Starting a STEM subscription box business can be a great way to share your passion for science, technology, engineering, and math with others while also making a profit. However, like any business venture, starting a STEM subscription box requires careful planning and execution. In this post, we will outline the steps you need to take to start a successful STEM subscription box business.
What Is STEM Subscription Box?
A STEM subscription box is a box of educational materials and activities designed to teach children and students about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The box is typically delivered on a monthly or quarterly basis and contains a variety of hands-on activities, experiments, and projects that encourage children to engage with STEM subjects in a fun and interactive way.
STEM subscription boxes can be tailored to different age groups and skill levels, with boxes designed for children as young as three years old up to teenagers and beyond. They may also focus on specific STEM subjects, such as robotics, coding, or astronomy.
Subscribing to a STEM subscription box provides children with regular exposure to STEM subjects, helping to build their interest and confidence in these important fields. It also provides parents and educators with a convenient way to provide engaging and educational activities that supplement traditional classroom learning.
How Do I Start A Successful STEM Subscription Business?
Starting a successful STEM subscription box business requires careful planning, research and execution. Here are some steps to consider:
Step1: 3 Ways to Have a Great Subscription Box Idea
You may have all sorts of quirky ideas in your head, or maybe you just want to differentiate and improve an existing product on the market. Based on our years of experience working with clients to create successful STEM subscription boxes, we have found that there are 3 ways to generate ideas:
1. Start with your own needs
For example, your 11 year old daughter wants to make a very special DIY robot and you’ve searched all the STEM boxes on the market but they don’t meet her needs. Then you spend a lot of time and effort to finally develop this robot by yourself, then it must be a very competitive product.
The advantages of this method are as follows
- There is a real need and that need comes from you.
- You have pain points yourself, and you have spent a lot of time researching and becoming an expert in the field.
- You have enough drive to stick with it.
Of course, its shortcomings are obvious. You can’t guarantee that your needs are the needs of others. For this reason, you should carry out proper market research to check the level of demand before you start production.
2. Improve existing products on the market
This is a method that can produce results quickly and has a high chance of success. Its advantage is that successful competing products in the market have already verified the market demand for you. Your task is to create differentiated products to meet market demand. At the same time, it has an obvious disadvantage: will your improved product meet user needs better than the original competing product? Will it have a better user experience than the original competing products? This is something to think about.
How to design a differentiated STEM Box? If there is only one product in the box, micro-innovation can be carried out on this product. If there are more than two products in the box, then different combinations of different existing products on the market can be chosen for a particular theme.
3. Analyze keywords to find new opportunities
In this world, there are 3 billion searches every day, of which 20% of the search phrases did not appear yesterday. This means there are new opportunities every day. In order to discover new opportunities and generate revenue in a timely manner, you need to have excellent data analysis skills, keen insight and quick response capabilities. Google, SNS platforms are excellent places to discover new opportunities.
Now please write down all the ideas you get in your notebook. You can use one of the methods I have suggested, or you can combine more than two methods to come up with a great idea.
Step 2: Market Research & Positioning
Once you have a product idea, don’t forget to do some market research. There is an old Chinese saying that if you know your enemy and know yourself, you will never lose a hundred battles. Only after doing sufficient market research can you find your position in the competition.
1. Research your product
Demand side: We suggest that you check keyword hotness using Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to check keyword search volume, along with other paid software such as Keyword Everywhere to find specific search volume. Of course, you can also ask your family, friends and colleagues if they would be interested in your idea; if most people are not interested in your product, then do you still have the confidence to enter this market?
On the supply side, you need to research: How many supplier resources are available? What factors affect the cost of the product and how strict are the MOQ requirements?
Tips: The data is for reference only, the decision to enter a market is a comprehensive one.
2. Research your competitors
You need to research: What categories of products do they have in their box? What are their prices? What market segment is it targeting? What is the age of the target audience? What grade level is it for? What is the main theme? Are they mainly wooden toys, plastic toys or paper toys? How do they make money? What are their strengths? What is their marketing strategy? What are the user reviews?
You need to think: What can you learn from your competitors? Can you launch an improved box in response to your competitors’ bad reviews? What are your strengths compared to the competition? How can you create your own differentiated product or service? How do you monetise? Do you only generate revenue from subscription plans? Or do you sell subscriptions, individual products and gift cards all at the same time?
3. Research your customers
Is your target customer a 2B business group such as schools and educational institutions, or is it the end consumer?
If your customer is a consumer, what is the age of the child and what are their interests? What are the needs of the parents? What is their income level? Which social platforms do they use regularly?
If it’s a high-value corporate customer, you’ll need to do additional research on what their teaching goals are.
During this process you need to think: What value can you offer them? Why should they choose you?
Step 3: Create A Prototype And A Bill Of Materials (BOM)
Creating a product prototype is about planning the contents of the boxes. You can plan the contents of all the boxes, or you can plan only 1-5 and promote the rest as mystery boxes during marketing. Obviously the latter is better to increase speed to market and reduce trial and error costs.
You can use a Bill of Materials (BOM) to help you stay organised. The BOM lists the product, box and packaging details such as quantity, size, material, function, colour, etc. This form is used to communicate with your team and suppliers.
