Two Trent Business Administration graduates are helping local small businesses bring in revenue while providing self-isolating Canadians with a thoughtful way to connect with family and friends.
The Happy Box initiative is the brainchild of Ribat Chowdhury ’11 and Sana Virji ’12 who, together with their team, have been busy assembling and shipping themed gift boxes brimming with products offered by their small shop partners in Toronto’s west end. To date, they have processed 200 orders and counting for their Comfort and Essentials, Bored At Home and Easter boxes.
Mr. Chowdhury and Ms. Virji were already involved with their Happy Box shop partners via Ribitt, a multi-store loyalty rewards app program that they first developed while at Trent and was subsequently launched in 2018.
“All the local shops deemed non-essential began to shut down and that immediately impacted our business at Ribitt,” says Mr. Chowdhury, noting the focus quickly became “how to really add value” for their 200-plus shop partners.
“The whole idea of the Happy Box was if we can curate lots of local products, put them into a box and people can order for themselves or for someone else, it will give joy and optimism during what is a difficult time for many people. On the day we launched we got 25 orders in a couple of hours. Now we’re getting orders from corporations to send to employees as thanks and from individuals as well.”
There is, adds Mr. Chowdhury, a clear business lesson to be learned from their new venture.
“If you don’t adapt during a time like this, you’re not going to make it on the other side,” he says.
The springboard for Ribitt’s success was their participation in a 2014 challenge hosted by the Trent Business Students Association that required participants to make as much money as possible in five days from a $5 starting position. Offering coupons in a booklet complete with accompanying QR codes linked to websites and social media, the pair secured 42 businesses at $150 each to raise $6,300 – a record amount in the challenge’s history up to that point.