Podcast Transcript – Series FOUR, Episode 55
Donald Boone, boxedup March 2023
[00:00:00] Donald Boone: My wife, bless her heart has gone through so many changes, wrote an article. If you haven’t had a chance, anyone, listeners should check it out. It’s on medium, but it’s effectively about me walking away from that money and also getting turned down by why Combinator? People love it, because it was transparent.
[00:00:22] I wrote it really to help myself to just kind of deal with what I was going through, and I said, Hey, if it helps someone, great. She couldn’t read it. She couldn’t read it [00:00:30] for months without in inducing some trauma, but she’s so supportive and that part’s been amazing.
[00:00:37] Dan: What’s up, unfound Nation? Dan Kihanya here.
[00:00:40] Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. This is our first episode of Season 4 2023. So welcome to your first time listeners and welcome back Unfound Nation. We’re starting off this season with Donald Boone, who you just heard. He’s the founder and CEO of BoxedUp a B2B equipment rental marketplace.[00:01:00]
[00:01:00] You could think of it kind of like the Airbnb for camera gear. Donald came from humbled beginnings growing up in Maryland, and followed his older brother in pursuit of an engineering degree at the HBCU North Carolina A&T. Donald had distinguished roles at companies like Exxon and Amazon, but as a three time founder, the call of entrepreneurship has always been loud in his ear and talk about conviction… at one point, he borrowed against his 401K for a previous startup, and he taught himself how to code from scratch. And get this, in the middle of the pandemic with [00:01:30] an incredible compensation at Amazon, he decided to take the early insights and great traction he had at BoxedUp and he quit his job and set out to make that company the success he knew it would be.
[00:01:40] Donald has a great story you will wanna listen in.
[00:01:43] Our episode is sponsored by Entrepreneur Struggle, a compelling podcast with host Chris Colbert from DCP Entertainment. If you’re looking for powerful conversations that explore the mental and emotional health challenges that face entrepreneurs, entrepreneur, struggle is for you, Chris does a great job unpacking issues, finding wisdom and sharing [00:02:00] stories.
[00:02:00] Check out Entrepreneur Struggle anywhere you listen to podcasts. A look for a link in the show notes. Before we continue, please make sure to like and subscribe to Founders Unfound. We’re available any way you get your podcasts, even on YouTube. And of course, please follow us on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn @FoundersUnfound. And if you like what you hear, drop us a review on Apple or at podchaser.com.
[00:02:23] Now on with the episode. Stay safe and hope you enjoy.[00:02:30]
[00:02:41] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We’re bringing you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is our latest episode and our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s [00:03:00] get on it.
[00:03:00] Today we have Donald T. Boone, founder and c e o of BoxedUp, a B2B equipment rental marketplace, similar to the Airbnb for camera gear. Welcome to the show, Donald. We’re super excited to have you on. Thanks for making the time.
[00:03:14] Donald Boone: Thanks for having me, Dan. It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve recorded a podcast as well, so I’m looking forward to diving in. This will be fun.
[00:03:21] Dan: Outstanding. We’re excited to have you. So I gave obviously a brief introduction to the company, but could you tell us what exactly is BoxedUp, up to and what are you [00:03:30] trying to solve?
[00:03:30] Donald Boone: Yeah. We’re a, as you mentioned, uh, B2B equipment rental marketplace like Airbnb for equipment because everyone knows Airbnb.
[00:03:41] My mother, my grandmother knows Airbnb, and what we really do is bring that exact same experience to. The equipment rental side, which for a long time has been underserved. In very specifically equipment. We’re talking cinematography and filmmaking equipment, so a lot of [00:04:00] people don’t know, but there’s this vast network of individual equipment owners, and I’d say local rental shops that have amassed a lot of equipment, and a lot of these creators that make a lot of the things that we watch on Hulu or Netflix, or even in the movie theater, they actually borrow and rent a lot of that equipment from these local shops to make their content.
[00:04:22] So we do everything in that space to try to make that transaction a lot easier. A lot of these shops typically aren’t tech and [00:04:30] platform savvy, so a lot of what we’re doing is just really making it easy for your modern day creator to be able to find rent, return, the things that they need, the tools, so to speak, to make their artwork.
[00:04:41] Dan: I love it. It’s a brilliant idea, big idea, and a BoxedUp is like a great name. So you’re obviously thinking about the brand from an early on timeframe, but before we talk more about BoxedUp, let’s hear a little bit about Donald. Where are you from? Do you have brothers and sisters? Tell us a little bit about growing up.
[00:04:59] Donald Boone: [00:05:00] Yeah, so grew up very, very, I’d say humbly is the way I like to put it. Seat Pleasant Maryland. It’s in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC I grew up the youngest of three. Uh, so older brother. Dorian, who’s four years older than me, and then an older brother, Darnell, who’s eight years older.
[00:05:20] My brother Darnell is a half-brother, so for the most part, really just my, my brother and I kind of growing up in a household, never in a million years that I think I’d be running a, [00:05:30] a tech startup in kind of where I am now. So my life has gone through tons and tons of twists and turns and those early days just really kind of getting after her.
[00:05:38] We played a lot of basketball around the neighborhood. My mother tried her hardest to keep us outta harm’s way, knuckleheads around the neighborhood, you know, egging apartment buildings and houses and doing all sorts of things that inner city kids do in the Washington DC area. And we were sort of the good boys throughout the neighborhood.
[00:05:58] Sort of mixed with [00:06:00] a lot of, I’d say, sort of nice and not pleasant things that a lot of people go through on a day-to-day basis. We’re really honestly thankful for a lot of those experiences. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without those. Interesting. Do you wanna share any of those? Yeah, I mean, we can go as deep as you want.
[00:06:14] I mean, a lot of people talk about experiencing the world being a tough place for them to kind of learn how to navigate life. Honestly, my household was probably the toughest place. So at a very young [00:06:30] age, I had a father who dealt with depression and ultimately drug use. So he was a drug addict from, honestly, Dan as, as young as I can remember.
[00:06:39] And, you know, it’s, it’s funny to say that out loud because when you’re in it, It just doesn’t seem nearly as insane as it is when you reflect back on it, you know, 30 years ago. But I grew up, you know, my mom was a retired F B I, she got her masters. She was sort of this perfect depiction of [00:07:00] what a middle class working woman would be.
[00:07:02] And my father was this really talented guy who worked with his hands in my eyes. He was really like the first engineer that I’d ever met. But he dropped out in middle school and he dealt with so much throughout his life, his brothers, his sisters. And when the man that I knew was not all of those things that I know now, he’d lay down on the couch, I’d go off the school.
[00:07:22] My mom would go off to work and he’d just be on the couch and he’d go in the bathroom and he’d spend 45 minutes in the bathroom, and then he’d come out [00:07:30] in a different mood. And as a young kid, I didn’t know what that meant. I was just like, oh, you know, dad’s going in, the bathroom’s coming out, he’s feeling well.