1. STEM products
How many products are in the box? What type of products are included? I believe you already have the answer in the market research and positioning process. This is the step you need to start implementing and add the products you have in mind to the BOM table.
For a standard carton with paper sleeve or sticker, MOQ is smaller, standard carton usually has no MOQ, paper sleeve or sticker MOQ is usually 500-1000pcs, the advantage of this packaging method is low input cost after reasonable design will not look cheap.
For customized color boxes, MOQ is generally 1000pcs or more, and the input cost is much higher than 1000pcs of paper sleeves or stickers. There is no downside to this type of packaging except that it costs a little more. Great design can increase sales and boost the premium price of STEM boxes, which means it can increase your company’s profits.
Whether it’s a standard cardboard box or a custom colour box, you can add your own branding information such as logo and slogan.
The common materials used for our custom boxes are B grade corrugated and E grade corrugated. The most common types of boxes are:
Straight Tuck End Boxes
Reverse Tuck End Boxes
Snap-Lock Bottom Boxes
Five Panel Hanging Boxes
Roll-End Tuck Boxes
Which one do you want?
Easy to learn, illustrated instructions allow children to easily assemble all the science kits, you can choose matte or gloss print, and size and material can be adapted to suit your needs. We recommend that you try to use more images and less text so that the typography is clean and uncluttered and the content is clear and concise.
4. Packaging materials
Consider using crinkled paper, tissue paper or wrapping your products to enhance their presentation. For maximum marketing impact, we recommend using crinkled paper as it won’t obstruct or obscure your products when photographed.
Step4: Find A Suitable Supplier To Manufacture Your Product
Finding the right supplier to help you complete production is critical to the success of your project. In this step, you will need to consult with the supplier about the cost, delivery date and MOQ of each item, and communicate with them to verify that the material, process, size and printing method of each item are feasible.
Creating a STEM subscription box is a complex project involving the following work contents: box design and development, BOM table creation, sample testing, combining various science toys and accessories into a content-rich box, colour box packaging design, quality testing, etc., so you need to find a one-stop service provider that focuses on the STEM field so that you can safely hand over the whole project to them.
As a professional one-stop STEM service provider, JOY has rich experience in helping customers customise STEM boxes. Our products cover various science subjects and more than 100 new products are released every year to meet your needs. At the same time, we also offer unique packaging designs to help customers differentiate their products and increase brand recognition and impact.
Critical points to consider when choosing a supplier for your project
To ensure a successful STEM Box project, it is crucial to identify the right aspects of the supplier.
Pricing: Although pricing is an important factor, it is not advisable to choose the lowest bidder. Instead, focus on their experience, patience and value for money. Choose a fair amount and prioritise the supplier’s quality and expertise.
Sample quality: Sample quality determines mass production quality. Avoid suppliers who excuse poor sample quality by claiming it will improve in mass production. Only place an order when you are satisfied with the sample.
Effective communication: A supplier who understands your requirements and offers assistance is preferable to those who push for orders. Choose suppliers with excellent English language skills, fast response times and online chat capabilities. Patience is also essential, as project changes can be frequent.
Minimum order quantity (MOQ): A lower MOQ is preferable, but if the supplier has a fixed MOQ, ask for more options at the same price. If there is a small cost to the supplier for producing additional options, it is worth paying. More options attract a wider range of customers.
Step5: Price Your STEM Subscription Box
Before pricing, remember the formula that the selling price equals the cost plus a markup.
Cost + markup %= Price
If you expect a gross margin of 40% on STEM boxes, then the mark-up is 66.67%, and if you expect a gross margin of 50% on STEM boxes, then the mark-up is 100%. You can calculate the selling price based on the cost, or you can set a target selling price to reverse the cost. We prefer the latter, because after sufficient market and competitor research you will already have a clear target customer and target selling price.
Set up the calculation formula in the BOM table and fill in the target selling price, as well as the product cost from the supplier, the box cost, the packaging material cost and the instruction cost, and don’t forget to add the fulfillment cost, the shipping cost and other box-related costs. Once calculated, you will know which unnecessary items to cut and which items to change the material/size of to reduce cost without compromising function, as well as which supplier’s price is more suitable for your budget.
The common costs of STEM subscription boxes are as follows:
Product cost: the STEM items in your box.
Box cost: your box and box accessories (stickers or stamps).
Instruction cost: The instructions or booklets that guide children on how to assemble the kits.
Packaging cost: Filler paper, bubble wrap, or inserts.
Fulfilment costs: If you use an outsourced fulfilment centre to help with receiving, packing, shipping, warehousing, etc., allocate the total cost to the cost of each product.
Shipping costs: The cost of transportation from the supplier to your warehouse or fulfilment centre. Most buyers have not paid enough attention to shipping costs, and it is too late to notice these costs after production has eaten up all their margins. So work carefully on these costs and consider what type of transport is right for you.
Storage costs: If you have access to a warehouse at a reasonable rate, consider bringing in more cargo at once to reduce freight costs. However, if you do not have access to a warehouse, or if it is too expensive, keep extra stock at the factory and request shipments as needed.
