I’ve got cardboard boxes coming out of my ears. Most of the time we throw them into the garage and save for bonfires, since we also have brush and scrap wood come out of our ears. Let me just say, when we make a bonfire, it is a good bonfire! The point is, though, that I’ve got cardboard boxes coming out of my ears. Diaper boxes, Kleenex boxes, boxes from grocery shopping at Aldi. All of the boxes that all of those groceries are packaged in! Pizza boxes. Boxes from Amazon shipments. I could probably keep naming some, but I don’t want everyone to get bored.
I finally got sick of the giant pile growing in my garage, and I like to consider myself a pretty creative person, so I sat down and thought up some random ways that I could transform all of that bonfire material slash garbage pile into something useful, and also cool.
The Kleenex box towel holder has to be my favorite. It was also the easiest to make. Cut a diagonal line from the slit going into each corner. Put some glue on what have now become the flaps. Fold the flaps into the box. Use the twine-looking rope (called “jute”) to wrap around the box, starting at the very bottom. Line the inside with canvas fabric, making sure to fold it over the edge to make a border on the outside. Voila! Fold three hand towels and prop them in the box. I keep mine on the back of the toilet for the kids to use when washing their face or for when guests come over.
I know I mentioned food packaging when I was talking about all of the cardboard boxes in my garage, but specific to the food packaging are cereal boxes. There is a new cereal box being added to the pile just about every week. I took two of them and used them to make magnetic paper bins that I keep on my refrigerator. Cut the top off, angling down so that the front is lower than the back, and cover the entire thing in pretty paper. Glue some heavy duty magnetics to all four corners on the back, but make sure they really are heavy duty. It would defeat the purpose if the bins keep sliding off or falling down. Now you can keep your mail, homework assignments, shopping lists, coupons, bills…off the desk but still nearby!
Let’s take a minute to consider some things that we can identify just by a snapshot of what they are made out of. You can easily tell whether you are looking at a zebra, a giraffe, or a flower, just by the designs. You can easily tell whether you are looking at a bird, a reptile, or a rock just by the texture. These things and animals are custom designed. They are who they are.
Now, let’s take this same illustration and use it on the business side of things. What are some business that you can easily distinguish by their custom design? Or, as we refer to it, their logo? The golden arches of McDonalds. The swoosh of Nike. The checkered flag for Microsoft.
Okay, so now lets take all of this talk about custom designs and logos and think about what these companies are associated with. Namely, what is their brand? McDonalds is clearly fast food. Nike is activewear. Microsoft is electronics. These are clearly their brands.
What about you?
Did you know that customizing your shipping boxes helps identify your company? People should be able to look at your logo and easily identify that it comes from your company and what you sell.
Customizing your shipping boxes isn’t really as complicated as you might think it is. Or as expensive. If you buy wholesale you are one step ahead of the game. A friend of mine used to just put her company sticker on the outside of all of the boxes she sent out. It was a cheaper way for her to start out, and it still notified the customer that what they were waiting for had arrived. At the same time, anyone who just so happened to handle the box in transit had a chance to wonder a company like that had to offer, and they might even check out the website, and maybe even buy something. There is really nothing to lose.
Some people go all out and order specially made shipping boxes. These boxes are printed on during the actual manufacturing process. It’s pretty obvious that you would have to be well-established (and well off!) in order to take it to this level. Another friend of mine used to sell an oddly shaped piece of equipment that was easily breakable, and so he had a special plastic, protective mold made that fit perfectly into his shipping boxes.
If you’ve launched a small business than you know that it tends to be a lot more complicated than you might think. It’s not as simple as just coming up with an idea. You also have to come up with a “brand”. “Branding” is kind of a big thing these days, and don’t worry, no animals are harmed in the process. Instead, the word “branding” has been borrowed from that rather unfortunate practice of burning an identifier into the hide of an animal, and has become the process of making something look exclusively yours. Nowadays, an average individual can make a pretty awesome-looking website. I know someone who’s step-dad puts together websites, and he charges somewhere around five grand. Five grand? Someone pass me my smelling salts. Thankfully there are plenty of online domains that allow you purchase a dot com and, make it super easy to put together, for like a hundred bucks a year. Ahhh, much better…
What about packaging supplies? Don’t be fooled, packaging supplies are more than just a box and some tissue paper. It’s important to find somewhere that you can get them at wholesale prices. An online source is usually best for this. What about business cards? It’s a good idea to include business cards, or maybe a business magnet, in with an order that you’ve sent. Flyers and catalogs can all be part of the packaging process. Not to mention, you don’t have to settle for boring old, everyday packaging supplies. Go the extra mile and get some drawstring muslin bags, or metal tins, or even ribbon.