[00:07:36] And then a couple days later, huh? Dad’s acting weird. He’s a little angrier today. I wonder what that is. And you know, you just start to deposit all of these things into your memory banks as a child. And then I’ll never forget, I was probably about 10 years old. I was collecting some allowance money for doing good things around the house.
[00:07:53] And I was like, man, this is weird. My wallet was just on the table. It had 20 bucks in it. I went outside, I came back [00:08:00] in my wallet’s there, but the money’s gone and you know what’s going on. Like, mom, have you seen my money? Dorian, have you seen my money? Dad, have you seen my $20? No, haven’t seen his son.
[00:08:09] Couple days later he comes to me and says, sorry, here’s that $20 that I borrowed. And I took outta your wallet and you know, you get these really sobering moments of like, okay, this is pretty intense. So grew up, you know, hiding my wallet in my pillow because dad would take it to feed whatever he need.
[00:08:28] Coming home from basketball practice, [00:08:30] mom and dad are arguing mom not feeling safe in the house. So when you grow up in an environment like that and dealing with things that a lot of kids don’t have to deal with that, that age, you just mature really, really. So the reason why I can look back and say, I’m thankful my brother and I will reflect on these things.
[00:08:46] Say, man, you know, it’d be great if dad were present. And then he come and say, man, you know what? Had everything been perfect. I don’t think you turn out the way that you are right now without going through what you needed to go through to mature as fast as you needed to. [00:09:00] And then when you get into real world situations, you know, especially doing what I do on a day-to-day basis, it’s not that bad because it’s all relative.
[00:09:08] I can always go back to say, well, you know, I got a house, I got a home, I got a family. I can eat. Things are good. So that’s why I can look back on it now and say, thankful. But going through it, no, it, it was tough. It was really rough.
[00:09:20] Dan: Sounds like it. And it sounds like you and your brother were probably kind of close and in it together, somewhat.
[00:09:26] Donald Boone: Definitely. He was my, I would like to call my father figure. [00:09:30] I’ve let him know that anybody who would listen, I’d say, you know, that’s sort of like had an older brother, father, he was a mechanical engineer. I became a mechanical engineer. He went to North Carolina, A&T, historically black college and university.
[00:09:43] I went to the same school, so I sort of started patterning my footsteps after him. He played basketball, I played basketball. Uh, so really everything that he did, I tried to pattern after him as well. So he was a great, great person for me to learn from, [00:10:00] and I struggled when he went off to college. I was this young, impressionable high school kid, and I kind of really, I look back on it now, like, man, I, I wasn’t as good of a basketball player that I could have been.
[00:10:11] I was like, why didn’t it work? I was like, oh, my, my father figure was sort of gone from my life and I think I underperformed in a lot of areas, but he helped get me on the straight path and basically ed me through all of the mistakes that he. At least from an educational standpoint and from a corporate standpoint.
[00:10:29] So when [00:10:30] it came time for me to go to college, I’d had all of these sort of a practice run via my brother and I was able to kind of navigate and make sure, all right, yeah, I can pledge a fraternity, but don’t do it the first year. Wait until your second year, focus on your grades the first year. So, you know, I came out of first semester with a 4.0 and all these things that a lot of my colleagues didn’t have the same, they didn’t have the same perspective going into that experience that I’m thankful that I have for, but a huge shout out to my brother Dorian. He was great in that way.
[00:10:56] Dan: That’s awesome. Like you said, the journey [00:11:00] informs who we are. Right? And the step backs, the challenges, the prices, the celebrations, all of it. So you decided to follow your brother to a and t or did you look at other places or it just sort of coincidence, which probably was impossible, but how did you end up going to an H B C U?
[00:11:21] Donald Boone: Yeah, you know, my mom graduated from an H B C U, but she didn’t force any of that on us. She [00:11:30] graduated from Stillman College in Alabama. My brother, obviously, he started at Morehouse and then went to North Carolina a and t, and I just knew I wanted to be an engineer. I remember to be, we grew up, unsurprisingly, not a lot of money given the circumstances that we grew up in, and I was just tired of being broke down.
[00:11:46] I said, I don’t want to be broke anymore. . I remember being in high school googling what majors make the most money. Engineering. Great. I’ll be an engineer. I’m good at science and math. I think I can do that thing. And I remember Googling [00:12:00] of the top engineers, it was chemical engineer at, this is a different time, right?
[00:12:04] Chemical engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer. And I really like cars. I said I’ll, all right, I’ll. Be a mechanical engineer and oh by the way, do’s a mechanical engineer. That’s what I’ll do. So I knew I was gonna go to a science and tech specific school. My choices were a University of Maryland right around the corner.
[00:12:19] Georgia Tech in Atlanta and North Carolina a and t was not on my radar at all. And I remember going on a college tour and I arrived on campus and [00:12:30] the campus is nice. They’ve got these new suites, the band comes out and they perform. There was so much culture right there on the campus. And the best part is people looked and dressed exactly like me.
[00:12:44] I grew up in a diverse middle school. High school was predominantly black, but I was sort of used to, you know, standing out at, at some of these places because I was, I’d be in these tag classes. You know how some of the tag classes. Are traditionally some of these neighborhoods where [00:13:00] I’m like the only black guy.
[00:13:01] There’s like maybe one other black guy and a black girl, and then the rest of the class, no one looks like us. So I was just blown away when I arrived to campus at a and t, just how diverse the group of black people were. And for the first time I’d seen that kind of diversity in that sort of a higher education setting and everyone looked comfortable and I said, I’m not applying anywhere else.
[00:13:25] I applied to a and t for early admission. As soon as I got accepted, I [00:13:30] stopped applying anywhere else. I didn’t even consider anywhere else after that. So it’s funny, I’ll meet a lot of people and after a few minutes of conversation and they’re like, oh, hey, this guy’s a little bit different. Where’d you go?
[00:13:39] Did you go to to Duke or, or Chapel Hill or like, Nope. Nope. North Carolina Anti, it’s the only school I applied for. Uh, so I always find that funny when I interact with people, but never considered another school after I was accepted in one of the best decisions in my life.
[00:13:53] Dan: You know, a lot of people are still learning about the HBCUs.
[00:13:57] Unfortunately they’re under the radar even though they shouldn’t be. [00:14:00] What’s one thing that you could tell somebody about your experience or just about going to an H B C U that they may not know?
[00:14:08] Donald Boone: Yeah, I wish it wasn’t this way, but I am excited about how mainstream they’ve become and I think the one very specific thing that I’ll sort of draw attention to is there is a good friend of mine and he was married to, and I say was because they unfortunately are divorced now, but he was married to a [00:14:30] young lady from Ghana.
