Sisters Jennifer Bebon and Mari Flicker never planned to start a business together. Each had a successful career — Bebon as a public relations specialist and Flicker as an attorney — but a change in their family’s year-end holiday celebrations put them together on an unexpected business path.
“We come from a really big family in Fairfield,” said Bebon. “Mari and I are part of five children — three boys and two girls — and every single holiday had been at our parents’ house. But they are getting a little bit older, and a couple of years ago Mom said, ‘We are passing the holiday hosting responsibilities on to our five children.’ Naturally, the two of us wound up doing most of it. And we looked at each other and said, ‘My gosh, we have to up our holiday décor game. We are going to be hosting — that is a very big difference from just being here with your family for the meal and the celebration.’”
The sisters wanted their holiday parties to be in a tasteful and stylish environment. But finding holiday decorations that matched their aesthetics proved to be difficult.
“We went online and started researching ‘holiday décor,’ but we couldn’t find anything that was ready-made but upscale and beautiful,” Bebon said. “And we thought, ‘Wow, we’re on to something here.’”
Running concurrent to this brainstorm was the sisters’ concept of moving beyond the typical holiday-themed retail offering for something a bit more contemporary.
“We subscribe to a ready-made meal service and this is the age of the curated lifestyle,” said Bebon. “And we think the timing is right for something like this. Consumers really crave curated, convenient, easy ideas.”
In October, Bebon and Flicker teamed with their friend Cheryl Engstrom, a Seattle-based publicist, to officially unveil Holiday in a Box Shop, an e-commerce operation that presents six curated collections of interior holiday décor delivered in a single box. The collections range from eight to 20 pieces linked to specific styles — the Modern White & Gold Collection, for example, works exclusively with those two colors — and themes — the Seaglass Beach Collection aims for an oceanic experience through sea-colored glass trees and driftwood-hued votive candles. Prices on the collections range from $188 to $330.
“We know when you buy holiday products like this, it is an investment,” said Flicker. “We don’t want them to be disposable. What is really nice about the collection is that you don’t have to display them all together. We wanted this to be attractive to people that have either larger spaces or smaller spaces.”
Finding the right products to please the sisters was not a simple task. “What we did when we created our six thematic collections was to look at literally thousands and thousands of products,” said Bebon. “We touched them, looked at the coloring, looked at the width and the depth, and we found a signature statement product for each collection and the built the rest of the collection around them. Nearly all of our collection items are produced by a variety U.S.-based vendors, who manufacture overseas. ”
The time constraints in locating and ordering their products created a beat-the-clock game that barely ended in time for the holidays.
“We started working on this in February, which was a little bit late,” said Flicker. “We should have started working on this in January. We ordered all of the products by August, but we didn’t get them until September and October.”
Although Santa Claus is not part of the collections, figurines of the Yuletide visitor can be ordered separately through the new company’s website. However, symbols tied to the Nativity story are not being offered.
“That was very intentional,” said Bebon. “We wanted our collection to appeal to a wide audience. Many people celebrate the holidays because they love the spirit of the holidays, but they are not necessarily religious.”
Bebon and Flicker took on Holiday in a Box Shop while maintaining their full-time jobs — Bebon as president of MAX Communications PR LLC, the Fairfield company she launched in 1994.
The sisters said friends volunteered their time to help create the various components of their e-commerce operation.
The entrepreneurs were backed by an angel investor to start their venture. The investor did not want to be identified, but Bebon said the investment “is in the tens of thousands” of dollars. “Our investment capital was spent on acquiring our treasures, producing branded boxes, our fulfillment center, and a variety of other startup costs,” she said.
Bebon and Flicker are relying on social media marketing to promote their startup, and said they have already received orders from locations around the country.
Looking to 2017, Holiday in a Box Shop plans to expand its holiday-linked décor presentations to additional celebrations including Easter, the Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. While initially aimed at the consumer market, the new company is eager to tap the B2B world.
“This would be a great corporate gift,” Flicker envisioned. “I could see a real estate company giving this to somebody who just bought a home.”