Organic snacks come in a subscription box. Makeup comes in a subscription box. Meals for the month, meals for the night — heck, even suit coats and razors come straight to our doorsteps these days. So why not smoking gear, too?
That’s what Natasha Irizarry thought when she moved out to Colorado with co-founder DJ Shott to develop Stashbox.
Stashbox is a $30 monthly subscription service that brings a box of 5-7 personalized lifestyle products, valued anywhere from $55 to $120 per box, directly to the doorsteps of marijuana lovers across all 50 states.
Stashbox is ancillary in the industry, meaning they don’t handle or distribute any products that actually contain the marijuana flower. But they do distribute fun accessories, snacks, smoking devices and personal care products, so long as they are legal in the state.
Marijuana subscription boxes aren’t exactly new — a quick peek at Hello Subscription shows about 18 active subscriptions, many that only service California. But Irizarry said Stashbox is different. The company relies heavily on data they collect from their customers to tailor each box to each customer.
“We are a data company,” Irizarry said. “The first product is the box.”
When customers sign up for Stashbox, they fill out a short survey. They answer questions about gender, location, income and how they like to consume their cannabis — they don’t want to send rolling papers to someone who exclusively uses glass or vice versa.
The Stashbox team then feeds the data to an algorithm to determine what goes in which box.
“We want to be able to understand people, but for it not to feel like a chore to them,” Irizarry said.
Stashbox provides many opportunities for subscribers to personalize their experience, and in so doing, expand the company’s ever-growing data set. Irizarry said her team would never sell the data, instead using it to better understand each subscriber and characteristics of marijuana users nationwide.
Just as Stashbox enables cannabis lovers to test out an array of products on the cheap, so too does it function as a marketing platform for brands. Companies can get their products out to an audience that, through the power of data, will likely be receptive to them.
Since it is illegal to market cannabis-related products on more traditional platforms, like Facebook or through the mail, Stashbox can put cannabis companies’ products in front of an audience, if only by sticking a branded item in the box.
And people are 60 percent more likely to buy a product once they touch it, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Not all of the products that go into Stashboxes are made expressly for weed. Boxes sometimes contain personal hygiene products, snacks, storage containers and other items made by companies outside of the industry. Irizarry hopes that by demonstrating to these other companies that they can successfully market to marijuana consumers, it will open up a new vertical for them and help to legitimize the pot industry.
This advertising is part of what brings Stashbox revenue: Including an item in the box is like an ad-spot. In addition, the company is working on partnering with brands to build out content in the form of photos, videos, blog posts, etc.
And Stashbox has begun sending what they call enterprise boxes to head shops, too.
“People consume weed differently,” Irizarry said. “So head shops in Charlotte should not be the same as head shops in Boulder, but they are.”
By sending these businesses boxes full of brands cannabis users in their areas actually want, the Stashbox team hopes to gradually broaden the world’s perspective of cannabis users.
So who are these all these cannabis users subscribing to Stashbox?
About 85 percent of the 4,000 registered users are women. Most of those women fall between the ages of 32 and 44 and make, on average, $86,000 per year. These women, Irizarry believes, represent an undervalued force in the cannabis industry, both as consumers and entrepreneurs.
And Irizarry is no stranger to challenges facing women in cannabis and tech and those facing female entrepreneurs more generally.
Now 30, Irizarry launched her career working in UX, or user experience, for companies like OKCupid and Ally Bank. But she has long harbored a passion for marijuana. She uses it to relieve symptoms of lupus, with which she was diagnosed in 2010. Aside from her chronic illness, Irizarry is also a single mother of three.
Those factors alone may seem challenging enough to some, but they didn’t stop Irizarry from moving out to Colorado with co-founder Shott to make her dream a reality.
In November 2015, the pair applied for Canopy, a cannabis industry accelerator out of Boulder. In mid-January, Irizarry’s mother died. Two days later, Stashbox was accepted into Canopy.
Thereafter, in addition to operating the early stages of Stashbox, working full-time for her former job, mothering three children and coping with the death of her mother, Irizarry had to take the plunge into a fast-paced accelerator.
“Anytime I feel a challenge, that’s what pulls me out of my depression,” Irizarry said. “My mom dying wasn’t a challenge — it stopped my whole world. It was so much more than a challenge.”
Perhaps it’s that gumption that would attract the attention of an undisclosed Angel investor who gave the company $1.15 million in total funding.
After fighting off a bout of self-doubt following the offer, Irizarry signed and kickstarted the next stages of Stashbox.
“Instead of being hungry, you have to remember what it feels like to be hungry,” Irizarry said. “And you can’t forget it. Once you do, that’s when it slips.”
For 2017, the Stashbox team is focusing on reducing subscriber turnover and moving Stashbox out of Beta. They are also currently developing a Stashbox-powered AI named Jane. Jane will use the data Stashbox has collected to function as a marijuana tour-guide for those new to or visiting Colorado.
As for Irizarry, she hopes to legitimize the cannabis industry and make it more accessible to all.
“I’m going to help this industry become more approachable. I want women my age not to worry about smelling like weed. I want mothers to be able to talk to children about this.”
Founder: Natasha Irizarry, DJ Shott
Founded: December 2014
Launched: May 2016
Funding: $20,000 from Boulder-based Canopy accelerator, $1.15 million from an anonymous angel investor
Office: 3839 Jackson St., Denver
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