[00:14:31] She was Ghanaian, and she came from Ghana and she entered Wake Forest and we both ended up working for the same corporation. I of course went to a and t and I remember him coming to me, this is probably a year or so into her career, and to say, Donald, how do you manage. What you do in corporate America in dealing with microaggressions and people may not respecting you as much.
[00:14:59] [00:15:00] And I said, you know, to be quite honest, I’ve grown up in it my entire life, but secondarily, I went to a school and I had so much confidence instilled in me in this very impressionable age, when you’re somewhere for four or five years, however it takes you to. And you get so much confidence boosting that’s almost just as important as the education that you’ll get because so much about being successful in the world is so far [00:15:30] and above exactly what you’re gonna learn in the classroom.
[00:15:33] It’s the dynamics on how to navigate a meeting, how to navigate difficult people, how to run an organization, doing community service and charity work. How do I navigate balancing? There’s this party going on on Saturday night, but I got a midterm on Monday that I really need to do well in. So you get all of these dynamics just thrown at you in a place that you’re comfortable enough to be able to be [00:16:00] yourself, to not feel like you have to dress up and be performative, but you can relax, be yourself, and be intentional about your education.
[00:16:08] And I’d say by far, The H B C U experience creates an environment where you can be comfortable being yourself, being vulnerable, and learning how to be professional and an adult. And I don’t think that you always get that opportunity, especially if you are a person of color, especially if you’re black at a predominantly white [00:16:30] institution.
[00:16:30] I think they’re amazing. But I think you have to go there with your eyes wide open knowing that your experience is gonna be different. That can be okay if you’re getting that nourishment from somewhere else, but I think by far, that part about the H B C U experience has been great for me.
[00:16:45] Dan: That’s great. I, I’ve heard that several times, this idea of confidence and the ability to thrive without some of that other friction in your life, because you don’t have to sort of balance, how do I maneuver in this place where I’m, I’m [00:17:00] not necessarily welcomed or I have to justify my difference.
[00:17:05] Donald Boone: And then when you get out and it’s thrown at you, you now have enough confidence to be able to layer it on if you need to. Right. So, okay, cool. I didn’t have to wear a suit to class, but I have to wear a suit at this place that employs me. I’ll wear a suit. I used to not have a beard. I you had a clean face.
[00:17:20] I’m okay being and doing that because I’ve been, you know, for four and a half years in this place of comfort. And now I’m confident in who I am and what I can do and what I bring to the table and how I stack [00:17:30] up against others when I’m throwing in those environments. Okay. I’ve had enough practice doing the other stuff now.
[00:17:34] This is just an extra layer to add.
[00:17:36] Dan: Nice. So tell us about your corporate experience. So like you said, you probably had this aspirational vision of, hey, I want to have means at least have choices and income. And so Exxon probably felt like a good place. What was that experience like?
[00:17:52] Donald Boone: It was amazing. I spent eight years there, right outta school.
[00:17:55] And for some context, I graduated in 2008. [00:18:00] Honestly a lot like it is right now. It was the middle of the financial crisis. I remember accepting a job. I was gonna be a sales engineer for carrier ac, and the guy calls me and says, unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and we can’t bring you on. And it was there in December.
[00:18:18] The career fair had been in September. Now I was still without a job, but I was out interviewing somewhere and I get a call from who would become my manager from Exxon. It’s like, Hey, we really like you. We wanna bring you in for [00:18:30] an interview. And after an interview, he said, you got three options. You can live in New York, you can live in Miami, you can live in Washington DC And I grown up in dc I’d spent a lot of time in New York.
[00:18:39] I so I’m, this is no brainer. I’m gonna live in. So I go to live in Miami, first roll outta school, absolutely tremendous. But it was the first time I was, I’d say, financially secure. So, you know, chasing money at the time was what I felt like I needed to sort of check that box in my experience because I just spent so long and money [00:19:00] being the predominant thing will come back to this.
[00:19:02] But at the time it was great. It was just so freeing to be able to invest in stocks and even think about real estate and contemplate thoughts that I’d never just had the opportunity to do. . And while learning at a place that was a fortune, you know, between us and Walmart at the time, fortune One company.
[00:19:21] So you’re just getting these really amazing corporate values. You’re around a lot of smart people. Uh, still to this day, the [00:19:30] highest IQ on average of any place that I’ve worked. Just the tremendous amount of chemist and PhD engineers. I mean, people who are amazing at their crafts and just being in that pressure cooker and trying to learn everyone’s the valedictorian salutatorian of their class.
[00:19:47] They were the captain of the swim team, volleyball team. So everyone was just really well rounded, great communicators, and also smart as all get out. So it was a really competitive space that honestly set me up, uh, really well for the rest of my career. So, you know, [00:20:00] it wasn’t until later I kind of learned like all corporations, their corporation, but it, you know, you come in young and a novice child, it was great for me in the early days.
[00:20:09] Dan: What was missing? You’re not there still. So what was missing that called you to move away? To move on?
[00:20:17] Donald Boone: I think at the time innovating on behalf of customers.
[00:20:26] I remember I was always entrepreneurial and I was even [00:20:30] entrepreneurial in the corporate sense, and I come to my management with all these big ideas, Hey, hey, hey. I know we do this one thing. Well, we sell gasoline better than anyone in the country, but what if we created a platform so our customers didn’t have to call us and we didn’t have to negotiate these prices and do all of these weird mental gymnastics in order to show them a price they could just log on and be able to see what our price was at the rack.
[00:20:57] It’s basically where trucks go to pick up their fuel [00:21:00] in Richmond or in Torrance, California in all these different places. And I remember manage. You kind of almost have a chuckle like, oh, you just don’t know what you don’t know yet. That’s not what we do here. We sell gasoline. This is our bread and butter.
[00:21:14] That’s a great idea. Maybe at some point, but not right now. I would just constantly find myself running into these situations where it was not in the culture, and I think the other piece that wasn’t in the culture. Embracing who I was as [00:21:30] a person and specifically as a, just as a black male that I felt like I needed to at the time.
[00:21:35] So, as an example, I remember a mentor of mine. We sat down and we had this conversation, and at this time, Dan, I, I wanted to be, you know, I was gunning for, I’d be vice president, c e o I mean, that’s how strong of a hunger I had to succeed wherever I got placed. And I had a lot of mentors, and it was a black woman came to me and we were having lunch, and she said, all right, [00:22:00] Donald, you had any questions for me?
[00:22:01] I said, Nope, I, I don’t think I have any more questions. I think you’ve answered everything. I feel really, really good about the path that I’m on. And I was always a top performer. And she said, all right, well, I’ve got something for you. She said, has anyone talked to or spoken to you about your facial hair yet?
