Sabena Suri ’08, co-founder of BOXFOX, an LA-based e-commerce gifting company, was named, along with her two co-founders, to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the retail and ecommerce category.
The three women identified the need for a comprehensive gifting service that lets both consumers and corporations send high-quality, personalized gift boxes for any occasion. The company (shopBOXFOX.com) projects more than $6 million in sales this year. Suri currently serves as BOXFOX’s chief strategy officer.
She met co-founder and CEO Chelsea Moore at her first job in advertising, who then introduced her to Jenni Olivero, her other co-founder and COO. Together, they bring experience from the worlds of advertising, PR, sports and ecommerce, and contribute to BOXFOX in distinct ways that cater to their strengths.
“I oversee long-term growth and business objectives for the company,” said Suri. “I’m always thinking a year, two, even five years ahead, ensuring that we stay relevant and competitive. On a day-to-day level, I oversee our corporate sales division (BOXFOX Concierge), broader partnerships, web initiatives, trendspotting and more.”
As a unique operation, there were challenges. “The hardest part of starting BOXFOX was doing so without any kind of rulebook,” said Suri. “We’ve bootstrapped since day one, so there were a lot of decisions that we just made from our gut (and usually a lot of Google searching), from picking the right box manufacturers to pricing our product to choosing the best shipping carrier.
Suri built a resume that gave her the chops to build a brand. She was a USC Global Fellow and earned a three-month summer fellowship in Hong Kong with Burberry, according to her bio. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. Suri held down a number of positions as BOXFOX got off the ground, including managing the corporate concierge program, driving B2B business development, and working closely with developers on site enhancements and solutions to constantly improve offerings.
With the company up and running, she has settled in to her current role a bit. “Today, the challenges look a little different. We’re fortunate to have an incredible network of fellow entrepreneurs and experts of all kinds we can call upon. As founders, we now spend a large portion of our time thinking about both managing and scaling our team while maintaining our company culture and values. Scaling can be as scary as it is exciting, but we hire hardworking, kind people who believe in our mission and entrust them to shape our ever-evolving culture.
The payoff? “The most rewarding part of our company is witnessing the impact we have on people’s relationships,” noted Suri “We started BOXFOX after a personal experience left us without a solution to being there for a friend in the hospital. We wanted to send a meaningful, tangible gift with items that would actually help her heal.
“In the four years since, it’s been deeply gratifying to see that same spirit behind the gifts our customers give every single day, from the products they choose to the messages they type. We’re making it easy and accessible for people to be there for the people in their lives, even when they can’t be there physically.”
Becoming an entrepreneur means pulling together disparate skills. Suri’s advice to help with that challenge: “Put simply: take advantage,” she said. “Harker is such a special place and was absolutely instrumental in getting me to where I am today. There are so many resources, between the courses, the faculty and the extracurricular options. Harker gives you the potential to explore anything you are passionate about; if that’s entrepreneurship, you can get a head start.
“More importantly, the people you meet at Harker will be in your network forever. They will be your co-founders, your bosses, future hires, neighbors and best friends. So make the most of the time with them both in and out of the classroom.”
Other Harker alumni have been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 lists over the years. In 2018, the list included Siddarth Satish ’06, founder of Gauss Surgical, in the health care category; Chadwick Manning ’07, co-founder of ElectrIQ Power, in the energy category; and Meghana Dhar ’06, director of retail partnerships for B8ta, in the retail and e-commerce category.
In 2016 Amit Mukherjee ’06, a senior associate at New Enterprise Associates, was included in the venture capital category.
In 2015, Andy Fang ’10, co-founder of DoorDash, made the list. In 2014, Neil Mehta ’02, Surbhi Sarna ’03 and Ilya Sukhar ’03 were named to the list. And in 2011, Alexander Wang MS ’98 made the list. Details on all can be found at news.harker.org.