The Box: Oak Park brings small businesses to Oak Park doorsteps

The Box: Oak Park offers the ease of online shopping and delivery for products from small Oak Park businesses that do not already have those services. They deliver to residents in the Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park areas. This project was founded by four OPRF seniors in the business incubator course: Eva Spangler, Eleanor Green, Dagen Renfro, and Ezra Siegler.

It’s for “people who are more reluctant to go shopping in person,” says Spangler, the marketing and web manager. “It can combine the convenience of online shopping with supporting small businesses, [and it can help] anyone who’s more cautious, immunocompromised, or has accessibility issues.” 

In their first month, December 2021, The Box: Oak Park collaborated with Brewpoint Craft Oak Park, a local coffee shop on Oak Park Avenue. On The Box’s website, customers can find sample boxes of coffee beans from Brewpoint ranging in price from $25 to $29. For example, the Latte Box costs $25, and the Holiday Sampler Box costs $29. All profits go through Revtrak.

“We wanted to find products where they wouldn’t go bad,” says Green, the outreach and social media manager. “We’re looking at coffee beans, hot cocoa, so you buy the mix and then make it at home. We’re also going to look at goods like mugs and candles from other businesses, it really depends on the month and on the business.” 

“If we took this beyond high school and we all worked on this every day, we would definitely be able to do food,” says Siegler, the resource and structure manager. “Right now it’s difficult because we have to think about how long things can last before expiring … will it break in the package or fall apart? It’s cold out right now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? So we mostly stick to the non-perishables.”

“We’ve definitely played with the idea of having more themed boxes; activity box, spa box, movie box, and it’s something that if we have the time and the resources, I definitely think we will try,” says Spangler. “We’re kind of limited time-wise because this is a school class, and we want something that appeals to a lot of people rather than a super niche market. But I think as people are staying in while covid rates are going up, having activity boxes that people could do at home is a good idea.”

The community response has been very positive for this business. “That was really encouraging and very exciting,” says Spangler. One of their biggest challenges was working out “the financial side of the business,” says Green. Despite this, The Box sold out 50 packages in less than a week, making over a thousand dollars in sales.

The business incubator class also offers mentors from the community with business experience. The Box project is mentored by Nick Preys, an OPRF alumnus and the head of Synergy HomeCare in Oak Park, a program that sends caregivers to seniors in need. “I was really impressed that they were able to pitch their idea to Brewpoint in one meeting over zoom,” says Preys. “That’s a phenomenal success, and it’s been amazing working with them.”