[00:22:16] I said, no. No, they haven’t. I don’t know why they would. She said, and it wasn’t nearly as long as it is now. And she said, well, I think you should cut your beer. And I said, why do I need to do that? I have facial [00:22:30] hair. Want to cut it? I get ingrown. It’s really uncomfortable. She said, don’t worry, I’ve got a dermatologist for you.
[00:22:35] And I, I said, well, I’m not necessarily comfortable. And she said, if you look at the people in leadership across ExxonMobil, what do they all have in common? I said, well, first off, they’re all white . And she says, yes, but they also don’t have facial hair. They’re all clean shaven, and if you want to be successful hair, you effectively have to look the part.
[00:22:57] And I remember [00:23:00] distinctly going home and I said, yeah, you know, I really, really want to succeed here. I’ll try anything. Even to this day, I’ll literally almost try anything. And I, I shaved my facial hair off all of it. I was clean shaven. And I remember looking in the. And almost unrecognizable to myself. I mean, I hated who I was and I hated what that moment represented for me.
[00:23:21] It represented that I effectively needed to become someone else in order to be successful. And, you know, as long as I would [00:23:30] be in this scenario where I’d basically be putting on a mask or putting on a different version of me and only bring a part of myself to work, I’d never truly be successful. I cannot be them.
[00:23:41] I can only be me. And that was just a microcosm of really, sort of the broader issues that presented themselves in that workplace. But that was the one where I said, all right, I think I gotta make a change. I need to go somewhere else where I felt comfortable being me. It’s funny, the, the next role that I got later at Amazon, my first day of [00:24:00] work for our corporate photos, I wore a hoodie.
[00:24:01] I and I, I, I had my facial hair and I said, if I’m gonna work here, they will accept me for who I am, but nothing else. That’s the only way. So, Again, thankful for that experience, but also grateful not to be there anymore.
[00:24:15] Dan: That’s a great story, and we’re gonna find out more about Amazon and your startup journey and being yourself in a moment, but we’re gonna take a short break and we’ll be right back with Donald Boone from BoxedUp.
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[00:24:57] Dan: So we’re back with Donald Boone from BoxedUp. [00:25:00] So Donald, tell us how you ended up at Amazon.
[00:25:03] Donald Boone: So that Exxon experience taught me that I really wanted to be somewhere where they cared about the customer a little bit more, and I also wanted to be somewhere where they were innovating.
[00:25:17] The piece that I didn’t mention about my time at Exxon is I did really crazy thing. I launched a startup in 2015 with some of my 401k money. I took a loan against my 401k. I would do it again today [00:25:30] if I could, but I launched the startup. It ended up getting crushed effectively by Uber Eats, but that entire experience showed me, okay, my ideas aren’t crazy.
[00:25:40] Exxon had it wrong and actually had in mind for this stuff that my brain thought and problem and solution, and I could do it well. But I had no sense of the process Bec, you know, the culture at Exxon was just not an innovating culture. And I said, I really want to go somewhere where I could learn. And we were doing a [00:26:00] project to potentially sell our things on Amazon while I was still at Exxon.
[00:26:04] And these were canned products, things that could be in an e-commerce environment. And my management told me, I want you to go out and learn everything there is to know about this company, Amazon, and why they would want to list our products on their platform. And for three months straight, I sat with a Fortune 500, a Fast company magazine, and Jeff Bezos was the cover story.
[00:26:25] And I just poured through it and in my research I’m like, this company is [00:26:30] amazing. And I was learning about two pizza teams and customer obsession and how they launched fast and failed fast. I’m like, I gotta work here. And it was sort of in that epiphany on that role where I said, this is the place I need to be.
[00:26:44] So I get taken off that project and get placed on another one. And the day I got taken off, I emailed my two contacts and said, Hey, would love to absolutely work for you guys. Anything that I can do that would be of interest. And a couple months later I was interviewing one interview [00:27:00] in which doesn’t happen a lot at Amazon, and I was hired and it was my college career, my college degree for innovating, learning everything from start to scale was absolutely tremendous for me.
[00:27:15] Dan: What’s some things that you take with you into your current entrepreneurial journey that were sort of part of the Amazon culture or part of the way that you did your job and what you learned at Amazon?
[00:27:26] Donald Boone: There’s so many. I’ll start with three [00:27:30] because I think that these are really cornerstones that I still use today, and I think that every entrepreneur, honestly, every company can learn from, they even do a bit of this where they come in, they have other companies come in and kind of learn and teach them how to.
[00:27:44] Work backwards from the customer. But the first one is just that it sounds so simple and novel, but listening to what customers have to say in building products and iterating your platform based on their feedback was something that I had not [00:28:00] seen in this environment before is really common In startup is not common in corporate.
[00:28:03] You figure these large corporations, they don’t pride themselves on being adaptable and iterating quickly, but Amazon did. So every time our meeting rooms as an example, we didn’t have pictures of our products. We had pictures of our customers, we had quotes of our customers. I’ll come to this documentation piece because that’s the second one, but we’d read a document which is effectively a pitch to build something and management would read through it and say, [00:28:30] I don’t see enough customer feedback here.
[00:28:32] Or, what persona are you serving? Or what are our customers saying? It was always first and foremost, this stock is good, but it doesn’t have any customer quotes. You need to talk to more customers and then, uh, bring those in. So just this idea of customer obsession and customer focus really taught me from the get-go that whatever we build, I may have an idea, but at the end of the day, it’s just a hypothesis.
[00:28:56] Our customers will ultimately determine how they want to use [00:29:00] it, what parts of it they like, what parts of it they don’t like, and ultimately help us build the right product. So that was the first one. The second one was really this idea writing documents to express. Your ideas and yourself and not presentations.
[00:29:14] This one is actually pretty well known, but there weren’t a lot of presentations in PowerPoints at Amazon. There were documents, and I’m like, this is weird. They don’t actually read these things and no. And the first week, we’d sit down and someone would hand out six pages of staple pieces of [00:29:30] paper to every single attendee.
[00:29:31] 60 people would crown in a room, and then we’d all be quiet for the first 20 minutes, what people read, and then they’d take their pencils and the pens out. They’d mark through, they’d annotate, they’d mark questions like, this is the oddest place I’ve ever been. But what it did was it removed the performative nature of corporate America.
[00:29:51] You go into some of these big corporations, and it’s not the best idea wins. It’s who can sell their idea the best? Who’s the best presenter? [00:30:00] Who’s the best person at corporate? Hands shaking and elbow rubbing? If you write a document, it removes all of that because it. Presents everyone with the same amount of facts at the same time, and everyone has to digest it.
[00:30:13] And then once you digest it, you open up and have a conversation. So we actually write docs at BoxedUp. This is one of the core ways that we communicate and really make sure that we’re onto something we, we do it as scrappy and quick as possible so we’re not bogged down by the time. But the doc writing was the big piece.[00:30:30]
[00:30:30] And then I’d say the third one was really kind of all of the inner workings of what made Amazon successful. Starting with a small team, two pizza team, doing it scrappy, hating your first version of your product, but knowing that, hey, we just gotta get it out there. Someone will use it, they’ll poke holes in it, and when we solve their problem, They will tell us what else we need to add to it to make it something that they love.