Marketing costs: Determine your budget for Amazon, Shopify, WordPress, SNS advertising, Google SEM and other marketing platforms. Divide the total cost by the number of units to determine the unit cost for each product. This cost is a critical component in the overall pricing and retail determination.
Transaction and platform fees: Fees charged by your payment processor and e-commerce platform per order.
Step6: Customize A Sample Before Starting The Massive Production
At this stage you will find that the final box contents, i.e. the BOM list, may have some discrepancies with the initial IDEA, please check it again carefully and if no further changes are needed, you can send the form to the supplier and ask them to produce samples according to your requirements.
Don’t forget to ask them to make more than one sample, because if they only make one, accidentally losing it will lead to a waste of time and you won’t be able to distribute it to your colleagues or family members to try.
Once you have received the samples, give them to your family, colleagues and friends’ children to try and collect their honest comments. Pay special attention to the bad comments, judge whether it is reasonable or not, and if it is reasonable, solve the problems in time, don’t find the problems after mass production, then it is too late.
In addition, some responsible and professional suppliers will tell you when they find problems that need to be improved and give you guidance.
Step7: Start Marketing Your Product With Sample
You should start marketing as soon as you receive the samples, never wait until the bulk of the goods have arrived at the warehouse. If you wait for a large number of items to arrive before you start marketing, it will be a huge waste of time and effort to adjust when problems arise, thus increasing the cost of trial and error.
Take photos for samples
The first step before pre-sale is to take a variety of attractive photos of the box, such as photos of the outer packaging, photos of details, photos of the scene, photos of the unboxing experience, etc.
Have a good story about your product.
People like stories and they like to read and enjoy the detailed process of how the product was designed and gets to their table. Deepen the brand story in the marketing copy to engage the user’s mind. Meanwhile, try to incorporate the story idea into your packaging design to complete the story and make it more compelling.
Create a Landing page
The purpose of creating a landing page is to test the customer’s willingness to buy, to take orders online and to collect contact details of potential customers for later email marketing. the content of the landing page should include attractive images, pricing, delivery plan, what is in the box, what your child can learn from it, etc. The best landing page builders are Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Hubspot, Wix, Duda, Webflow and more. You can go to their websites to compare price and package contents and then choose the one that suits you best.
Set up social media accounts and start marketing your page
Preparing for your product launch requires a marketing strategy that can make or break its success. Even with an exceptional product, it won’t matter if no one knows about it. To build excitement and anticipation, create social media accounts and consider running ads or giveaways to attract signups. Facebook and Instagram are excellent platforms to start building your audience. Put on your marketing hat and get ready to make an impact!
If the pre-sale effect is not satisfactory, try changing the content of the landing page and ad copy and check the statistics again. If you still don’t get good results after several tests, please be patient and find out what the problem is: is the price too high? Or does the product not meet the user’s needs?
If the pre-sale results are way beyond your expectations, contact the supplier as soon as possible and ask about delivery times, shipping costs, payment methods and shipping methods for bulk orders. I recommend that you increase your purchase quantity to save on shipping costs.
Step8: Set Up Your Website
Once pre-sales show signs of moving in a good direction, you will need to register a domain name and build a website to receive traffic and orders. If you have a basic knowledge of website building, you can choose WordPress, which is more flexible in terms of customisation and functionality. Shopify is the best choice for people with zero knowledge of website building, you can quickly build your website without learning from scratch. Of course, I recommend that you outsource the work to an experienced professional, whether it is design, functionality or copywriting, the professional will do it faster and better than you and this part of the cost is very cost effective.
Alternatively, you can choose to work with a platform that specialises in one-stop subscription box business, they have a complete ecosystem from pricing, marketing tools to building websites.
I also suggest that you register a store on Amazon, which can bring you traffic and complete fulfilment for you.
Step9: Start Massive Production
Congratulations on reaching the production stage! Your hard work has paid off, and now it’s time to start your new product business and generate income.
Throughout the production process, it is crucial to monitor the quality and delivery schedule continually. Additionally, start contacting freight forwarders to arrange shipping for your product.
Once your first boxes have been shipped, take a moment to sit back and reflect on your achievement. You have just shipped your first subscription box! Now is a good time to analyse the first month’s operations and how your assumptions about the niche, customer and product experience have played out.
Collect and analyse customer feedback, actively improve, adapt and optimise products and services based on the content of bad reviews.
With more and more orders, there is still a very important work to be done next, which is to optimise the process, such as the sales SOP process, the pre-sales consultation response template, the customer data management template, the order fulfilment process, the procurement process, etc. A core principle of process design is simplification! Simplification can greatly improve the efficiency of you and your team.
Starting a successful STEM subscription box business requires a great idea, market research, and careful planning. By following these steps, you can turn your passion for STEM education into a thriving business that brings joy and learning to people of all ages.
Finally, I wish you the best of luck in realizing your dream of starting a successful STEM subscription box business! In addition, I would like to hear your comments on:
- Which step of today’s guide still confuses you?
- Or would you like to know more details about STEM subscription box business?