Presents of Mind

How an entrepreneur's thoughtful creation grew to become the hip gift that just keeps on giving

What: Assorted gift boxes with fun, hip themes
Who: Kate Dyer-Seeley and Karen O'Hollaren of Urbanabox
Where: Portland, Oregon
When: Started in 2000

Bored by the idea of giving her husband a traditional gift basket to celebrate his promotion, Kate Dyer-Seeley made her own by filling a sleek, plastic box with treats including brainteaser games, mints and other cool, fun items. When her husband took it to work, the box was such a hit that Dyer-Seeley, 29, and two friends, Karen O'Hollaren, 30, and Erin Cox, decided to make a business out of it together. (Cox left the company a year later.)

Initially, they worked out of Dyer-Seeley's garage, and each invested $1,000. The three friends also attended gift shows to discover other amusing products-such as scented candles, games, gourmet food products and CDs-to include in the Urbanaboxes. For example, two current box styles are the Swank box, which offers a stainless steel shaker, martini olives and a jazz CD set, and the Baby box, which includes a lullaby CD, a baby massage book, a cotton blanket and calming tea.

The gift boxes, each of which are priced at $10 and up, have been a hit with corporate clients, who account for 80 percent of the company's total sales. (Consumer sales from the Urbanabox Web site make up the other 20 percent.) "We really felt there was a niche market for the urban professional," explains Dyer-Seeley. The boxes fill an essential corporate gifting need because, as she puts it, "there really aren't a lot of alternatives other than gift baskets or flowers."

Thanks to viral marketing, sales exceeded first-quarter projections by 300 percent, and year-end sales are expected to exceed $300,000. Looking forward to future growth, the partners branched out in February with a new line: customized boxes for PR and advertising agencies that can be filled with marketing materials.

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Presents of Mind.

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