[00:30:59] And this [00:31:00] idea of launching with something that is an unfinished product and then ultimately scaling it or selling while you’re still building, these are all novel concepts that I wouldn’t have dreamed of had I stayed at ExxonMobil. That I’m, I’m happy that I’ve taken with me and, uh, I’ve seen in in some other areas.
[00:31:16] Like Y Combinator does a lot of that as well. And kind of coaching the way that they coach their startups to, to find product market fit and ultimately succeed.
[00:31:25] Dan: Good lessons. Good lessons. And uh, it’s a really fascinating company from that standpoint [00:31:30] that they’re able to maintain that kind of culture as big as they’ve gotten.
[00:31:33] Let’s switch gears. Let’s talk about BoxedUp. What was the inspiration for this?
[00:31:38] Donald Boone: Yeah, so I was at Amazon. I’m sitting there and I’m watching the success that they were having operating in this marketplace. I was in a place called Amazon Business. It was a B2B marketplace. So someone like Microsoft would come on and say, we need 2000 computers for all of our employees.
[00:31:57] And Amazon would go find a [00:32:00] B2B supplier who had the ability to provide them that at scale, and then get it to them wherever they were. Truckloads of paper. I think really, you know, B2B transactions, everything you love about Amazon, but for business, So I was sitting there and I’m just seeing how the sausage is made.
[00:32:16] Like, man, this is pretty tremendous. There are companies that are making a lot of money selling products on Amazon and customers that are finding a lot of value. I wonder why this doesn’t exist for things that I just wanna borrow. If I just needed a drone for a couple days, I needed a camera. [00:32:30] I was tinkering around, had two 3D printers, like, man, I don’t want these 3D printers.
[00:32:35] Can someone pay me to use them? Or, I wish I could have borrowed it before I spent, you know, all this money that I spent on it because they’re cool, but I don’t need one. I was done with it after a couple weeks, and I, I just remember wishing that I could do something like that and I said, you know what, I’ll just try it.
[00:32:52] I’ll spin it up myself. I did a little bit of research to figure out if anything like it existed and it. And I said, all right, I’m gonna [00:33:00] make the Amazon, but for rental products. And I looked around my house, I had a couple 3D printers. I had a couple of drones, had some sono speakers that were like plugged into the wall that we were using.
[00:33:10] I said, all right, this is the stuff I’m gonna list. I’m gonna list this stuff. I’m gonna buy a couple of drills and just see what people list. And I built the Squarespace page, came up with the logo, the branding, the boxes, pretty much everything souped to nuts. I made this challenge for myself to do it in a hundred days or less, and then just launch [00:33:30] it, even if I didn’t love the way it looked.
[00:33:32] And here we are today. But it was all kind of birthed from me watching Amazon succeed at scale, wondering why it didn’t exist in the rental world. And then just spinning up a really, really quick concept to see if anybody would even be interested in using.
[00:33:47] Dan: That’s cool. That’s a great epiphany. So in those early days you were still working at Amazon and still trying to figure this out. What were some of the insights or the feedback that you got from [00:34:00] customers or the market that said, Hmm, there’s something here.
[00:34:03] Donald Boone: It was honestly those first couple of days just testing. I think in those early days, it’s important for entrepreneurs and I’ve heard a lot of other Sarah Blakely for Spanx talks about this, uh, and this how I built this interview, but in those early days, it’s such a delicate idea.
[00:34:20] I didn’t want to distract or discourage myself or have my inner circle discourage me from at least trying something. And she talks about this [00:34:30] sort of same concept of not letting other people or outside force to sort of get in the way of what your gut is telling you to go out and do. So honestly, in those early days, I didn’t test it with too many people.
[00:34:41] It’s just basically just my wife and I like, this could be something big. I’m gonna go and sprint and launch. I talked to a couple people, I said, yeah, I think there could definitely be some value there, but not a ton. And I, because I invested so little money, it was basically just a free website and some branding.
[00:34:58] I said, I’ll just throw it out [00:35:00] there and see what sticks. But within a couple of days, People were borrowing drones and borrowing tools, borrowing podcast mics, cameras, it wasn’t, definitely was not a business. It was still just very much a novel idea, but it was enough feedback. But people like, oh, this is pretty cool.
[00:35:18] I can just borrow drone for a couple of days. This is awesome. I’m, I’m going on a beach vacation and I love these drones chats. I’m gonna use box stuff to do. And, and people were using it, so we weren’t making anything sizable, but it was enough [00:35:30] validation to say, okay, there’s something here. I don’t know if this is the business, but there’s something around renting and the convene that comes along with it that people like.
[00:35:39] I think I should double click and see if there’s anything else here. So you’re on this journey,
[00:35:45] Dan: you’ve got these initial ahas, like, oh, this is, there’s something here. What is the point at which you say, yeah, there’s a real business here and I need to figure out a way to focus on this and go for it.
[00:35:57] Donald Boone: So Covid hit, you know, it’s funny [00:36:00] how.
[00:36:01] The world works. I am a person of faith, so I do believe in God very much so. And how God works in that covid hits. And it was absolutely devastating. I mean, everything went to zero. And it forced me to pivot into a solution that, again, I was just tinkering around with. But everyone was dispersed into their homes almost immediately with no prep, and people didn’t know what they were doing.
[00:36:28] And I said, all right, I got these [00:36:30] cameras around the house. I’ve got these mics around the house. This could be something. So I configured it. I sent it to a friend of mine, we demoed it, and she’s like, boom, I, I think you have something here. I think you should try and pitch this. And I’m like, you think so?
[00:36:43] You think people will pay for it? She’s like, absolutely. We have all these talks with all these fortune. 500 liters and they all look crappy because they don’t have any webcams and they don’t have any, uh, high quality materials. So I said, all right, we’ll see. And at the time, Afro Tech was [00:37:00] going virtual because of Covid.
[00:37:01] And I remember I cold emailed Afro Tech and then I got my wife to introduce me to someone else. So she got bombarded with these emails, just the person running their, uh, virtual conference, and she said, we’ll try it out. So in about a span of a, a couple of weeks, we got all of Afro Tech virtual speakers to use BoxedUp kits, so about 30 kits.
[00:37:22] And then I said, all right, if they’ll buy it, I’m sure other people will buy it. So it was cool because I was able to sort of test it in a safe [00:37:30] environment within our community, within Afro Tech. And then I go and pitch Google, and then I was pitching these Fortune 500 companies. Then it just felt like kind of something that I was used to and people started using it.
