Women-Owned Small Business Entrepreneur Series // Michelle Sholund of My Staycation Box

My Staycation Box was founded by Michelle Sholund and delivers travel themed care packages to your doorstep, and if you love to travel this is a great way to experience another place without leaving your home. They offer multiple choices of destination themed boxes and you can simply choose which one you would like to visit.  Each box is made up of regionally made gifts for all five senses.
 
My Staycation Box is such a unique concept and I love Michelle’s advise about starting a business.  It definitely can feel overwhelming and she talks about dividing up tasks into smaller pieces.  I have this motto this year that “baby steps are still steps.”  You want and are going to have larger goals but sometimes they can feel difficult to accomplish, but breaking up and meeting the smaller goals it will help you to obtain those larger ones and make you feel a sense of accomplishment and motivated to hit that larger goal.
 
Be sure to visit the My Staycation Box website and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. My Staycation Box was also recently featured on a local TV program, so be sure to watch the video at the end of the interview to learn more (or find it on Youtube.)
 
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 40, married to my wonderful husband Mark for 15 years, have two dogs – both King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, love to travel (when possible) and a big foodie – love to cook and try new foods.
 
What does your business do?
My Staycation Box is a travel themed care package aimed at helping those who would like to travel more, but can’t drop everything and go. The company offers multiple boxes where each one is based on a popular travel destination ranging from Greece to Key West. Each box contains 6-8 regionally made products from that destination touching on all 5 senses making it a fun immersive vacation experience. Also a postcard insert is included in every box with a suggestion as to how one can plot their staycation using the products throughout the day.
 
My Staycation Box | A vacation in a box delivered to your doorstep! |https://www.mystaycationbox.com/

 (photo courtesy of Michelle Sholund)

 
Who is your target audience or market?
Basically the idea behind the business stemmed from when my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that metastasized in her bone and all she wanted to do was to go on a vacation and get away from her treatments. At the same time I wanted to give her a truly thoughtful gift – nothing pink as it seemed like a reminder of her illness, flowers but they just wilt and are expensive, a gift basket of toiletries seemed to send the wrong message… When nothing seemed right, I created my own care package based on fond memories of family members sending us care packages from various places. Since starting, we’ve found people who struggle with fitting traveling within their budget, busy parents, seniors/grandparents in assisted living homes or recouping from ailments, those battling cancer or have medical issues, a couple looking to spice up date night or give a unique anniversary or birthday gift.
 
What year did you start your business? 
2016
 
What were you doing before starting your business? 
I was (and am still running) another business called By the Bay Botanicals – a candle manufacturing company that specializes in 100% palm wax candles, and additional scented products. Each fragrance is named after and inspired by a different popular travel destination. The scented gifts are sold via online, corporate order and wholesale as well as offering private label and custom candle options too.
 
Where is your business located? Do you have a dedicated workspace?
The business is located in Reisterstown, MD just outside of Baltimore, MD. The work space is located in my home workshop for now, but as the business grows will probably expand to a nearby office space.

 (photo courtesy of Michelle Sholund)
 
What would you say your biggest success has been? What was the key action that led to this success?
Just this week I am going to be on a local tv news show for an interview regarding the business. This is huge as we have always wanted to get some press but have been unsuccessful. What helped gained this opportunity was just watching and researching local news shows, liking their facebook pages and engaging with them via FB in a genuine way. I thank social media for this as it really helps open more doors that were much harder to do years ago.
 
What would you say your biggest failure has been?
My biggest failure is laughable because failure is inevitable when one is an entrepreneur. You don’t have the answers to everything which means mistakes will happen. How fast you bounce back determines how you resilient you can be as an entrepreneur. One failure that stands out the most was back when I was trying to figure out what to call the business. It was originally called Aroma Getaway, to me it made sense, but when it came to talking to people about it, they didn’t get it. When you have to explain what the box is for five minutes, you’re doing it wrong. The answer came when I listened to the feedback, where after 5 minutes of explaining what the business is the other person says, “oh, you mean it isn’t an essential oils box but more like a staycation…” I nodding eagerly. The light bulb went off – Michelle!, you’re offering a vacation in a box, but the vacation is brought to them – hence you need to use the word “staycation” in the name. The result is after 6 months of being Aroma Getaway I had to rebrand and relaunch the business. The switch was a big undertaking, but it was the best mistake because the alternative would have been closing shop and eventually would have regretting quitting knowing if I just made one change I could have been successful.
 
What did you learn from this failure and how have you changed things to prevent this from happening again?
The take away is always ask for feedback and do research – this is sweat equity many investors – including your customers, are looking for you to do on your own. Feedback from your actual customers is far different and more genuine than feedback from your peers. To get that feedback, don’t be afraid to ask.
 
What has been your biggest challenge as a small business owner?
The hardest part being a business owner is managing everything and it is all on you. You wear the marketing hat, website design hat, social media marketing hat, etc. and it is hard not being able to not bounce off ideas onto other people. It can be isolating.
 
Was there ever a point where you wanted to give up? If so, why?
Sure! It is easy to take everything personally. One bad review can really get under your skin. Anything negative makes you question everything to the point you may wonder if it is all worth it or whether you are doing the right thing. But then you soon realize these are normal things that happen with all businesses. There is not one business that has only had 5 star reviews and gets it right 100% of the time. There will be bad days, but they pass.
 
