SideHustle Inspiration: Interview with the Founders of PijonBox
These guys put a whole new meaning to the phrase “sending love”!
I’ve just interviewed Rob, Adam, and Jeremy, the founders of PijonBox, a monthly subscription service for parents to send care packages to their kids in college.
PijonBox delivers a variety of products catered to the needs of college students. Including snacks, beauty products, and other useful items, the box contains essential needs and treats, which is pretty brilliant if you ask me. Parents are always looking for ways to show their love for their kids, especially to those who have already flown the nest. While college kids are always happy to receive a care package, not all parents are in tune with what they really need or what is cool and trendy. The Founders of PijonBox have a mission to answer these needs, and in turn, they have been successfully delivering love from parent to students all over the country.
For $29 a month, students can receive a box of cool and delicious surprises from their parents, all thanks to the precision and care of PijonBox!
It’s a pretty basic yet overlooked idea in starting a sidehustle – If you see a need, and you are able to match it with your skills, jump at the opportunity. Care boxes may be a simple idea to start with, but when these three tech savvy guys decided to respond to the call of college students who have had one embarrassing sweatshirt too many, and also to the need of parents to remain connected, they had no idea they would create such a great business down the line!
Read on to learn more about their sidehustle journey!
How did your journey in founding Pijon begin?
Rob: Jeremy and I met in college where we were both Resident Advisors, and actually roommates for a while. While in school together, we developed roommate matching software and a mailroom and residence management system for our school. My experience in these projects fueled my interest in business strategy consulting, where I spent some time after school.
Jeremy: After college we founded a startup called SpaceSplitter, which helped roommates (in college and out) manage their household, supplies, and finances, and we were mentioned by Forbes as one of the four disruptive technologies to watch in 2013. We found that many young roommates were still dependent on their parents for some portion of their living expenses and supplies. It was also during our SpaceSplitter time that we started working with Adam.
Adam: I met Rob at a Lean Startup Machine workshop soon after leaving my life as a creative director for a financial startup that had grown, IPO’d, and sold in the time I was there. Previously, I worked at a strategic marketing agency. I love the energy in creative people, and Rob brought me in to work on SpaceSplitter with himself and Jeremy. We launched Pijon together in about mid2013.
What about your work would you consider that most gratifying or fulfilling?
Jeremy: I love solving problems with technology. Pijon might not seem like a technology company, but underneath, we’ve built a tremendous amount of tech to make our service feel natural for our members.
Adam: I think we’d all say that we love how Pijon helps connect families and their kids while they’re away during those first difficult years.
Rob: Definitely. And I would add that building a business that also does good, through our partnership with Project Night Night, is extremely important to all of us and a big driver of how we think about our business.
What would you say is the most important milestone of your company so far?
Rob: Getting through the first school year! I think we’d all agree that we learned a LOT about college and students and their families since September. So having that experience under our belt and now being able to proceed into the new school year with that awareness is really valuable.
Jeremy: As in all business, just doing it to test our assumptions, having the experience, and understanding the result helped us ultimately continue to build an amazing company.
What was the toughest part about growing a company like yours and how would you advise others to overcome an obstacle like this?
Jeremy: Pijon is a very logistics heavy business. We have to build relationships that lead to great products which we curate every month, get those items delivered to our third party logistics company, then package it all up and get them out for delivery every month.
Adam: We’re always against the clock, every month, to ensure the curation is amazing, the products actually show up at the warehouse—you’d be surprised how often partners back out for one reason or another—and get it out as a high quality experience our members will love.
Rob: Curating and sending great monthly packages is a lot of fun, but there’s also a lot of organization and coordination that goes into it. Anybody starting a company should do their best to walk through, in their mind, every process and piece that needs to fit together in order to build a solid company. At the same time, you can’t let that paralyze your entrepreneurship. Like Jeremy said before, just do it and test your assumptions—which is far better than putting a ton of effort into something that nobody wants.
How do you keep it all together? Do you have a routine or trick to maintain a balance between your work and personal life?
Rob: Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one’s preferences) starting a business is a 24houraday, 7daysaweek job. There is no end to the stuff that needs to get done, and you’re always behind on your work. I think we all just try to make sure that the things we do for Pijon are the high estimpact activities, so that when we do decide to grab a drink with friends or sleep a few hours, we’ve at least been highly effective during our work time.
What particular advice would you give to someone who wants to start work in your field?
Rob: Learn from everyone, follow no one. Absorb as much knowledge as you possibly can. Always be inquisitive. Treat everyone with respect, as if they were your family, because people are wildly capable of doing things that no one else believes in them to do. Empower other people. Be a helper. Do something you love.
What career advice would you give to men and women who are just starting out after university?
Adam: Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. There’s always someone more persistent than you, so you have to keep trying, pushing.
Jeremy: And like Rob just said, in different words… you create a network of people around you, and sometimes you will be their safety net, and sometimes they will be yours. So do what you can to be a part of a big net.
How did you know this was the path for you?
Rob: After I worked at several large financial institutions and the amount of value I was positioned to create was dramatically limited. I knew I was capable of creating disproportionately large amounts of value and impact through my efforts, and I knew entrepreneurship was the only path that would allow me to actualize this.
Jeremy: There’s no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” path. Every path that I take is my own and it’s not about the beginning or the end. It’s all about the path you make for yourself and the adventure you experience along the way.
Adam: This fulfills my emotional and material needs in a way that makes me happy. I’m a big believer in “you know you’re in the right place when you get there.”