Sabena Suri on Business and Being an Entrepreneur

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Originally from the Bay Area, Sabena Suri earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California in 2012. Prior to co-founding BOXFOX, the destination for custom gifting, Sabena worked in brand strategy where she gained a deep understanding of consumer behavior. Her obsession with trendspotting, when it comes to new brands and products that enhance lives, shines at BOXFOX. At just 28, she wears many hats: running the company’s corporate gifting arm, discovering new brand partners, and concepting new ways to constantly better BOXFOX’s online retail experience.

Describe your typical day:

No two days are ever the same. I’m sure you hear it all the time, but it’s the truth! My typical day looks like this:

  • 6-8:30 AM: Wake up, workout, breakfast, meditate, and off to work.
  • 9 AM: Meet with the team in our daily “stand up” meeting.
  • 10 AM: Answer to emails and attend to client calls.
  • 12 -1 PM: Lunch meeting with a potential brand partner.
  • 1:30 -3 PM: Work on proposals for corporate clients.
  • 3 PM: Meet with my sales team regarding our leads and strategies.
  • 4 PM: Concept new holiday collection with my co-founders.
  • 6 PM: Wrap up, head to a female entrepreneur networking event.
  • 8 PM: Home for some much-needed wind-down time! Cook and read a good book.

How has being an entrepreneur affected your personal life?

One thing I’ll say that I’ve learned from entrepreneurship that I’ve transferred over into my personal life is learning how to prioritize. It’s important for me as an employer to ensure that my employees have a work/life balance. I often encourage my team to spend time with their friends and family and to do the things they love outside of work - you can’t be all work all the time. The same goes for me as a founder, I needed to set those boundaries for my personal life. Although that’s often easier said than done, being an entrepreneur has helped me understand the value of defining a healthy work/life balance so I can be my most productive, present and clear-minded.

How did you decide on the location for your business?

Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic, creative, inspirational, and vibrant cities in the world, so there was little chance we’d operate our business elsewhere. Though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my experience at USC felt like the most natural thing in the world, and I wasn’t ready to leave after four years. My co-founders feel the same. We’ve been able to draw inspiration from everything from the weather to the food to the people we’ve met along the way and feel like BOXFOX is a true LA brand because of those varied influences.

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Who has been your greatest inspiration?

It’s hard to point to just one inspiration because we’re fortunate to be living in a time where there are so many inspiring women across industries to look up to. Some of my personal heroes are Sara Blakely of Spanx, Alli Webb of DryBar, Payal Kadakia of ClassPass and of course the legendary Bobbi Brown. All women who saw a true need and then just went after it—refusing to listen to any skepticism. Aside from that, my parents have been my inspiration throughout my life. I’m eternally grateful for their support and guidance; they were the ones who pushed me to pursue BOXFOX full-time and I’m so lucky to have them in my life.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

I don’t dwell on my failures because I appreciate that they have helped me grow along the way. After graduating from college, I wanting to move to NYC and I tried, again and again, to apply to NYC-based jobs, only to receive LA-based offers. Even though I was getting job offers, the fact that they weren’t in NYC made them feel like a “failure.” I ended up accepting a job at Ogilvy & Mather’s LA-based office, which is where I met Chelsea Moore, my future co-founder. The rest is history. So, I’ve learned to let go and wait and see when it comes to failure. Everything comes full circle, especially when you re-adjust your perspective and let yourself learn.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

One of my favorite aspects is knowing that our business is making a true impact on people’s lives. We started BOXFOX to maintain and strengthen our most important relationships and it’s amazing to see that vision become a reality for our loyal customers.

Another is creating the kind of company we want to come into every day—open, honest, supportive, transparent, and fun! We celebrate our wins and learn from our mistakes and truly believe in the power of teamwork.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

My most satisfying moment was joining the team full-time in October 2016. Prior to that, I had been working on BOXFOX whenever I had a free moment—nights and weekends—while holding a full-time job. It was so satisfying to go after my dream and join my two co-founders in building something we believe in so strongly. Fast forward and we’ve got a team of 14 and counting and are on our third warehouse. There have been so many “pinch me” moments along the way, and I’m eternally grateful.

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur:

Fast-paced.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years? 10 years?

We want BOXFOX to be the go-to for gifting, regardless of whether you’re a solo gift-giver or gifting on behalf of a company. We see that manifesting itself in several ways, be it offering our line of products or having strategic brick-and-mortar experiences. Personally, I see myself managing an even larger team of people who both inspire and challenge me as a leader. No matter how big we grow, we always want to maintain the personal touch that we’ve become known for — hands-on curation services, handwritten notes, and best-in-class, personalized customer care.

I don’t dwell on my failures because I appreciate that they have helped me grow along the way.

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What are your beauty must-haves?

Under eye-cream and face oil are my new skin lifesavers. I recently really got into facial rolling too. Makeup-wise, I always use concealer, mascara, and rose-brown lipstick (Bobbi Brown’s Brownie Pink is seriously my go-to!). And when it comes to hair, a wet brush and a detangling spray save the day.

Do you have any low-maintenance routines that help make life easier?

I love air-drying my hair to save time (LA’s temperate weather makes this a year-round possibility) and use Bumble & Bumble’s Don’t Blow It cream. I get eyelash extensions before I go on a big trip or a crazy work month (hello, Q4) so I can go minimal on the rest of my makeup. And I love a multitasking product for in my bag, something that works for eyes, lips, and cheeks.

Describe your personal style:

Effortless, chic, modern and relaxed.

What are your wardrobe/style must haves?

Leather jacket, camel duster, a good white t-shirt, high knee boots, leather mini skirt, and ripped black skinnies.

List 5 things you must have in your handbag:

Gum, Well Kept Wipes, lip balm, perfume roller, and, of course my business card.

List 3 of your favorite Amazon finds:

I last purchased: ankle weights, eyelash serum, and Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav.

What was the last thing you googled?

“Health benefits of collagen”

What’s your morning routine? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Workout?

I’m a morning person, so I wake up around 5:45/6, head to workout class (favorites are Body by Simone, Burn60, or Cycle House), make a Fab 4 green smoothie (Be Well By Kelly’s signature), try to journal or meditate for 5-10 minutes, then head to work and listen to a podcast (love Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations or How I Built This).

Cocktail of choice?

Paloma or Margarita. I’m a California girl through and through.

Describe a perfect night on the town:

Head to a new LA restaurant with some girlfriends and then somewhere trendy and buzzing for cocktails. LA has so many great spots opening up all the time and I love exploring all the new! It’s one of my favorite parts of living here.

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