A walk along a Martha’s Vineyard beach has doubtless resulted in any number of ideas. But while presumably few of those have had to do with starting a business, it turned out to be the ideal place to brainstorm a luxury-gifting service.
The Vineyard was the site of a family vacation for Eric and Karen Wright and their son, Justin. Karen had spent much of her career in the education field, including serving as director of development at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and New York University. She also ran gift service Fancy Baskets for 16 years. Justin had focused on sales and business development primarily in the food and beverage sector.
“I have a hanging on my refrigerator that says, ‘Build your own dream, or someone else will hire you to build theirs,’ ” Karen recalled. “What Justin and I decided was to do both, together.”
The result is BlkBox, curated gift presentations designed to, in her words, tell a story, connect people and build relationships.
“Anybody can go to a store, pick up a few things and put them in a gift box,” Karen, co-founder and CEO, said. “We want to take that to the next level, to help people really connect.”
“Corporate gift-giving is a $120 billion industry,” Justin, co-founder and COO, added. “We did our research and found that there are not two people like us doing things like this — a black-owned business run by a mother-and-son team.”
The third member of the Danbury-based organization, sales and marketing director Ben Simpkins, is a longtime friend and former Rollins College roommate of Justin’s.
“He was in it from day one,” Justin said. The longtime equestrian, breeder and designer “helped come up with the name and spelling as well as our logo, which is similar to what Rolls-Royce has.”
The boxes come in two varieties: one with pre-selected items around a particular theme and the other personally curated by the Wrights.
The first category ranges from the $80 “Luxuriously Lemon” — containing shea butter hand and body lotion, scented room spray, a soy wax candle, triple-milled hand soap and a card with the sender’s personal message — to the $200 “Gentleman’s Edition,” featuring a cedar-lined cigar case, cutter, cigar, bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch, a whiskey-themed card deck, gourmet nuts and a personal-message card.
That the cigar is a John Starks #3 Signature Series Maduro is no coincidence. The one-time New York Knicks star (who wore No. 3 on his basketball uniform) invited the Wrights to officially open their operation at an Oct. 6, 2019, pop-up event.
“We thought, ‘It’s now or never,’ ” Karen laughed. “The opportunity to showcase what we were doing to NBA (National Basketball Association) all-stars and business professionals was too good to pass up.”
BlkBox’s personally curated option involves sending an email query, after which one of the Wrights responds to determine the recipient’s age, interests and general tastes.
“What do they like when it comes to food, travel, music?” Justin said. “We try to find out as much as we can, like we’re putting it together for one of our own best friends.”
Turnaround time can range from “a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the gift,” he continued. “It all depends on what we’re looking for and what goes into procuring it.”
Business has been strong — the holiday shopping season was “amazing, beyond our goals,” Karen said — and has relied on word-of-mouth, social media and some email marketing.
Connections like Starks and Bethel-born jazz flautist Sherry Winston help as well. The latter has developed a cookbook that includes one of her CDs that the Wrights expect to make a centerpiece of one of their future boxes.