By Scott Meacham
Datebox, which officially rebranded as Happily last year, started four years ago as a budget-friendly subscription service that delivered a box with items and plans for one great at-home date. The vision was straightforward: Couples want to spend more quality time together. Datebox helped them rediscover that a date doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be at a destination to be fun.
“When you first engage in a romantic relationship, everything is fun, easy and exciting,” said Brett Kolomyjec, founder and CEO. “That fades when you have responsibilities and day-to-day life. We started Datebox to help couples bring that back in a simple way.”
That simple way resonated with Kolomyjec’s 25- to 40-year-old target audience. The Datebox brand gained attention, built a solid reputation, and grew.
And then spring and COVID arrived.
The concept of an at-home date began to resonate at a whole different level. People couldn’t go out. They were looking for alternatives. “People had seen our brand,” Kolomyjec said. “Staying at home during the pandemic pushed them over the edge to give us a try.”
Forbes wrote about the company. Subscribers grew by the thousands. “We were burning the candle at both ends,” Kolomyjec said.
The company brainstormed additional products and services they could add. Research told them that couples on average spend about $4,500 a year pursuing happy relationships, from anniversary flowers and other gifts, to date nights out and getaways. Their own experience with happy Datebox subscribers provided inspiration.
With the pivot from Datebox to Happily, the date-in-a-box subscription service continues to bring customers into the brand. Happily is high-touch, highly personal, adding products and services, such as premium experiences, classes with industry experts, and a new Happily app to help couples plan great dates in their cities. Other resources and gifts will be curated for each couple based on their preferences and profile. Every buying decision becomes more educated and informed over time.
In this business of starting and scaling up high-growth companies, it always comes back market validation and customers. What’s the addressable market? Where’s the pain? Are there a multitude of potential customers who will pay for a solution? Can you establish your brand first. How do you sell more products to the customers who are already buying from you?
Oklahoma startups — like Happily — that keep these basics top of mind are prepared to pivot and take advantage when new opportunities present themselves.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.