Money Talks with Catherine & Gabi from blankbox
Another Monday Money Series feature and we are so excited! This week we are introducing Catherine and Gabi, the founders of blankbox. Two college friends & former, as they would say, “finance enthusiasts” set out on an entrepreneurial adventure and haven’t looked back!
When Catherine and Gabi saw a niche that needed to be filled, they went for it and started blankbox. A company that provides beautifully designed, “ready–to-gift” boxes that solve all of your ugly cardboard box needs. Whether you are sending a gift to a friend or simply bringing a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, (yes- we tested ourselves and it fits a bottle of wine perfectly!), blankbox is the answer. Self-funded and networking superstars, these two are girl boss goals, and we are so excited to share their story. Check them out at any of the below:
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Catherine: Patience is key and things don’t happen overnight. Also on the note of patience, it’s important to stay positive. I firmly believe that you get in the world what you put out, so if you keep a positive mindset, things will work out in the end.
Gabi: Being an entrepreneur is equal parts about having a relevant, well done product and building your personal brand as founders. It’s not enough to just have an amazing product if nobody knows who you are. Building that network is like another full time job (a fun one!) but involves a lot of networking, events, meeting people, and cultivating those relationships just like any others. Depending on who you are and your personality, it can be tempting to go home and work in silence every night, or meet with different people/attend networking events 5 times a day - you need to find the balance that works for you but also benefits your business.
What’s your best advice for someone wanting to start their own business that might be hesitant or scared?
Catherine: If you’ve done your research and feel in your gut that you have a sound business idea/plan...just go for it. Gabi and I debated for months “when’s the perfect day to launch” and the answer is there isn’t one. We ended up choosing a random Monday and went for it. Best Monday ever.
Gabi: There’s never going to be a day when you aren’t scared. Starting a business is like having a child...you’re constantly thinking about it, thinking you could be doing more, etc. But think to yourself: what is the worst that could happen? That’s really what helped me go for it. When you consider that vs. the upside of the best that could possibly happen, it gets easier to visualize.
What is your favorite thing about working for yourself? What is your least favorite?
Catherine: Favorite - making our own schedules, decisions, and being part of the female founder community. Least - trekking to the post office to mail out orders, no matter the weather! (the life of a self-funded entrepreneur is very glamorous…)
Gabi: Favorite - setting your own priorities. Each week or month or day, you get to decide what the most important priority is for you - and then spend your time doing that. Least favorite - the flip side of that it occupies your headspace 24/7 - there’s no benefit of “leaving it at the door” when you go home at night.
What is one accomplishment from being an entrepreneur that you are most proud of?
Catherine: Making the decision to launch the business in general and the positive reaction we get from people when they see and hear about our product.
Gabi: What Catherine said, but also teaching yourself new skills. With other jobs, you tend to get segmented into a particular skill set; being a self-funded entrepreneur you have to learn a lot of different skills quickly.
What is your best piece of “money advice” to your younger self?
Catherine: To my pre-college self - get a job other than babysitting. I think it’s a shame high-schools don’t teach students about taxes and personal finance so having a real job (one that requires W4’s and W2’s is a good starting point).
Gabi: Get a credit card! Debit cards do nothing to build your credit, and you get no benefits of spending (i..e. points). I didn’t get my own credit card until I was 25, so being new to credit has hurt my credit score relative to what it could be. Other than that, stop shopping so much. Quality > quantity.
If you were to track your expenses for the week, what would we see as one of your biggest guilty pleasures?
Catherine: On a regular basis, it would be buying lunch or ordering seamless. I do not enjoy cooking so grocery shopping and meal prep is a challenge for me. One of my 2019 personal finance goals was to cut down on lunch, seamless & coffee spends. I’ve done a great job eliminating the coffee runs (my office has free coffee so not sure why I was paying roughly $3.48/day 4-5x a week last year at Starbucks so I’ll blame it on the ‘routine’), but since Jan 1, 2019 I’ve only spent $18.62 on coffee, which is only $1.22 more than one week of coffee in 2018 (scary, I know!). A great way to track expenses is through mint or clarity money apps. I also us the ‘spending’ app, which forces you to manually input something every time you spend money which sounds painful, but it’s effective in forcing you to think twice before you senseless spend.
Gabi: Starbucks. I actually like the taste of my own homemade better, but like Catherine said it’s become so ingrained in my routine that I do it anyways.
What’s one money habit you are wanting to break?
Catherine: Buying lunch everyday.
Gabi: I tend to “save” in chunks. Like, I won’t transfer a dime for 3 months to savings, and then I’ll transfer $5k. I want to get more regular and automated with saving so it’s one less thing I need to remember to do.
How did you learn about finances in relation to your business? What about your personal life?
Catherine: I worked in finance before starting blankbox so the day-to-day operations and financial aspect of the business comes pretty easily; but, filing our first years' taxes is a learning curve and requires professional assistance. In terms of personal life,I love to read and learn, so all my habits are self-taught. I subscribe to Money magazine and it’s one of my favorite resources. Smartasset.com is pretty good too.
Gabi: Same with Catherine, I worked in finance prior to starting blankbox so have a strong understanding of those concepts. Unlike Catherine, I would rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than read a finance self-help book. My parents always ingrained in me to never spend more than you have, so I’m conscious of that in my personal life and maintaining a healthy savings for my “later-in-life” priorities. For other personal finance concepts like investing, I take the advice of people I trust.
Favorite day of the week?
Favorite restaurant in NYC?
Catherine: Ilili in Flatiron.
Gabi: Upland in Flatiron.
The one thing you can’t live without?
Gabi: Time alone. And bagels.
Favorite place you’ve ever travelled?
Catherine: Berlin, Germany.
Gabi: Grand Cayman
Currently binging or reading?
Catherine: Currently reading - The Lean Startup by Eric Reis and The Winter Sister by Megan Collins; Binging: I just finished The Ted Bundy Tapes & Assassination of Gianni Versace on Netflix so I need something new… taking any and all suggestions.
Gabi: Reading: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter ; Binging: Law and Order SVU, always.