November 10, 2011
DC startup Umba Box made its first monthly shipment in October, surprising women with lip balm made with distilled herbs, a zipper pouch/glasses case, and hand-dipped beeswax birthday candles. These handmade products were crafted by designers like Stewart & Claire, Herriott Grace, and SevenWhiteRabbits.
You can buy Umba Box packages like this by the month, or prepay for 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscriptions. They contain one or a few women’s products like home goods, accessories, jewelry, stationery, and bath products. Named for the Swahili word meaning “to create,” Umba Box ships to US addresses for $26 per month.
Like other surprise-shipment companies like Lost Crates (stationery) or Birchbox (beauty products), Umba Box will face the challenge of dealing with physical goods.
“We’re trying to find order fulfillment centers that understand our high standard of packaging quality and balance getting subscribers their orders quickly, while still giving the artists ample time to create the products,” says founder Lauren Thorp, who previously worked with Stamp 48 to help creative businesses grow. She is also the wife of HelloWallet’s Justin Thorp.
You can check out the Umba Box blog for a sense of their taste, which they describe as fresh and modern, occasionally vintage, and not overly cutesy or old fashioned. If you don’t like what you receive, you can send it back (at your own cost) and get an extra month free. You can also cancel subscriptions or transfer them to someone else at any time.
To me, the highlight of Umba Box is what comes inside the package: stories about the designers and products, like the following from Tawny Manguerra of Quiet Doing:
I had a science teacher in the sixth grade who changed my life. It was the way she a) made science ridiculously fun, b) always talked about boogers and c) would grade and decorate homework with rubber stamps that both excited me and kick-started my journey to the creative side.
Influenced by her, I purchased my first rubberstamp: the two-part Troll stamp with the crazy hair you could stamp in different colors. Amazing. Rubber stamping awakened paper crafts which eventually developed my hunger to build and sew. Figuring out how to make things and make them work for me (and you!) is the name of my evolution as an artist.
I delight in knowing that the money I spend on independent art supports a positive and notable movement, and I hope you do, too!
Come hear more stories from Umba Box at our Tech Cocktail DC mixer tonight.
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