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Decorator Sees Subscription Box Model as Opportunity

Subscription boxes have struck a chord with the purchasing public. There’s something undeniably appealing about receiving a present in the mail each month – especially when it's filled with a curated collection of cool surprises. At this point, the subscription box trend has enough traction to warrant its own trade group, complete with annual conference. A blog dedicated to the industry, My Subscription Addiction, lists nearly 3,000 active subscription services in its directory, in categories ranging from food and wine to fashion and beauty. And about 5.7 million consumers are subscribing to these services, according to market research firm Hitwise.

Carlo Oviedo, chief revenue officer of Chicago-based Culture Studio (asi/700559), thinks the decorated-apparel industry is a perfect fit for this growing business model. That’s why, last year, he launched SelfMade, a monthly subscription box of trendy branded apparel. “I came up with the idea because I was personally signed up with a monthly subscription box of apparel,” Oviedo says. “We’re always trying to come up with new and innovative ideas and add value for our customers.”

What sets SelfMade apart from other fashion-focused subscription boxes is personalization: Each item is branded with the customer’s logo. Subscribers get a steady stream of fresh self-branded apparel and hard goods that they can either use themselves or give away to their own clients, Oviedo says. And, if they fall in love with a particular item, they can easily order a full production run, he adds.

Most entrepreneurs and small-business owners know the value of branding and how important merch can be. However, few have time to devote to getting it right. “They want new ideas, but it’s fifth on their priority list,” Oviedo says. “Our team takes the thinking out of it for entrepreneurs. We stick with the trends and curate boxes in advance. … It’s consistent product development and pitching them new ideas.”

Each SelfMade box is stocked with two or three items. February’s edition featured a branded coffee mug, a flannel shirt and a beanie. A previous box that included a branded lightweight bomber jacket was particularly well-received, Oviedo says. The subscription service costs $99 a month and includes free shipping.

Right now, SelfMade has 20 subscribers and is already making a small profit, according to Oviedo. The model works because Culture Studio handles all of the decorating and “can do small runs and control margins,” he adds. It’s still early days for SelfMade, as far as Oviedo is concerned: “I think this is something we’re going to scale.”

This isn’t the first company in the decorated-apparel industry to experiment with subscription boxes. Last year, decorating supplies company Stahls’ created Project Press It, a monthly box that includes materials and educational info for various heat-printing projects.