CEO Andy Stephenson shaking hands with Richard Branson.
Ahead of the Northern Powerhouse Business Summit, BQ caught up with Andy Stephenson, Founder & CEO of Newcastle-based Weekend Box Club to find out what makes his business tick.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Weekend Box create and deliver inspiration activities for children aged 3-8, delivered through letterboxes across the UK (and now around the world!) in time for the weekend.
Boxes contain a variety of activities to make, bake, explore and more, delivering excitement and surprise in every box.
And what’s your USP? What makes you different; innovative?
We don't just supply arts and craft activities, we always include a variety of different activities in our boxes as this gives families a broad array of things to explore about the world with.
What’s your role in the business; how did you get to where you are now?
I founded the company back in April 2013 and have grown it to where we are today, employing 10 people across two sites in Newcastle. I started making boxes from the bedroom of my shared apartment, sold a few boxes, made some more and we've grown on from there!
How would you describe your business to a novice?
Blue Peter in a box.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I love listening to people and asking them questions on how they got to where they are and how they dealt with issues along the way.
I go to a lot of events like these organised through the Entrepreneurs Forum and always end up taking something from other peoples' experiences.
Having been born and brought up in the South East, I really do feel the business community in the North East is closer and more likely to lend a hand to help other people out, which I love.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Still being here 5 years in! I still pinch myself every now again but I love what I do and feel proud to have created a company that delivers happiness to families across the world and employ great people who also share that passion.
Aside form that, we've had a lot of fun along the way, including being featured on billboards across the nation last year as part of Sage's brand building campaign and being described by Richard Branson in his latest book as "reminding him of his younger self."
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We define success not only as creating a profit but in helping people to develop and in leaving the world a little bit better than how we found it.
This is endemic in our product - our activities boxes create smiles on the faces of children when they arrive through their letterboxes - but is also something that runs through our veins with decisions we make on the business' direction.
What do you like about being based in the North of England?
I love the quality of life! We're really lucky in being able to afford a place to work in the centre of a major city with endless culture, restaurants and things to do on our doorstep.
There's something running through the water in the North East that makes people happy, friendly and willing to get involved, be they locals or adopted Geordies coming out of our universities.
Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?
We see ourselves licensing the business into different countries around the world (something we're already starting to do now) and we also see a great opportunity to launch subscription box businesses for other brands using our existing infrastructure and set up in the North East, particularly in helping charities to find new regular giving donation opportunities.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators?
1. Get started as soon as you can
2. Ask for advice from people but always trust your head/heart
3. Market research is for dummies, selling something is the only validation you need.
4. Sell stories not products
What are you looking forward to about the Northern Powerhouse Business Summit?
A spotlight being shone on the amazing location, people and work of the North East.
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