One of the most crucial components of your “brand” is your logo. It’s a good idea to really take some time on this. Put your heads together with some friends. See what they think of your idea. Next, if you can’t design your own logo on your own, pay the money to have someone do it. You don’t want to wind up with a pathetic looking sticker that you obviously put together using the outlines from Microsoft paint.
We’ve already talked about a lot of the most obvious parts of owning a small business, like packaging supplies and business cards. Here are a couple other things to consider, that might not have seemed so obvious before you launched into this whole thing: custom garment labels if you are designing clothes, custom rubber stamps to “brand” your product, or custom leather/metal tags for your homemade handbags.
Cardboard boxes are such a huge part of our lives. It may sound like I am giving them too much credit, but I don’t think that I am. If you were to take a walk around your house, you would probably discover so many more cardboard boxes than you thought you had, in a lot stranger places than you thought they would be. And there are probably some en route with the postman, heading to your door as we speak.
My mother used to break down every single box she came across, and kept them in a ginormous stockpile under her stairs. She had so many cardboard boxes we basically packed our whole house from them, ranging anywhere from a ring box to a washing machine box.
However, there are a lot of fun projects you can do with them, instead of wasting them or stockpiling them. Below, I have listed three:
- Despite all of the obvious things you can do with cardboard boxes, one of my favorite remains painting with marbles. I first saw this done at a group home for people with special needs, and it really is a project for everyone. Take the lid off a carton, or cut off the sides of a box so that there is only a couple inches up from the bottom, and squeeze different colors of paint randomly across the bottom. Throw in a couple marbles and have the artist tip the box from side to side. The marble will roll through the paint and make a fun design.
- Check this out: make a few notches at the top of a box, a few inches wide, and then set the box on the floor upside down, so that the notches become little doorways. Grab some golf balls and whatever you want to use as a golf club and you’ve got some putt-putt on your hands!
- And then, of course, you have your homemade dollhouse, where you glue a bunch of different sized boxes together to make rooms of different sizes, and you can decorate the walls with wrapping paper to look like wallpaper, and cut out pictures from magazines to use as the accessories and/or backdrop. If you don’t want to do something as girly as a dollhouse, why not put together a firehouse, or even some imaginary world of your own design? The possibilities are literally endless.
Random Fact of the Day: Did you know that a flock of crows is called a murder? It is speculated over why this is what they are called, and a lot of the speculation revolves around the superstition surrounding this particular species. But an interesting observation pointed out that there was a time when groups of animals were given creative names, like a parliament of owls, a knot of frogs, and an ostentation of peacocks.
On a completely different note, when it is time to relocate, we all like to think that we want cheap moving boxes. The problem with this is that we don’t actually take the time to stop and think about what it really means. I mean, seriously, would you really choose cheap moving boxes to protect and transfer all of your worldly possessions? All of your grandmother’s antique crystal serving bowls, or your entire collection of records by The Who, or even your books? Imagine having the bottom fall out while holding any of the priceless items I just mentioned. You would probably curse yourself for not going the extra mile. Because what’s the point of even moving your stuff if you are just going to ruin it along the way, anyway?
A friend once asked for some help moving. Imagine our absolute surprise and consternation when we arrived and discovered that she was only “mostly” packed. Now, when most of us think of “packed” we think of items being placed in a container of some sort and being adequately secured. Well, when this friend said “packed” she really meant that she had unplugged her lamps and set them by the door and was ready to give orders from there. I kind of feel a little bad for her, actually, because I think she was hoping that it would wind up being some kind of party, and it was nothing of the sort. She wound up having some pretty adequate help, but we were all people that wanted to get in and get the job done. I think five of the six of us were prior military, and we were not impressed with either her strategy or her mindset. I don’t care how cheap, I would have settled for some cheap moving boxes on that day. It would have beat carrying grocery bags of cat supplies and armfuls of towels.
If there is a moral to the story of “cheap moving boxes” than it has to do with how it’s better to be packed than unpacked, and I think we can all agree on that.