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CITYBOX: Local Businesses, Better Together

As part of our ongoing efforts to celebrate and honor those who are working hard to help others during this time of unprecedented global crisis, we’re sharing stories from customers using Squarespace to bring support, hope, and connection to their communities. 

Based in Oklahoma City, CITYBOX creates curated packages of goods from local businesses that can be delivered directly to residents observing the city’s stay-at-home order. We spoke to the founders to learn more about their inspiration, their local community, and how their team continues to spread the local business love. 

SQUARESPACE: First of all: how are you all doing?

CITYBOX: We're doing well! We are getting used to the 'new normal' and have enjoyed a different pace of life for a bit. CITYBOX has kept us busy but we are learning more everyday and loving every second of it. Our team is safe and being taken care of and that was most important to us.

SQSP: Tell us about the idea behind CITYBOX: what inspired you, and what steps did you take to put the concept together quickly?

CB: About a week before Oklahoma City ordered residents to ‘Stay in Place,’ our team met to discuss how we could keep our ice cream shop open during this. Only a couple of restaurants had closed their dining rooms at that time, but we knew the inevitable was coming. Out of our meeting, two ideas emerged: 

1) turning Capitals Ice Cream into Capitals Drive-In, a 1950’s themed drive-in where customers could drive up and order through our website and we would bring it to your car. We did this for a couple of weeks and had great reaction from our customers, but decided to temporarily close Capitals altogether in the meantime to keep our employees safe during the pandemic. 

2) We knew as a specialty ice cream shop, we'd easily get hit in terms of volume during this time, but we were amazed about how many people wanted to support local small businesses. That's when the idea emerged for creating a delivery service of sorts to support our business and other businesses through people purchasing multiple gift cards or shirts through a single purchase. The more we spoke about that idea, the more we started talking about what was so special about our business and the other businesses we were supporting. 

COVID-19 has taken away our third spaces. It has taken the areas where we create memories and have experiences with other people. So we pushed ourselves to think through how we can create those experiences for people in their living room. We created experiences like a ‘Date Night Box’ that had everything from a candle-lit dinner and dessert to conversation cards and a playlist, a ‘Brew Box’ featuring local coffee and beer for your morning and evening drink needs, and a CITYBOX that had goods from ten different local retailers with some of everyone's favorite products. 

We came up with the idea on a Wednesday, called retailers on Thursday and Friday, took photos of all the products on that Saturday, and launched the website on Sunday. I think most people thought we had been working on this project for a few weeks, not a few days!  

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SQSP: Before this crisis hit, you all founded Capitals Ice Cream together. How did working on launching that business help inform the way you approached this one?

CB: The origin of Capitals was similar to the origin of CITYBOX. We all value each other's friendship and wanted to stay committed to being in each other's lives. After college, we found that to be a hard commitment to make, so we decided to force ourselves into it by creating a business together. We knew nothing about ice cream, so my brother and I made a logo and some other branding materials to make us look like we knew what we were doing. We did a lot of silly things as we opened Capitals. A couple of those being signing a lease without being fully funded, and not ever making an ice cream until the week before we opened. We were so confident in the idea of Capitals and that we could pull it off, that we were willing to risk everything for it. Luckily, it has paid off and we just opened our second location last fall! 

We felt that same energy and passion for CITYBOX as we launched it. We had no idea how to run a retail or e-commerce business, we were just so confident in the idea, we knew we could figure out the details along the way. All of us did our part to make it happen. Landon built his first website, I got all of the vendors involved, Connor figured out shipping, and Ibsen made it all work financially while also filling out all the paperwork that comes with being a small business owner right now. This is one of the things I have been most proud to be a part of because it truly has been a team effort. Everyone will tell you doing business with friends is hard. We were warned multiple times before opening Capitals that it was a bad idea. All of us would probably agree to that - it has been the hardest thing we have had to do and we haven't figured it out really, but that is the best part. CITYBOX has forced us to have even more grace with each other and is moving so fast that we have been forced to stay reconciled with each other to keep it going. We mess up a lot, but at the end of the day, I think all of us would agree that doing business with friends is hard, but it is worth it.

SQSP: The boxes consist of local ingredients from local Oklahoma City businesses. How have local business owners responded? How have your consumers responded?

CB: We have been blown away by the response so far! From the beginning, almost every business we spoke with jumped on board immediately. Their products are what make these boxes so special. Customers have also been amazing. Oklahoma City loves local. We have seen that over and over and these boxes have shown us that again. I think that is also why these boxes have worked. We saw so much support from the community in trying to support local. These boxes allow people to support multiple businesses at one time instead of going to each story individually. We love this city. They have shown up big time to support local businesses throughout this crisis.

SQSP: How many local vendors have been involved in this project?

CB: So far, we have involved 35 different local vendors, and are adding more every week.

SQSP: How many boxes have you currently shipped?

CB: We just hit 1,000 boxes!

SQSP:Do you have any plans to expand on this idea, currently or in the future? Will it be a long-term venture?

CB: Yes! We will be expanding to Tulsa, Oklahoma, next week and hope to hit a few more cities shortly after that! We would love to scale this nationwide and represent the best of every city's local economy. Whenever we visit another city, we are always looking for what the 'locals' would do. We would love to find those experiences and share them with people all over the country. Local experiences should exist now and in the future, we see this being a long-term venture and have a few ideas in mind to expand on our current platform. 

SQSP: What do you hope this project will bring to your local community as we continue to navigate this challenging time?

CB: We hope it gives people a unique experience. We are forced to spend more time with our families, roommates, loved ones, and even one's self more so right now than ever before. We hope these at-home experiences brought through these boxes will create more opportunities for people to connect with each other. We also hope that more local businesses are able to survive this and come out stronger on the other side. The sales generated through these boxes are directly benefiting dozens of local businesses. We truly believe that local businesses are better together right now and we hope these boxes prove that. 

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