[00:37:41] So we were packaging up. Videography kits in order to enable people to either record or livestream video or high quality audio. And it started taking off to the point where if it had not been for Covid, there’s no way I’m able to fulfill any of these orders because I’d [00:38:00] basically do my work during the day and then as soon as my workday would end, I’d package up all of these products and then ship ’em out.
[00:38:07] And the volume and the money has started to pick up so much. It was just demanding so much of my time. And I remember having a conversation. I finally got in front of Morgan Devon, who’s the c e o of founder of Blavity and Afro Tech, and she asked me, she says, have you thought about raising money at all for your startup?
[00:38:23] I said, no, I’ve been kicking it around. Not yet. She said, you. And when you’re ready, I’ve got a check [00:38:30] waiting for you, but let me know what you need. And it was the first time I’d gotten validation from someone who had seen this, who’s like, yeah, when you’re ready, I think you might have something here. When you’re ready, let me know.
[00:38:41] I’ll be an angel investor. And I said, well, what do you think about my job? Can I do it while I’m still working at Amazon? I’m safe. I’m making money. What do you think? She’s like, you gotta quit your job, Donald. You cannot stay at your job and do BoxedUp on the side. It took me a couple of months, but I came back and I said, all [00:39:00] right, Morgan, I think I’m ready.
[00:39:01] And she kept a word. She invested in me and then I quickly got my mom to write a small check, and I just did this very small friends and family round just to give me enough confidence to say, okay, I think I can go about this full-time, but now I need to plot an exit that’ll at least give me enough cover and enough of a safety net so that we’ve got some safety and some security while I go out and really fundraise for this thing.
[00:39:28] Dan: That’s a big decision though, [00:39:30] and I think there must have been some pluses and minuses and intellectualizing, like, is there a way that I can balance off my security versus the risk I’m taking? Was there a pause about it or did you say, okay, this is it an X date or Y milestone for a BoxedUp and I’m gone?
[00:39:52] Donald Boone: I wish it was as easy as setting the date. I’d say that’s the, the complexities of kind of going about life the way that I have my wife at the [00:40:00] time, it was she and I and we had two kids and we had just lost my father-in-law and it was the absolute worst time to even be considering what I was thinking about.
[00:40:11] At the same time, it was weeks after George Floyd was murdered in the street. So you’ve got civil unrest, you’ve got our family dynamics that are thrown off. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. And I just saw this window of opportunity that if I don’t strike now, it’s never gonna [00:40:30] happen. It’s never gonna take off.
[00:40:31] I’d had ideas before and I’d always hesitated to act on them, just to see it come to fruition via someone else or someone else’s vision. And I said, not this one. This isn’t the moment. I went home, I prayed about it, and I woke up and I’d have the next sort of email and direction that I needed to go. So it was tough, and I’ll share this as well.
[00:40:52] The weeks leading up to me turning in my resignation papers. It was annual performance review, and I remember [00:41:00] distinctly receiving the paper that had my total compensation for what I was gonna earn at Amazon that year, and it was $345,000, 345. I’d never seen, I’m from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, PG County.
[00:41:15] I’d never seen. Money like that ever in my life in a bank account, let alone something I’d make in a year for total compensation. And it was, it just, you know, mind blowing. And my wife, her father’s a retired accountant, she’s [00:41:30] very conservative. And it just, even working up the curse to go to her and say, babe, I know this is a tough time, but I’m gonna quit my job.
[00:41:38] I’m not happy there. I’m not fulfilled. I think box step can become something, but I’m gonna make sure we have enough of a security blanket. And thankfully when I joined Amazon, I, I got enough shares and those shares had grown about three x in value that I say, all right, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give myself six months to go out, do this full-time and [00:42:00] fundraise.
[00:42:01] And if I can’t do it in that amount of time, I’ll go back to work. And thankfully, , we also got pregnant. So I had a window where I was on paternity leave where I could actually go in and kind of just tinker it. Seeing if I could do BoxedUp full-time. So I took a few weeks off with our third child, and then crazy enough, I took the remaining time while we were doing all sorts of other things.
[00:42:26] I’d rest for part of the day, but then I spent a lot of time thinking about scaling [00:42:30] BoxedUp. So when I went back to work, finally I was able to walk away knowing that I had a plan. I was gonna give myself six months. And if it didn’t succeed, I was ready to go back to work. But I said, for now, I’m just gonna focus on BoxedUp.
[00:42:42] So we made the decision and we moved in with my mother-in-law in Greenville, South Carolina with all three of our kids in this three bedroom home. And we were shacked up there. So it was a a crazy, crazy period of time. Kids were home, finally gotten [00:43:00] ’em off to daycare. I’m doing this startup. I’m raising money.
[00:43:03] I’m in the backyard, my mother-in-law’s house just to try to see if it was something that would take off so crazy period of my life. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world to be honest.
[00:43:13] Dan: It’s amazing. That’s an amazing story. Thanks for sharing all that. And you know, I think folks underestimate, you know, especially when they see the headlines in Tech Crunch, they underestimate the sacrifices that people make and the families of entrepreneurs make.
[00:43:29] [00:43:30] That sounds like a tremendous journey where you could have stepped back at any point and said, you know what, you know, even though there’s something here, I gotta make sure that we’re settled and we’re safe, and we’re not worried and stressed about means and healthcare and all these things. So, tremendous fortitude and part of you and your family to, to make that big jump.
[00:43:51] Well, we’re gonna take a short break and we’ll be right back with Donald Boone from BoxedUp.
[00:43:56] Entrepreneur Struggle spot: If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or just starting a business of your own, [00:44:00] then you definitely need to be listening to entrepreneur. I’m Chris Colbert and I love having fun conversations with fellow entrepreneurs about their struggles. You have good years, you have bad years. I mean, it is not like weeks or days, it’s like years, right? , because let’s be honest, we all face challenges, but there’s no reason that we have to overcome them alone. Just search for entrepreneur struggle anywhere you get your podcast.
[00:44:25] Dan: So we’re back with Donald from BoxedUp.
[00:44:27] So Donald, we were talking about the journey [00:44:30] and sort of the big decision to take on BoxedUp in sort of a full-time amidst basically all the signals that would tell you not to do that. How has your family adjusted to you being an entrepreneur? Is this just like your kids growing up now, just like this is what dad is, or does this feel different to them? Or how have they supported and adjusted to you being a founder?
[00:44:54] Donald Boone: That’s a very insightful and thoughtful question. I’d say [00:45:00] my wife, bless her heart, has gone through so many changes. Uh, I was mentioning in the break, uh, I wrote an article, uh, if you haven’t had a chance, uh, anyone, listeners should check it out.
[00:45:10] It’s on medium, but it’s effectively about me walking away from. That money and also getting turned down by Y Combinator, people love it because it was transparent. I wrote it really to help myself to just kind of deal with what I was going through, and I said, Hey, if it helps someone, great, she couldn’t read it.
