Name: Joanna Misunas
Business: Sojourn Box Founded: 2014
As a child, Joanna Misunas loved growing up in sunny Santa Cruz, California. As an adult, Joanna found herself as an ambassador of sorts to her home city, introducing people she met to all the things that make Santa Cruz special. Joanna realised she could capture some of that magic in a Santa-Cruz-inspired gift box. Today, as the founder of Sojourn Box, Joanna spends her days designing, marketing and refining her beautiful boxes filled with geographically specific goods.
What’s the story behind your business?Sojourn Box was inspired by a culmination of things. Firstly, I’ve always loved artisanal goods, beautiful aesthetics and trying new products. Secondly, I got a subscription for a beauty box called Birchbox, which I thought it was a really clever idea. I kept thinking about that subscription box! And thirdly, when I was in acupuncture school, I found myself becoming the go-to source for all things Santa Cruz - telling people where to go and what products to try.
About a week after realising acupuncture wasn’t the path for me, I had the idea for Sojourn Box. My gift boxes contain things like locally made honey or jam, tea, chocolate and body care products. I also include a “local’s guide” to the featured city and a link to a list of top 10 songs related to the city. I guess I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, although I didn’t ever plan to run my own business.
How do you spread the world about Sojourn Box?I sell Sojourn Boxes mostly online. I also love going to artisanal markets, especially during the Christmas season. I’ve dabbled in selling on Etsy too. As Sojourn Box has grown, I’ve cut back on going to shows in favour of fulfilling corporate orders. Companies love giving our boxes to employees, partners and clients. Over time, I’ve found that wholesale isn’t a great fit for my business. I believe in paying fair value to the artisans who create the products, and there isn’t a lot of room for profit in the wholesale approach.
What’s it like to run a locally based company?
I love how Sojourn Box has connected me to business owners and artisans all over California. Since starting Sojourn Box Santa Cruz, I’ve added Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, with more new cities underway. I didn’t anticipate feeling this level of connection and community. It’s like having a family in every city we feature. I find that when I’m stressed out about fulfilling an order, people want to help me. There’s a beautiful symbiosis in working together.
What does a typical day look like for you?Every day is different, and my business changes during each season. Right now, I'm redoing my website. I'm also returning emails about enquiries for Christmas corporate gifting and making sure I'm ordering the specific products for each of these boxes. I need to have the supplies from the artisans to put the orders together. My mind is always going. Even as I'm lying in bed, I'm thinking about what I have to do the next day. As an owner of a small business, I have to wear a tonne of different hats. It can be stressful, but it’s also invigorating.
What do want from a small business community?
I’ve found it’s helpful to compare notes with other business owners. We ask each other what’s working, what isn’t, what systems are best for shipping and how to source materials. Even though we own our own businesses, we can’t get all the answers on our own. The Internet is a helpful resource, but nothing replaces a recommendation from a person you know and trust.
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