Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Puil, founder and CEO of BOXT, located in Austin, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
BOXT is a female-founded and run, direct-to-consumer winery handcrafting its wines in Napa, CA, with operations in Austin, TX. BOXT is a first-of-its-kind luxury wine experience with a blending approach that relies on taste, not varietal. We deliver our wines directly to members every month in sleek, environmentally-conscious packaging. BOXT Club Members receive their first shipment in a beautiful compostable and reusable wooden BOXT, and recurring shipments arrive in an eco-friendly wine tote refill, reducing carbon footprint and helping to save the planet from single-use waste. BOXT is out to simplify fine wine with an environment-first ethos that changes the way we all enjoy a glass at home.
Our customers want a wine they know they are going to love every single time, without having to play bottle roulette at the market. They have busy lives and just want a gorgeous, delicious glass that's also hassle and guilt-free. Our wines are vegan-friendly, with no added sugar or unwanted ingredients, and all eight of our wines are on tap, so members can pour as much or as little wine as they want without wasting a drop.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up traveling, and in my early 20s, I took a trip with my Dad to Chile, where we visited Vina Santa Rita. I fell in love with the vineyard and listening to the winemaker. Let me tell you, he just opened up a whole new world to me that I just had to know more about. I've been learning about wine ever since. Everywhere I travel, I visit wineries and vineyards and talk to winemakers. I got my inspiration for BOXT while sitting in a cafe in Paris with my husband. I loved how easy it was to get a delicious house wine all over Europe, but whenever I tried to find one in the states, the experience just underwhelmed and frustrated me.
Around that time, I had been invited to be an entrepreneur in residence at Next Coast Ventures in Austin, Texas. During my time with NCV, I was ideating across a bunch of EDTech and new media ideas, and I was asked to think about where my interests, experience, and aptitude all intersected AND if I had ever had an idea, however small, that I wish I had done something with. I remembered the idea I'd had in Paris, and my mentors at NCV really encouraged me to dig in on it - and that was BOXT.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
On the outside, it looks like we're just making wine in a pretty BOXT, but what we're doing is so much more. We're working to change exclusivity and language equity through the dynamic of wine. We're not just educating people about why they like the wine they like, but how to talk about it in a way that is natural to them and that makes sense. In essence, we're helping people use their voice around personal preferences and choices, showing them how to stand up for what they want and resonate with instead of just going with what their partner or friend likes or what's trending.
And as I mentioned before, we're working to change the environmental responsibility of the wine industry from the inside out. I sit on several wine-related boards, and the conversation I push is about sustainability, climate change, and how wineries and vineyards can contribute more to the solution. Every single day we're talking about our environmental impact, and we are continually hard at work refining the ways that BOXT can further reduce our carbon footprint and provide a luxury experience for our members. The continued investor support, along with our growing membership base, tells me that we're on the right track as BOXT changes the way we all drink a glass at home while offering a hassle-free and environmentally-conscious fine wine experience directly to consumers. Ready to tap in? Use code GOSOLO for $10 off your first Club BOXT.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Creating a company from scratch is always going to bring challenges and obstacles, but I see them as ways to learn and grow and do better. I subscribe to the "fail fast and iterate" process - there are no mistakes, just things you learn - because sometimes you just don't know how it will work until you do a thing. Everything is hard when it's new until one day, you've done it enough times, learned enough, and tweaked it enough that it's not hard anymore. Every mico moment informs our path to growth.
For example, In the first months of shipping, we were testing out different packing materials. We spent weeks literally dropping and kicking our shipping boxes to test their strength. We tried a dozen things and went with biodegradable peanuts. We were so proud of their compostability and reduced weight while shipping, but then summer hit. We use ice packs to keep our wine cold, and the water coming from the packs melts our peanuts. Our gorgeous BOXT was now swaddled in mush. We have a great relationship with our customers, they'd been with us since the very beginning, and they were able to have a sense of humor with us about the whole thing. We could have seen that as a mistake, but it taught us a lot about our own process and how valuable our communication with our customers is.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Go for it. One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a lead investor. He heard my idea and told me to stop thinking of new ones and just do it now.
- Keep it simple. Solutions should be simple.
- Believe. Hone your idea, get feedback, find mentors, get grounded, and have a plan. You don't have to have everything figured out. You can iterate to great but make informed decisions quickly. Details matter, and when you don't know, ask. The most important thing is to believe in your idea, find others who believe in it and want to take this journey with you, keep asking questions, keep iterating toward greatness, and dive in.
Where can people find you and your business?
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