[00:45:27] She couldn’t read it for months without it [00:45:30] inducing some trauma, but she’s so supportive and that part’s been amazing. The kids, they’re so adaptable and malleable. It’s amazing to see them not truly understand what I do, but see me doing some stuff, it’s like, oh, dad’s working with boxes today. Hey, can we help?
[00:45:49] So, you know, they’d help me load up the car. In the early days when we were shipping a lot of products before we were primarily platform, they helped put boxes in the car and then the boxes would come back, we’d get returns and I’d [00:46:00] flatten them and they’d go sliding down the hill in boxes. So they’ve only really known me to be an entrepreneur.
[00:46:05] So I think in from that large part, it’s cool. Uh, so much so last summer, my daughter, she’s got this bug and I’m like, man, you know a lot of, I want my kids to get a lot of things. I don’t know that I’d wish this entrepreneurial brain on anyone, but she’s totally got it. Her and a friend did a lemonade stand and in about three hours she made, well, they made about [00:46:30] $65.
[00:46:30] And lemonade stamps. Like there’s not a good enough lemonade in the world to make that. But come to find out, she, she sell a glass of lemonade and she just asks people for money, like, Hey, are you gonna leave a tip, ? So she, she’s got the same hustle and attitude that I had. I used to sell candy. I used to sell my mom’s leftovers, and she’s totally got the same thing.
[00:46:49] So it’s funny to kind of see it come through fruition. And now, you know, my kids know that that’s a path, there is a path to being an entrepreneur. Full-time. Mom works at Microsoft. Dad [00:47:00] used to work at Amazon. They do know that. But now dad has his own company and that’s what he does. So I am grateful that it was not a path for me.
[00:47:08] I probably would’ve taken it if it were a viable option. Uh, but now my, my kids know that it is one. So honestly, I, I’d say they love it and they love seeing me around and kind of the flexibility that I have with.
[00:47:19] Dan: What a tremendous gift for them, even if they don’t become entrepreneurs, to know that you can take chances and innovate and change the world in ways that, um, sometimes [00:47:30] the straight and narrow doesn’t allow. So where is BoxedUp now? Like where is the business? What’s the state of the business? Who’s your main customers these days? What’s going on with the company right now?
[00:47:40] Donald Boone: So, very specifically, we’re post seed and prepping if all goes well over the next 12 to 18 months, pretty soon, uh, a series A is, well because we are in the startup world on our way or are finding product market fit.
[00:47:59] So we [00:48:00] closed our seed round in March of 2022 and really throughout that entire fundraising process was really a come to Jesus moment of, Hey, what’s our product? What is it? Who do we serve? And the initial iteration, the M v mvp. It was a lot of things, but it was not focused on a customer and a persona and a pain point.
[00:48:21] It was an idea, it was a hypothesis, and really the months during and after the fundraise was really [00:48:30] who is the core customer who was going to serve as box stepss, beachhead, so to speak, that we’ll focus on with a hyper focus to really build for that. So we weaned off all of the things that really didn’t serve a core persona, which is a filmmaker, cinematographer, uh, very specifically.
[00:48:50] So we only discovered this persona in talking to customers and getting feedback to say like, Hey, you’ve used us before. Well, what’s stopping you from [00:49:00] using us even more? And we get feedback like, Hey, getting stuff shipped is great, but actually use local shops that have all of this equipment. And I use it because I’m on a set that’s a 2 million project.
[00:49:13] The last thing I want to do is show up with something that doesn’t work and have it be my fault. So I need to go, I need to walk into a place, I need to prep it, I need to build it, I need to, to put eyes on it, and then I’ll take it so I rent locally. And even that alone was a big switch for us to say, okay, if we wanna [00:49:30] serve this kind of customer, this is what we’re gonna need to do.
[00:49:32] And then we ask additional questions like, how many projects you do, how much money you spend. And became very obvious to us that this cinematographer, anyone creating high-end film commercials, et cetera, they are frequent renters, which is perfect for us because they are going to transact at a frequency that they would need our service, even if they don’t use us.
[00:49:54] They have a trained customer behavior. They use a rental product very [00:50:00] frequently from multiple partners, so we wanted half F. We wanted someone who we could name via title and target them via title. And we wanted something that could serve and was large enough to serve as our core beachhead, that there was enough growth and enough area for us to expand and really serve this market.
[00:50:17] And then if we got it right, we could go out to other industries like construction, like hospitality. All of these other industries are also rooted in rentals and borrowing things for [00:50:30] short periods of time, for long-term financing problems that we could all solve if we got this initial beachhead right.
[00:50:35] So it’s been amazing to go from renting, shipping, drones and small cameras to actually helping local shops that have millions of dollars worth of equipment connect to a cinematographer working on a a $3 million budget project, all with our software and not us having to physically touch the asset. And by doing that, we can serve faster, we can iterate faster, we can grow a [00:51:00] heck of a lot faster than we could previously.
[00:51:01] Dan: I love that evolution in the idea of this inefficiency and this disconnect with supply and demand. Yeah. I would just mentoring, uh, the latest Techstars group in Seattle, and there was a group there that does kind of the same thing with flowers. There’s a bunch of these local farmers who all have local inventory and how do you connect those to more of a global demand?
[00:51:25] So it’s very similar. I love that. So tell me, Donald, let’s say [00:51:30] six years from now, you’re ringing the bell, so to speak, at the Nasdaq big board, and you’re celebrating that and I get to come up to you and say, wow, this is awesome. This is really obviously success. What’s a success mean to you for BoxedUp?
[00:51:44] Donald Boone: It is really seeing true or become this trend that we’ve already started to see in the way people consume, where this younger generation is really fascinated by experiences and less [00:52:00] ownership.
[00:52:00] We see it with the housing market where a lot of Gen Zers and millennials, they don’t own homes. They just rent for certain periods of time. They don’t own cars. If they do, they might lease. So you have an entire generation that’s transitioning to this wave of living and the when BoxedUp is successful at scale will be able to help that dream come true in areas outside of cars and home ownership, [00:52:30] but also, In tools, if you need a deep clean your carpet for a couple of hours, you’ll be able to have someone on the box, step app, rent it, have it dropped off to you.
[00:52:44] You use it for a couple of hours and then when you’re done, have a carrier come and pick it up and drop it back off to the owner. So really creating this market across the world where we’re able to connect these inefficiencies that exist [00:53:00] between supply and demand, and do it in a way where we can make the logistics and the transaction so easy that it is more favorable than actually going out purchasing and contributing to the waste that we all see in the overspending and the over consumerism that we’re seeing throughout the world.
