You can get a monthly subscription to just about anything these days, so standing out in the market isn't easy. Lisa Parkin, founder of Uppercase, a young adult book subscription box, knew this and set out to create a monthly box that people couldn't get enough of. Lisa started her project out of her own home, fueled by a love of books and a desire to create something that she loved, and nearly three years later, she's grown her business into a full-fledged, one-of-a-kind monthly box service with thousands of subscribers. Keep reading to find out where her inspiration came from and what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
POPSUGAR: Where did the idea for Uppercase come from?
Lisa Parkin: I've been an avid reader since I was a kid, and for the past five years, I've written reviews about young adult books for my blog Read.Breathe.Relax. After seeing the popularity of subscription boxes for makeup and clothes gain popularity over time, and I started to wonder why isn't there a subscription box for YA books?
I researched the market and discovered there was nothing currently on the market for readers. From there, the idea for Uppercase was born.
PS: What were you doing career-wise when you decided to launch Uppercase?
LP: I had quit my full-time social media coordinator job at a major corporation to try and work for myself as a freelance social media consultant for businesses. I worked for two years trying to build a client base but knew deep down this type of career wasn't for me. The idea for Uppercase came at a time when I was seriously considering trying to re-enter the corporate world — so it was a true gift of perfect timing.
PS: Where did the name Uppercase come from?
LP: I was trying to think of a distinct yet book-related name for the company, and my husband and I were brainstorming everything we could think of. The name Uppercase was the name that stuck because I thought it was memorable and has a classy sound. Plus "case" put me in mind of a package and mail.
PS: What sets Uppercase apart from other subscription boxes?
LP: Uppercase is special for a few reasons. First, I put the quality of the books we send as our very first priority. I receive hundreds and hundreds of advanced copies of books in the mail from publishers every year, and I personally read dozens of books each month to pick the very best book for our boxes. Each one is hand-selected by me personally.
We also include extra content for readers. The authors whose books we choose provide videos and behind-the-scenes content that we incorporate into our one-of-a-kind Reading Experience. This comes in the form of a bookmark that lists out page numbers and corresponding codes. When reaching a page number listed on the bookmark, subscribers can go online to our Reading Experience website and access this exclusive content as well as interact with other Uppercase subscribers. We want readers to feel like they're truly immersed in the story and go to great lengths to make sure the content they're getting is unique and special.
One of the aspects of Uppercase that offers the most value to our subscribers is that we always send signed books. Many YA book fans don't live close enough to meet authors or get their books signed, so sending signed books is a huge priority.
PS: How do you balance Uppercase with running your blog?
LP: It's been extremely challenging to balance running Uppercase with writing a blog with quality content. To be very honest, I've taken an extended break from blogging for the past few months. I'd rather pick one and do it with excellence than do both halfheartedly.
PS: What has been the most challenging part of running Uppercase?
LP: One of the most challenging parts of running Uppercase is managing the current month's packing and shipping while constantly planning and preparing for future months. It's a tough balancing act of staying focused on the current day while planning many months in advance.
It's also challenging running a small business with a very small staff because you wear a lot of hats — you are your own accountant, marketer, advertiser, etc.
PS: How has your business grown and changed since you started?
My first month in business, we had 10 customers who gave us a try. Now, almost three years later, I feel incredibly blessed to have thousands and thousands of amazing subscribers. There have been many challenges managing this growth, but I have a solid team who's been supportive and excited.
We've also adapted as we've grown to offer something special in the marketplace; when we launched, we didn't send signed books or our custom Reading Experience. It's important to adapt as the industry develops to make sure your business stands out.
PS: What advice do you have for young women who might be considering launching their own business?
I would tell young women wanting to launch their own business that it's the toughest but most rewarding experience they'll ever have. Ask as many people as you can for their experience and knowledge and don't be too proud to ask for help when you need it. There are so many great resources out there for female entrepreneurs, so use them to their utmost advantage while you can.
Don't be afraid to test something out and see where it goes. I started very small and worked my way up. Success is not overnight — it takes time, energy, and strategy. When I was debating whether or not to try starting this business, I was reminded of this quote, which truly inspired me to make the leap: "A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for." (John A. Shedd)