Interview with Zoe Charlton, founder and CEO of TreatBox

Find out how moving to a new town and wanting to send a friend a personalised gift box inspired Zoe Charlton to start TreatBox.

What’s your career background?

Before starting TreatBox I worked in the food and beverage industry from the age of 18 working as an assistant manager. I gradually started to progress by covering the general manager role and then moving onto a business development role, this is where I realised that I loved being creative and all the challenges that came with this. 

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea of TreatBox started not long after having my second child and moving to a new town. I wanted to send a gift to my friend but struggled to find a company where I could include a personal message and was in full control of what went inside the gift box, this is when the idea of TreatBox was born. 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

The idea moved to an actual business when I saved up £300 and used this to purchase products to sell on Facebook. Once things started to get busy and I was overrun with work, I made the decision to start employing staff to help me with the business.

What’s your USP?

I feel TreatBox has two USPs, these are:

  1. TreatBox gives our customers the ability to connect with their loved ones when they physically can not be there in person to comfort them. 
  2. Through our letterbox monthly subscription box we provide our customers with the tools and treats to take some time for themselves.

Who’s your target audience?

Women in their late twenties to mid thirties, who are family focused and like to treat themselves but do not always find the time for this. 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

TreatBox uses different platforms of social media, this is a brilliant and effective way to spread the word about the business and the products that we sell. The boxes, products and leaflets that we use for all orders are also a great way to spread the word as customers who receive this will be able to find out more about the organisation. 

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

We have a large community on social media with a combined following of 191,000 followers. We have heavily focused on social ads throughout 2020/21 and in the last year Google ads have really come out on top for us.

SEO is something that is really important and we work with an agency to make sure we really keep on top of keeping the website tidy and a user friendly experience. Email marketing has also played a great tool for keeping in touch with our customers and we use email flows to connect with our customers from the start of their TreatBox experience. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

COVID, but not the way a lot of other companies may have faced. When lockdown hit we went from 30 orders to 300 orders overnight and although that is amazing, it was really important to me to make sure we didn’t let our customers down. So we had to find a balance to keep everything running smoothly as at the time we were a team of two and so I did most of the work myself.

We also had times we had to close the website because we physically couldn’t continue to take orders and give our customers the best experience. 

And your proudest moment so far?

Moving into our new warehouse/office space and seeing the TreatBox sign bigger than me above my head was an incredible experience. Growing the team to 10 other amazing people who love TreatBox and what we stand for as much as me also makes me extremely proud.

I recently took my first holiday since 2015 and seeing the business continue to thrive when I took a step back was an unbelievable feeling.

Why is work so important to you?

I started TreatBox after having my second baby. I had moved to a new town and didn’t know anyone. I was 26 years old and struggled with my emotions and felt lonely.

Starting TreatBox gave me a real focus to do something I really loved and was proud of, I became a completely different person, a better mum and partner. Believe it or not, even though I have hundreds of new plates to spin, I am a calmer and happier person. 

Who inspires you?

The people around me inspire me, this includes my family and team. My customers have also inspired me to keep going, especially in the early stages.

There are times I could have given up but the feedback from customers about how a TreatBox made them feel kept me going. Customers have also inspired me with finding new themes and products for our subscription boxes every month. 

How do you balance your work with your family?

I love working and, at times, I would be there in person but my mind would be on work, so it is really important to make sure I take time to be fully present and have fun with the children. The weekend is our time and we try to make sure every evening we all sit down together and eat and talk about our days.

I am very lucky to have my partner, he is really supportive and an amazing dad. My partner understands how important TreatBox is to me and he never makes me feel bad for coming home late or starting earlier, sometimes I call him and say I feel guilty I am coming back late, but he will always tell me it’s okay and reminds me I have nothing to feel bad about. 

What are your top three pieces of advice for someone who wants to start something similar?

1) Do something you love!

Starting a business isn’t going to be an overnight success even though that’s what some people try to make you believe, it is going to take a LOT of your time and energy and it’s really important to do something you love and are passionate about, that is what will keep you going. 

2) Watch your overheads

Cash is key and it is really important especially if you are starting out with a small budget that you keep putting that money back into the business where possible. If you can, it is best to keep your overheads as small as possible from the beginning. It might feel like everyone around you is doing amazing as they have an amazing office space and high tech technology, but they are in a completely different stage in their business than you are.

3) Keep to your own path

At the start you might be looking at competitors and what they are doing, and that is healthy in small proportions, but do not compare your one year journey to their 10 year journey, stay focused on what you are doing and believe in yourself. 

Find out more about TreatBox.