How a Black Female-Owned Subscription Box Service is Helping Young Girls Feel Loved Every Month
by Cassidy Allen Chubb (@cassidymilan)
During Black History Month, the Atlanta Hawks highlighted two Black-owned businesses who played a pivotal role in the launch of the MLK Nike City Edition uniforms. With March being Women’s History Month and wanting to continue to celebrate Black-owned businesses in Atlanta, the Hawks partnered with Chase to tell Kelly Beaty English’s story and how she created SelfE Box. What started as an idea that came from English’s own experiences growing up as young Black teen turned into helping Black girls feel loved and validated through each month’s curated subscription box. Cassidy Allen Chubb spoke with English about her journey and how she created a self-esteem box that’s delivered to girl’s doorsteps each month.
Tell me about how you got the idea to create SelfE Box.
The idea for SelfE Box was planted in my mind as a tween girl. My parents used to subscribe to tween and teen magazines for me and I remember reading them and thinking “none of these girls in here really look like me, their experiences don't reflect mine.” They were just talking about things that culturally, I couldn't relate to. The beauty and grooming advice didn't necessarily work for me, for my hair texture and things as fundamental as washing your hair every day.
Black girls don't wash their hair every day and so through things like that, I just felt very othered.
And so, there was that part of me that kind of wished that I could see more Black girls get hair and beauty advice that actually applied to our own lives.
I remember thinking about it like “gosh, if I could just go door to door and just give girls self-esteem.” And then at the time when I first had the idea, subscription boxes had kind of just come onto the scene. I paired the two ideas together and it was like, “Oh, we need a self-esteem box!”
What can girls and parents expect to receive in each box?
Every month we pick a theme. Overall, we try to gear the boxes towards health, wellness and growing because that's such an important topic for girls in that age group. For many of them, it's the first time they're starting to have to use products, their grooming habits are changing. We wanted to create a safe space to talk about what's happening and coach them through that period. The overall theme is about health, wellness and grooming, but we pick a different topic every month. One month we did the move out of your comfort zone issue and we talked about the importance of physical movement and how it's important to get up and going.
It could also be a theme related to mental health. In one issue we talked about anxiety and being at home and how that has that changed our world. We also have a career profile from a Black woman in every issue. We just try to find a woman who speaks to the topic for that month. We don't want any particular type of career. We feature everything from women in sports, to women in business, to women in the arts.
Where did you grow up and were you exposed to Black entrepreneurs at a young age?
I’m from Atlanta. I lived in Southwest Atlanta for the first half of my childhood. And then we moved out to the suburbs for the other half of my childhood. My father was an entrepreneur. So it was right here in my household. One great thing about the city of Atlanta and growing up as a Black child here, you have the benefit of seeing Black professionals in all walks of life. My pediatrician was a Black woman who ran her own practice. My dentist was a Black woman who ran her own practice. My parents were very intentional about putting me around Black people where I could see myself in their stories.
What would you say is the most challenging part of being a black business owner?
It takes a crazy amount of self-belief to be an entrepreneur and specifically to be a Black female. I remember going to business summits and business conferences for women and they would have panelists from all of these very well-known brands. The women would be talking about, “Oh, I started this in college” or “I just had this idea and I was able to reach out to my dad's network and we were able to raise a million dollars” just to test the idea, and for most black people, that's just not our experience.
I'm an HBCU graduate. I have an incredible network. I'm very blessed to have friends who are doing literally probably anything that you can think of, but we as a people moving through our American journey do not have, for the most part, generations of wealth. So, we don't just pass down homes and portfolios to our children. When we as Black people go to college and get our first offer letter, we are at the starting point, right? We are just then getting started, but so many of our peers are already years ahead of us, even at the starting line.
How do you continue to overcome those challenges and what keeps you going?
When I get the reaction photos from our SelfE girls and when I get the messages from moms who say their daughters wait at the mailbox at the end of the month and when that package is not there, she's like, “Where's my box?” that keeps me going. The impact that it’s made on girls’ lives so early and already….we're not even a year old at this point. When I get those messages it gives me the fuel to go on. I have to do a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of selling, unfortunately, to get brands to partner with us, but I believe it will come. Because the impact that we're making in these girl’s individual lives is great and it’s real.
What is something you would tell your younger self knowing where you are today?
I would say, keep going, raise your hand. Don't question yourself. Don't doubt. Don't mask. Don't try to blend in because everybody that you want to blend in with, is also trying to blend in with you. One of the things that we do as, as girls, and I think, well, until we become young women, is we look to the left and we look to the right. Instead, we need to continue to look straight ahead and look into that mirror and look into our own eyes, looking back at us, in our reflection and concentrate on her. Love her, give to her because everything that is unique about you was created specifically for you. If your hair is big or it's curly, or it won't lay down like the other girls, or maybe your body type is different, or your clothes fit differently--
All of the things that you're trying to hide from people are the very things that are going to make you unstoppable in this world. It's the very thing that is going to make people seek you out. It’s the very thing that's going to make you successful. Keep your hand up, keep asking questions, keep not being afraid to be seen, because when you do that, all you're doing is slowing down your progress later. There's going to come a moment you’ll go, “you know what? I am great, and I can do this.” And the faster you get to that moment, the faster you get to everything that the world has to offer for you. Be you, be you without apology. You were born here just the way that you were supposed to be, to do all the things that you're going to do.
What gave you that push to leave your previous job or to start this that maybe you didn't have before?
I started the business while I was working; I am still working. The push came from my network. I had a girlfriend named Erica who, every time she would see me, she'd be like “Kelly, where's the box? Kelly, these girls need you.” Then I had another friend named Denise, who's a news producer and she’d send me stories that they were working on about girls being bullied in school. There was a particular girl who I think was about nine and she killed herself. A young black girl killed herself because she was being bullied in school. And it was just all of the things that I knew inside that Black girls are dealing with because I still remember it from my own childhood.
What made me really pull the trigger on it was last summer with all the social justice protests and Black Lives Matter movements. I was so inspired by the way we, as black people were showing up everywhere. However we felt called, whatever our gifts were, we showed up in that space. And once again, there was my idea in the back of my mind that I had never moved forward on. And I said, “you know, people are risking a lot more and they're being a lot braver in the pursuit of our own elevation.”
And so if I can just offer my piece to the table in the chorus of what's happening all around us, there's no excuse for me to be silent about this. What's in my heart is that Black girls matter and Black girls deserve to know that we see them, honor them and that we are active participants in their growth and development. So I started really getting serious about activating the idea, putting the boxes together and writing the very first issue last summer.
When a girl receives your box, what is one word, or it could be like two or three that you want them to feel?
Nobody's ever asked me this before. Thank you. I want them to feel special. I want them to feel loved and I want them to feel validated.
You can learn more about SelfE Box by visiting their website: https://selfebox.com/.
Real businessperson compensated for their statements.