Side Hustle to Market-leading Post Box Brand

Posted on by Dominic Poznanski
Posted in Latest news.

Letterbox4you is a leading supplier of high-quality, European-made post boxes and parcel boxes. Primarily for residential use, we sell individual and communal mailboxes to homeowners, building developers and maintenance teams across the UK.

External post boxes are common across Europe and in America, but not in the UK. Here, most people have a letter flap through the front door, but we’re working to change that! The reasons for change are that letter flaps compromise home security and thermal efficiency. In addition, they are too small for households that receive online deliveries.

All of our products are sold online, through our website and eBay. With an extensive range, 24-hour UK delivery on most products and a reputation for great customer service, business is strong, but where did it start?

My Route to Entrepreneurship

As a retail worker and then store manager, I was often frustrated that my ideas, and ability to influence decisions, rarely came to fruition. I could see ways to improve the stock, how things were organised and the customer experience, but I had to stick to what I was told to do. Feeling powerless dissatisfied and frustrated drove my ambitions to become my own boss.

The issue was that I had no idea what type of business would I run. Where was the gap in the market and what was my niche?

Fluent in Polish and English, I was convinced there was a trade opportunity out there, so I started looking.  One day, I chanced upon an established Polish letterbox manufacturer. This family-run business designed, produced and sold residential mailboxes across Europe and they were looking for a UK supplier. Could this be it?

After discussions, negotiations and considerable research into post boxes, I visited their factory. It was clear they were passionate about their business and things started to click into place. I could see the potential, but had no idea of the appetite for mailboxes in the UK market. To test the water, I placed a small order and began an eBay side hustle, alongside the day job.

I can still remember that first notification that an order had been received. The thrill of someone making a purchase! I jumped straight on it, getting it immediately sent out to the customer. It wasn’t long before regular orders were coming in and the stock was piling up in the spare room. I soon had to expand into the garden shed and was encroaching on other rooms in the house.

The eBay side hustle provided evidence that there was a UK market, so I decided it was time to launch Letterbox4you. In 2012, I hired a storage unit, handed in my notice at work and set up a company website. My first employee followed soon after and I haven’t looked back since.

Where Are We Now?

A decade on, I employ a trusted team and manage a sizable warehouse and offices in Buckinghamshire. Letterbox4you sells to leading building developers, as well as individual customers. Despite dealing with a high volume of orders, offering a personal and responsive service is as important today as it was for my first customer.

In the early years, I worked with one post box manufacturer, but I wanted to offer a greater choice of styles and sizes. Over the years, I’ve built trusted relationships with several specialist manufacturers across Europe. Our product range now includes free-standing, wall-mounted and gate-mounted communal letterboxes, external post boxes and parcel boxes.

Facing Challenges & Risks

As every business owner knows, there are always challenges and risks to be faced. You have to be resilient and accept that things don’t always go to plan.

The difference between being an employee and the company director is that I can now do something about the things I’m not happy with. There’s no point being frustrated; that energy has to be channelled into adapting, working with my team to problem solve and navigating the best way forward.

My approach is to actively seek out opportunities, stick to my core values and collaborate. As an example, Brexit made shipping from Europe more of a challenge. However, it also opened up new possibilities. Flexbox, a Swedish post box manufacturer stopped shipping directly to UK customers when Brexit created additional paperwork and costs. I could see we could help each other out, so I got in touch. Letterbox4you is now the UK supplier of their desirable, Skandi-style post and parcel boxes.

Underpinning Values Inform Every Business Decision

When it comes to core values, my commitment to quality underpins every business decision. The company’s strapline is ‘okay is not enough’. If you are passionate enough to set up and run a business, you simply can’t be satisfied with adequate. You have to strive for more.

I am selective about our product range and only supply post boxes that have been rigorously tested to guarantee quality. Our entire post box range is European made by ISO9001 certified companies, who pay a fair wage to their employees. The majority of our post boxes meet EU standard EN13724 for weather resilience, security and finish, with the added assurance of a warranty.

Price is a consideration for many of our customers and we know we have lost business to competitors due to cost. Cheaper products are available from China, but they wouldn’t hit the grade.  The quality is inferior, I’d be in the dark about employee working conditions and there’s the negative environmental impact of global shipping. It’s not right for us.

I want to be proud of what I sell, I want to protect the company’s reputation and I don’t want my employees sending their day answering calls from dissatisfied customers.

Success is a Team Effort

I’ve not achieved success single-handedly; it’s been a team effort. Being an entrepreneur isn’t about going it alone; my skills, time and energy are finite and there’s more to life than work! I’ve built a strong team to help realise my vision. This team includes employees, freelancers and suppliers.

For me, it was important to create a positive work environment and I feel it’s paid off. The team are great and works collaboratively. Everyone fully understands the importance of being knowledgeable, helpful and efficient. They have all contributed to the success of the business, our Feefo Platinum Trusted Service Award and over 1000 positive, verified customer reviews.

Adapting the Strategy to Meet Market Trends

Another underpinning value of the business is ‘learning means growing’. This desire for personal and professional continuous improvement means never assuming you know it all. It means we take every opportunity to learn about the market and adapt to changing trends. This is how the business keeps evolving.

Through lockdown, online shopping skyrocketed and households started receiving more parcels than letters. Habits changed, but as people returned to the workplace, arranged social events and booked holidays, there wasn’t always someone in to receive the deliveries. We saw this shift and responded by extending our range of parcel boxes, even working with suppliers to design new models. We believe this is a growth area for the business and a must-have for modern living.

Recently, we’ve extended our knowledge of thermal efficiency. That’s not a subject I thought I’d be reading up on, however, it’s a priority for all new builds and Passivhaus standards. It’s relevant because a traditional front door letter flap allows cold air in and warm air out, but external post boxes provide a viable alternative. We’re marketing external post boxes as a practical solution for architects and building developers and it’s starting to pay dividends.

Who knows what I’ll be discovering in the coming months?

My Advice to Future Entrepreneurs

Managing a business is not for everyone, but if you have the drive and determination, it might be the best decision you make! For me, the long hours, tough decisions and risks make the successes more meaningful.

If you are growing a business from scratch, be prepared to be proactive and regularly step out of your comfort zone. This is less daunting if you surround yourself with people that share your values. Seek out their ideas and opinions and use their skills and knowledge to keep the offer relevant and appealing to customers.

Being curious is a useful trait. The market is always shifting, so being alert, inquisitive and open to opportunities helps you stay ahead of the game. Curiosity has helped me to discover new suppliers, build a collaborative team and seek out customer feedback. All of these have contributed to business growth.

Remember what drove you to launch a business. Keep this in mind to help you through the challenges. Even on the toughest days, I wouldn’t swap this for the frustrations and dissatisfaction I felt in my previous role. If things aren’t working out, I can turn it around.

Finally, don’t become so focused on the next goal that you forget to celebrate the successes. It’s important to recognise everyone’s contribution to the achievement and accept the rewards of your hard work. I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and I wish you every success with your business venture.