Selling the South - Erin Zwigart heads subscription box service with a regional theme
by Jennifer Hafer
July 14, 2014 12:00 AM | 556 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia Crafted owner Erin Zwigart of Smyrna holds the ‘Southern Gentlemen’ gift box. The Georgia Crafted brand is based on the premise of delivering gifts to your door. Photo by Sam Bennett
Georgia Crafted owner Erin Zwigart of Smyrna holds the ‘Southern Gentlemen’ gift box. The Georgia Crafted brand is based on the premise of delivering gifts to your door. Photo by Sam Bennett
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The Southern Gentlemen gift box contains an array of Georgia-produced goods, from cities including Athens, Thomasville, Marietta and Savannah. Photo by Sam Bennett
The Southern Gentlemen gift box contains an array of Georgia-produced goods, from cities including Athens, Thomasville, Marietta and Savannah. Photo by Sam Bennett
slideshow

Hoping to cash in on the latest trend in retailing, a Smyrna entrepreneur recently launched Georgia Crafted, a subscription box service delivering “local to your door.”

“My husband and I came up with the idea in May of 2013,” said founder Erin Zwigart. “Our website launched Sept. 3, and we shipped our first set of boxes out in October.”

Shipping local Georgia-made products, subscriptions to Georgia Crafted start at $29.99 a month, which includes nationwide shipping costs. Subscribers can sign up for a one-month, three-month, six-month or recurring monthly delivery. There is also a “Give a Gift/Try Us Out” option.

While the business is based in Smyrna, consumers from around the globe can purchase the packages at www.georgiacrafted.com.

“I have to be passionate about what I’m selling,” said Zwigart, a former marketing executive, “and I’m passionate about buying locally. We want people to think of Georgia Crafted as a local farmer’s market in a box, but without perishables.”

New York-based start-up Birchbox kicked off the subscription box trend in 2010, sending women tailored samples of cosmetics. Now subscribers can choose from boxes of pet food, baby products, fishing tackle, video games and more.

Subscriptions can cost as little as $10 or top $100 a month for luxury items, according to industry analysts. The collective value of the products if they were bought at full price is often higher than the monthly cost, but for many consumers the real attraction is not the convenience of home delivery, but the element of surprise.

Zwigart works with 75 different Georgia artisans to pack her boxes with things such as nonperishable gourmet food, bath and body works and art small enough to fit in the box being shipped. Orders are taken the first of the month through the last for the following month’s box.

Not to ruin the surprise, but customers who signed up in June will be receiving products from the UGA-sponsored “Flavor of Georgia” competition in July’s box. The “Flavor of Georgia” contest is designed to spotlight market-ready food — whether commercially available or prototypes — made in Georgia.

“The whole concept behind Georgia Crafted is to promote small local Georgia artisans and to really promote the concept of shopping local,” Zwigart said. “My intentions are this is a way for you to experience Georgia artisans.”

Despite being less than a year old, the company is already evolving. Based on customer requests, Georgia Crafted also offers a limited number of gift boxes, including the “Southern Hospitality Gift Box,” which includes Parmesan Cheese Straws, Peach Chipotle Salsa, Georgia on My Mind Kitchen Flour Sack Towel and a Georgia Peaches Tin Candle. The company also offers corporate client and wedding guest services.

With monthly memberships fluctuating as high as 500, Zwigart estimates the company has shipped upwards of 3,500 boxes to date.

“I am all about supporting local artisans and the local economy,” she said. “To me, there’s just nothing better.”

But, that’s not to say Zwigart wants to hamper her company’s growth potential by confining the concept to Georgia. She’s envisioning perhaps one day, an “Alabama Crafted,” a “South Carolina Crafted” and/or a “Southern Crafted.”

“This is very much a word-of-mouth company,” she said. “Our initial success has surprised me on some level, but it’s what we envisioned happening; it just keeps growing.”



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