[00:53:20] And that’s really kind of what it’s about for us, is starting in this one very small niche. But then having this vision to say the, we think the world is going this way, we see it going [00:53:30] this way. How can we build a platform that helps people do what they wanna do, but they don’t have the option to do For some of these smaller ticket items or big ticket items that are in disparate parts of the world, we can help connect them with our technology at Boxdale.
[00:53:46] Dan: That’s a great vision. I love that. And it connects a lot to a lot of things that are very pertinent and relevant for today, not just Gen Z desire to pursue experiences over ownership. My [00:54:00] own son was telling me this earlier, who’s in that generation?
[00:54:02] Donald Boone: Oh, nice.
[00:54:03] Dan: But the climate impact, obviously the more stuff we have and the production of that stuff certainly has some impact. So I love that vision. So with our time remaining, I just have a couple more questions. How does the world remind you that you’re a Black founder? Good, bad, and different.
[00:54:20] Donald Boone: My brain almost instantly always goes to the bad. You know, we don’t look like what success has looked like historically for the world.[00:54:30]
[00:54:30] So I’d say more than anything, that fundraising process, that reminded me that was just the starkest reminder that we’re in the same arena, but we’re playing different games because they, you know, founders that aren’t black have access to resources, tools, mentors, and an entirely separate pot of money that I don’t as a black founder.
[00:54:50] And in that way, if you are basically trying to do the same thing and find product market fit with one hand time behind your back, it makes it really, really difficult. So I’d [00:55:00] say unfortunately, only negative connotations most quickly come to my mom when I think of the world, reminded me that I’m a black.
[00:55:08] Dan: It’s why we have this podcast is to demonstrate that there are amazing founders who are African descent, and I wanna normalize it too. I want, I want you to be a founder, not a black founder, not a five foot 10 founder. A founder. Right. And so tell us a little bit about your fundraising journey. You documented it really well in the medium article that you [00:55:30] wrote, and we’ll include that in the, in the show notes.
[00:55:32] But what’s like one or two lessons that you learned from your fundraising journey?
[00:55:36] Donald Boone: At the end of the day, I don’t think that VC in journal, I don’t think it’s, um, innately, purposely, Racial or racially charged? I don’t think anyone, I’ve never gotten the sense that anyone was racist and they just didn’t like me because I was black.
[00:55:53] But what it is is a relationship business, and you give money to [00:56:00] people who you understand, comprehend, can see yourself with. You’re gonna spend a lot of times with these VCs, They give money to people who look like them and who they can identify with and whose backgrounds are familiar with them, and whose things that they do on the weekend most resemble their own.
[00:56:21] So in that sense, I sort of put myself in the same reason why I chose North Carolina a and t when I arrived. There’s so many, so, so many people like me, [00:56:30] all VCs doing is pattern matching. They’re saying, I’ll need to chase success because I need an exit for all of these reasons that VCs do. And inherently it leads them down the path of funding people that look just like them.
[00:56:42] Unfortunately though, until the construct of check writers and LPs and more VCs actually have the capital to deploy and founders that look like me, it’s just always gonna be a challenge. So from a fundraising perspective, I was reminded of that [00:57:00] pretty early. I’d get further so along with people who I knew well and whose people I could forge a relationship with or that I knew or came from a warm welcome of some sort.
[00:57:10] But it took a long time and I, I think if I had to do anything over, I’d treat it far less like a transaction and a pitch and more about building a relationship, which happens over time and not trying to do it in this very succinct short time period where not only am I pitching them on the [00:57:30] company and the vision of BoxedUp.
[00:57:31] I’m also trying to get to know them as a person. And doing both of those things at the same time is insanely difficult, which is why it took me nearly six months and hundreds of pitches in order to do so. The people that do it well, they start networking far sooner than they start pitching and raising money.
[00:57:49] And if there’s any word of advice that I’d give, it’s to start that networking process far before you ever need the money. And then when you need the money, you ask the people that you know you have good relationships with and that believe in you for the [00:58:00] money. It makes all that a ton easier. I just wish someone would’ve told me that before I started my journey.
[00:58:05] Dan: That’s great insight. And it’s so true. There’s a relationship capital which is exchanged in addition to financial capital and the networks end up becoming pretty important. And you know, you’ve talked about how, you know, some of your early, you know, sort of comrades in BoxedUp came from Amazon, right?
[00:58:24] And from your relationships there. And so it’s a great insight [00:58:30] and I wish there was a way to teach that in a way that was productive. But some of it, I guess is just learning as you go. But it’s painful when you have to go through that many transactional. No, no, no. So we’re coming to the end of our time, Donald, this is awesome.
[00:58:46] I actually could do a two hour podcast with you, . You just have great insights, great stories, but we always like to end with a call to action, to on foundation. What ways can we be helpful to you or to box up?
[00:58:59] Donald Boone: I [00:59:00] think that the biggest thing for us, if you know anyone making a movie, tell them to check us out even before then. Supporting us on social means a ton. We’re @tryBoxedUp on Instagram, T R Y B O X E D U P on Instagram. It’s where the majority of our customers live. So even if you don’t know someone making a movie, or if you’re not doing it yourself following us, lacking our content, engaging with our content, helps us better reach our community, helps us [00:59:30] extend our reach at a lower cost of acquisition, which is, it’s tremendously helpful for us. So if you could follow us on Instagram, that’d be great. That means the world to us.
[00:59:39] Dan: That’s terrific. And there are other ways that people can find out more information or get in touch.
[00:59:44] Donald Boone: Totally tryboxedup, the same handle that we use for our Instagram, that’s us on Twitter, that’s us on LinkedIn, active on LinkedIn, not nearly as much as that used to be.
[00:59:54] And then always, I always add this as well, my email is Donald@tryboxedup.com. There’s so [01:00:00] many tools that you know, people can use to find your email one way or shape or form, but I always just give it out freely because if you need some help, never hesitate to drop a line. I’m busy as all get out, but I do try to prioritize and make time for people that reach out with really good intentions because I didn’t necessarily have that support when I needed to learn the lessons about building those relationships.
[01:00:20] So I don’t want that to stop someone from learning some of the things that I struggle with. So you can always hit me up on email as well.
[01:00:27] Dan: Thank you, Donald. This conversation has been [01:00:30] incredible. I really appreciate you taking the time.
[01:00:32] Donald Boone: Thanks for the opportunity, Dan. Absolutely love it. Just make sure you bring me back after we ring the bell. I want to come back. I want to tell people about the rest of the journey when we’re on the other side of it too.
[01:00:45] Dan: I love that. Thanks again. Really appreciate it.
[01:00:47] Thank you. We’d like to thank our guest, Donald Boone and our sponsor, the Entrepreneur Struggle Podcast.
[01:00:53] This podcast was produced by me, Dan Kihanya, with audio editing and production by We Edit Podcasts.
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[01:01:16] Thanks so much for listening in.
[01:01:18] I am Dan Kihanya, and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.[01:01:30]