Wouldn’t it be great if you could receive amazing Black owned brands in the mail each month? Well, Ujamaa Box has you covered! Ujamaa Box is a curated collection of distinctive product samples and special promotional offers, exclusively from Black owned businesses. We chatted with the founder, Ebony Costain. This is what she had to say:
SB: What was the inspiration behind Ujamaa Box and why a subscription box, specifically?
EC: Towards the end of 2013 I would often hear my coworkers talk about subscription services that they were members of. I never knew about the subscription box craze prior to hearing them talk about it. I subscribed to a few and noticed the lack of subscriptions that catered to women of color and also product that came exclusively from the Black business community.
Around the same time, social injustice after social injustice began to occur. I was disenchanted with my position in corporate America and wanted to make an impact in my community. The subscription box model is a very sustainable business model if done right. You’re beginning each month with hundreds of customers, opposed to starting at customer number one.
SB: How easy or difficult is it to source cost effective items for your boxes?
EC: Having a background in negotiations and growing such a supportive subscription base makes sourcing a task I’m able to execute fairly well.
I provide an undeniable service to businesses that I’m hustling for, and I say that because I work very hard for the businesses that we feature.
We offer a service to both our customers and to the businesses and I leverage accordingly. But one thing that I would love to have similar to other “mainstream” subscription boxes like a Birch Box, is corporate sponsorship. I think it would be amazing to have someone like The Root become a sponsor.
SB: You and your husband recently attended the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You are also donors. What does the presence of the museum meant to you?
EC: The location alone with the backdrop of the National Monument speaks volumes to the rights and rewards that we’re deserved as a people who built this country. It’s a beautiful display of our history told by us.
It’s a national treasure. I’m planning to take my daughter, Stokely to the museum in February for her birthday and I have plans to visit alone in March. I look forward to spending the entire day there.
SB: In February of this year, you made the transition from working a nine to five job to being a full time entrepreneur. What was the most challenging part of the transition and how do you address it?
EC: The most challenging part was getting the courage to actual do it. I had put in close to two years of planning and executing the business.
I kept going back to a quote by Paul C. Brunson, “If you only use your after work, on the weekend, and leftover time to pursue your dreams, they will never be reached.”
I think many of us give into the fear of that “consistent” paycheck not being there anymore, and rightfully so. But for me, I could no longer let that be the factor that held me back and kept me at a job that I wasn’t thrilled about, that kept me away from my family, and took me over 100 miles to get to and from. I was willing to make whatever sacrifices it took to make the transition happen.
SB: Do you get many requests from business owners who want their products in your box. What factors do you consider when making your selections?
EC: I do get a fair amount of requests from business owners. I consider how long they’ve been in business, the products they offer, how I want to curate a particular month, logistics, if it’s something my subscribers would get excited about, etc. I’m able to find a good number myself at events and on social media as well.
SB: If you could wake up tomorrow with any superpower, what would it be?
EC: I would like to wake up with the ability to be invisible. It would be the epitome of being a fly on the wall. I don’t know if time travel would be considered a superpower, but I’d like that ability as well.
SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
EC: If you’re really serious about becoming an entrepreneur just become one. It doesn’t always have to lead to a path of full-time self-employment.
Focus on establishing your first 10 customers. Baby steps will eventually lead to bigger steps. The results you arrive to will be based on the efforts you put in.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson
Celebrate the second birthday of Ujamaa Box at their upcoming Anniversary party in DC!