Startup Nation is at the forefront of the subscription box trend, earning its early adopter bona fides yet again.
Members of Koofsa, a service that delivers packages of Israeli goodies to subscribers’ doorsteps, just received their first boxes, containing such treats as a Yemenite spice blend and a pomegranate nectar and timed to serve as Chanukah gifts.
Koofsa is a project of Delicious Israel, the food tour company founded and run by Inbal Baum, 33, a lawyer who immigrated to Israel from the United States about five years ago.
“People would come on my tours and it was hard to bring stuff back,” she said.
Those folks, and those who can’t get to Israel at all but are craving both those flavors and the opportunity to support the Land’s food artisans, are Koofsa’s target market. Those who missed the first run can sign up for a 2015 subscription, which costs $360 and will include deliveries around Passover, in mid-July, for Rosh HaShanah and again for Chanukah.
Baum said she sold out the first run but won’t disclose the number of subscribers. She didn’t make a formal announcement about the business because she wanted to keep the first shipment small on purpose, in order to execute it as well as possible and learn from any mistakes.
“The most exciting things have been the last few days,” she said. “Everyone got it and nothing broke. And now we’re seeing some stuff on Instagram; we’re seeing recipes, and ways to use the products, and it’s creating community.”
Baum drew some inspiration from Negev Nectars, an online retailer that imported gourmet foods from small Israeli farmers in gift boxes several times a year. Sound familiar? But Negev Nectars suspended operations after three years, stymied by its inability to raise prices sufficiently to reflect the high costs of its gourmet, small-batch product.
At a recent food conference in Italy, Baum ran into Jeffrey Yoskowitz, the co-founder of artisanal foods purveyor Gefilteria who helped found Negev Nectars; she sat down with him and "picked his brain" about things like packaging and getting the product through customs.
Baum has also already encountered her own price pressures; shipping from Israel is so expensive that she had Koofsa's first packages put together in the United States. Her brother, Leron, helped with that part of the operation; her father brought back suitcases full of products.
Right now, Baum is concentrating on doing 2015 right. After that, she sees growing the business into an e-commerce site so that people who received products they love can also buy more. And, of course, she wants Delicious Israel to operate a Koofsa-themed tour.