If you’ve ever attended summer camp as a kid, you know the homesickness can be brutal. At that age, few things are more exciting than a care package from home, or when you go away to school for the first time, receiving a surprise box in the mail from your family. Or perhaps you’re stuck at home sick, and someone else’s thoughtful “get well soon” note makes your day.
It’s the little gestures that always mean the most. Gay Gasser recalls being on the giving and receiving side of many care packages over the years. “But I always wished there were more options.” Growing up, her parents were huge supporters of independent businesses and instilled the importance of shopping small in Gay from a very young age. And as a mom, she has passed these values down to her own children.
“Who wants to be a small fish in the big pond? Or just a number? No one. At small businesses, you really get to know the person behind the store and they know you.” Gay comes from a family that not only valued supporting small businesses but also owned them. “My mother, father, and grandfather were all independent business owners,” says Gay. “My family only shops main street stores.”
When Gay wanted more options for care packages and gift giving, she followed in her family’s footsteps and opened Mirth in a Box, an independent online retail business. Now in its seventh year of operation, Mirth in a Box has customers all over the U.S.. Gay says, “I worked for a local company before and wanted to see if it was possible to bring that feeling to the internet; a place where someone could shop online and feel a connection to the business owners.”
Mirth in a Box offers care packages for summer camp, college students, and get well soon packages. Though Mirth in a Box offers countless premade options, Gay says about 50% of her customers choose to make their own custom box. There are plenty of shoppers out there looking for a care package that’s “a little different,” and Mirth in a Box provides solutions.
Customers can choose from hundreds of different games, toys, novelties, and other smile-inducing products. Gay says she adds new products into the mix each year from New York Toy Fair. But, some of the most popular items are classic games such as Uno® and Cat’s Cradle.
“Our busiest season is in the summer with camp care packages, which is not something I initially anticipated,” says Gay. “We also do a lot of stocking stuffers around Christmas.” Her main piece of advice for independent online storeowners is to not get too big too fast. “I was trying to please everyone,” says Gay. “We had too many SKUs and went off in too many different directions. Now we pruned back and just focus on camp, college, and get well.”
Gay says she also learned that “what sells well online is not necessarily what sells well in a store. There’s not as much impulse buying online, and people tend to buy what they know.” Gay says many customers call in for recommendations, which she loves. “I can tell them about our newest fun games.” Many of her customers are repeat buyers. So, even without a physical storefront, Gay still has that personal main-street connection with many of her shoppers.