A few weeks ago, Fishbox got featured on the 6ABC news and our business went to another level. As a young startup, press mentions are really important in helping to grow the business, so we wanted to share how that all went down in hopes of us paying our good fortune forward and possibly helping another startup do the same.
Around March of 2015, I hit publish on the Fishbox site and I let the world (AKA Fishtown) know what I had been working on for about a month straight. At the time, Fishbox was nothing more than a signup form that said something to the effect of “Tired of missed packages? Leave your name, zip and email address here and we’ll let you know how we can help”. I honestly didn’t think anyone would respond. I didn’t do any marketing and I didn’t even know how I was going to accept payments or even deliver the packages at that time. I just knew I had a big problem and I was willing to bet that there were a few others that had the same issue. Turns out I was right.
Within just a few days (and with a little help from a friend, Steven, who runs Fishtown Spotlights) 50 people entered their details and awaited a miracle — someone who would end missed/stolen packages forever. It was at that time, even before I had an actual product, that I started thinking of ways to tell more people about my ambitions. I thought, “Shoot, if I got 50 people to sign up for something that didn’t even exist yet, imagine if I actually created it”. And create Fishbox is exactly what I did.
I’ll save the details for how I went from nothing to a functional service for another time, but once I built the product and emailed all 50 people that had signed up, I got the glimmer of hope that would give me a reason to call my mom (as I do whenever I have some big news). I got one (and just one) amazingly inspiring signup.
Then a few weeks later, I got another one. Then another one, until the summer came and I had a solid 28 users. One of these users was a customer (and now friend) named Shannon.
Back then, getting a new customer was so cool to me that I’d do some research on them to learn a little bit more about who they were. Normally, I just looked for that person on Twitter hoping they’d say something like “Wow, just signed up for Fishbox and it looks cool” (which never happened BTW). While researching Shannon, I noticed that she was a writer (now the Managing Editor) for BillyPenn.com and that she loved Mt. Dew soda. It seems a little crazy thinking about it now, but I thought it’d be cool to give her some Mt. Dew with her first delivery as sort of a thank you for signing up. I also thought that maybe she’d want to write about us on the blog if we gave great customer service. Well, Shannon did me one better and she introduced me to her husband, Chris, who is the Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly Philly. What a great dude!
Chris always had Fishbox’s back. Whether it be a meetup where Tech Philly was looking for input from local entrepreneurs or even a holiday party, Chris always shot us an invite. This past September, Chris invited me to an event co-hosted by Comcast’s entrepreneurship division with the goal of meeting new and seasoned founders to help give ideas for their new Innovation Center. It was a great night!
Before eating some of the best Israeli food that I’ve ever had, we all went around the room and shared our business idea. When it got to me, I gave my elevator pitch and kept it short. There was a guy sitting next to me named Justin who is the VP of Sales and Marketing for Saxbys and he leaned over to me and said something to the effect of “that’s a dope idea, I think I can help you.” As you can imagine, I was optimistic on the outside, but inside I was all “yea, suuuuuure you can”. I had been offered help many times before, and many times the person just didn’t come through. So, I shot him an email after the event and a few days later he invited me to the Saxbys office for a convo.
The Saxbys meeting was actually pretty cool. I learned that Justin was one of those guys who does what he says he would do. We spoke about the idea some and it was about halfway in the convo when he drops the bomb on me:
I think I can get you on TV
Honestly, I don’t even remember how the rest of the conversation turned out after that. All I could think of was my smiling mug on television standing next to the Mayor while he told everyone to sign up for Fishbox during a “Breaking News” segment. So, I thanked Justin and said I’d follow up with him in a few weeks if I hadn’t heard back, which I did.
When I followed up, I asked Justin if there was any other info I could provide to help the cause and he asked me for a link to my most recent press mentions. This was a smart recommendation as news companies like to spread stories that others would really find helpful. Also, it added instant credibility to the business as we had already got press mentions from sites like Tech Philly, Philly Business Journal and PhillyMag. It was at this time that I started thinking being on TV was a possibility, until it wasn’t.
Fast forward about two months, and I hadn’t heard anything from Justin or any television network. I figured the idea was just about dead and that I’d have to do some things on my own to get that TV love. But to my surprise, I got an email saying that Justin pitched my idea to a friend of his, Alicia Vitarelli, and that she loved the idea of Fishbox and wanted to meet. I didn’t know of Alicia at the time, but after some Googling, I found out that she was pretty much the only person I should’ve been speaking to when it came to local news. Honestly, she’s the best!
Alicia and I went back and forth through email and we agreed that we’d meet sometime in the future to discuss the angle we’d take for the segment. I was getting a bit anxious because we were now knee deep in December (our busiest season) and we were going to miss the opportunity to market to people when they needed us most.
But fate had a different story.
On a random Friday at about 9am, I came into my regular 9–5 job to see an email from Alicia saying “we had someone who was supposed to do a different segment today at noon, but they cancelled, can you make it over here so we can interview Fishbox instead”? I’m sure you can guess what my answer was to that question.
So with a Fishbox shirt in my hand, a pair of reading glasses that I almost NEVER wear, an unshaven face and haircutless head, I take an Uber over to 6ABC during my (extended) lunch break for the interview.
While I was there, the crew couldn’t have been nicer. You’d think I was Ron Jaworski or Allen Iverson with the amount of love the crew showed. They made sure I was comfortable, that the lighting was on point and that I had everything that I needed. What’s even crazier is that as we were wrapping up the interview, one of Alicia’s colleagues, who just happened to walk by, asked what Fishbox was (those t-shirts were the best investment ever). After explaining it to her, she mentioned that her crew was working on a separate segment about holiday shopping in Philly and Fishbox would be perfect for that. I enthusiastically agreed. So, just an hour before, I was some dude with no haircut hoping I could get just 10 seconds on the news, and now I was some dude with no haircut who had two segments lined up for the news. Man, what a great day!
After the interview, I thanked Alicia and caught another Uber back to the office wearing nothing but a Fishbox shirt, a fresh pair of Jordans and the same grin that I had when I was 10 years old and I opened the Sega Genesis that Santa got me for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for the segment to air that following Monday. I didn’t tell anyone about it, though. For some silly reason, I was scared that if I told anyone, it might not actually happen and I’d look dumb. So I kept it a big secret, until Monday came.
On the day that the interview was going to air, I let the news slip to a few coworkers that I was going to be featured. I had this huge grin all day and I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. It was my time to shine!
After the interview aired, a bunch of people showed me love and I even got messages from my customers saying they saw me on TV. I thought that was dope. The best (and worst) part was that hundreds of other people saw the news and they all hit the Fishbox site at the same time. Because of this, the site crashed and I couldn’t take advantage of all the signups (rookie mistake). However, we were still able to break a record for monthly signups and we had the best month ever (revenue wise) by almost double. It definitely pays to be consistent!
I hope that this post helps someone continue pushing forward with whatever they’re working on. You never know what can lead to your next big break, so take every opportunity you can to share your story and always believe in someone when they say they want to help you, even if you’ve been let down before. Also, if I can help you in any way, please reach out. I’d love nothing more than to pay this energy forward.