What do you love MOST about being an entrepreneur?
Knowing I had a hand in putting a smile on a person’s face because something I created made a difference in their life.
 
What do you love LEAST about being an entrepreneur? 
The rollercoaster ride. Each day you get on an “invisible rollercoaster” and while it looks like you know where it is going, often it changes without a moments notice. Every day that ride has big highs and even lows. The highs feel amazing, like a mountain peak experience and that this is what you are meant to do – being an entrepreneur is great. But more often you experience way more lows – running out of money, missed opportunities that feels like you will never have “this amazing opportunity every again”, or people you are depending on dropping the ball when it comes to doing the job right the first time costing you money and/or wasted time down the road. At the end of the day it is about the journey – it shapes you, but the lows leading to low confidence is what I like the least about being an entrepreneur.
 
How have you funded your business? How long has it taken you to see a profit? 
The business is self funded and have used one credit card to help with other expenses until we’ve reached profitability. My Staycation Box started as a subscription box where the first box offering was funded by pre-sales. Since the business has gone through rebranding and hit a few financial snags regarding scammers, it is close to profitability. Since we recently moved away from the subscription model, offering all of the themed boxes all the time, we see this as a more profitable opportunity for the business to grow where this summer the business will finally be in the black.
 
My Staycation Box | A vacation in a box delivered to your doorstep! |https://www.mystaycationbox.com/
 (photo courtesy of Michelle Sholund)
 
Did you always see yourself owning a business? If so, is this the business that you thought you would be owning? If not, what did you think you’d be doing? 
I have always wanted to own my own business from the time I learned how to do elaborate, handmade pine cone wreaths when in 6th grade to earn money to buy Christmas gifts. Despite going to college and working 9-5 in the industry I really liked, I always hoped that it would lead to me owning my own business. I always wanted to own and run my own cute gift shop on a Main Street location. I did achieve this dream between 2014-2016, when I expanded my candle manufacturing business to a retail location. However things that were out of control, like my mom getting the news she had a terminal form of cancer plus issues with the landlord of the retail location lead to closing the retail location, but still keeping the business open – it turned my world upside down. But through all this chaos My Staycation Box was founded and I wasn’t even looking to start another business, but so glad I did. It is very hard to imagine not overseeing My Staycation Box, but if I wasn’t I most likely would be working in some area of the souvenir/retail industry.
 
Where do you see your business in the next 3 to 5 years?
I see the business growing on a steady level both with increase in sales and offering more destination themed boxes. One long term goal is to work with entities in the hospitality industry – hotels, casinos, resorts creating custom boxes for them to better reach and retain their customers like with offering themed boxes like a VIP box or Welcome Box. The boxes would be entirely customizable from the box design using photos and logos to the products which would include hyper locally made gifts and the entities promotional materials.

My Staycation Box | A vacation in a box delivered to your doorstep! |https://www.mystaycationbox.com/
 (photo courtesy of Michelle Sholund)
 
What advice would you give to other women that are interested in starting their own business?
I think the best advice is to remember you are only one person and you can only be in one place at one time. I often get lost and overwhelmed with seeing the big tasks and not knowing where to start and end up just not starting. To over come this I have to divide the tasks into bite size pieces so you can achieve little goals that eventually lead to finishing the big goal. This has helped me when designing my own website to managing social media accounts.
 
What is one program, tool or app that you can’t live without for your business? (If you have more than one, please feel free to share more!)
My MOST FAVORITE APP is Canva/canva.com. I have been using it for 3 years and it is free for the most part. The app gives you the ability to custom all kinds of designs from email headers to logos, social media posts to presentations and so much more with pre-made template suggestions or your can create your own from scratch. They have huge library of hundreds of thousands of photos and shapes, unique text with great fonts, and more or you can upload your own photos and designs. I use it to design headers for my website, social media posts for Instagram and Facebook, and much more. Can’t live with out it.
 
What does your day to day in your business look like?
Typically mornings are devoted to computer work – answering emails, ordering products, tweaking the website, managing social media posts and engaging with customers/groups on social media, etc. Come the afternoon I am usually working in the workshop filling orders, taking inventory, organizing stock. My company hours end at 4:00 so I can take orders to the post office and run any errands at that time. I do attend 2-3 networking events a month which typically occur at a happy hour time or lunch time.
 
As a business owner it can often be hard to find time for ourselves. What are your favorite hobbies and what do you like to do when you are not working?
I try to go out to lunch once a week and just enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant and savor each bite. I do like playing role play computer games – it’s a great stress reliever to “hunt down bad guys” picturing them as annoying people you encounter in your business. I also am finding taking walks – especially walking my dogs for 30 mins, when I find I am in need of a break works wonders and gets a bit of exercise in too.
 
My Staycation Box | A vacation in a box delivered to your doorstep! |https://www.mystaycationbox.com/

 (photo courtesy of Michelle Sholund)

Check out the video feature with Michelle and My Staycation Box on BMORE Lifestyle here:

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Thank you so much to Michelle for taking the time to share her story and more about her business with us.  Remember to check out her website and also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Are you a small business owner?  Do you have a story to share?  Help others discover, learn, and support your business too!  Contact Katie at: kate (at) busybeekate.com for details or through our contact page.
Be sure to stop back next week for another interview and don’t forget to check out our past interviews here.
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