Every week we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Sandanee Samarakoon and Nawaz Ahmed, founders of Kimera, a subscription box service that sends treats to your loved ones studying away from home.
ONE: How did Kimera start and what was the inspiration behind it?
Being university students ourselves, we thought that receiving a box every month packed with goodies and useful new items would be a great treat. Being a student can get quite stressful and it can often be difficult to stay positive and motivated, so we thought this type of service would be a great way to help lift spirits and give students something to look forward to.
In addition, if students receive the box from loved ones, it helps them feel loved and connected despite the distance. Based on the experiences of close friends and family who have lived away from home for study, it was evident that while the experience may provide students with freedom and new opportunities, it can also get really lonely without the usual support system. Our service is a great option available for worried parents, friends or caregivers to show their support and encouragement.
After conducting some market research in late 2016, we launched Kimera in February 2017.
TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting Kimera?
Nawaz Ahmed (NA): Since I was in year 7, I’ve always wanted to start a business. At that age, I was already doing things like buying chocolate from a local factory shop and selling it at school. But I started my first proper business when I was 17 selling snapback hats online. After that, my focus shifted to university. My interest in business and entrepreneurship was revived while completing my Masters in Bioscience Enterprise, a professional business programme for science graduates, and working at Auckland UniServices Ltd, the commercialisation arm of the University of Auckland.
Sandanee Samarakoon (SS): My interest in business developed through the course of my Masters in Bioscience Enterprise. Prior to doing my masters, my interests were more focused in the science fields. But during the course, I became more aware of how exciting and valuable the commercialisation of new innovative ideas could be. These interests were further supplemented by my experiences at Auckland UniServices Ltd where I got to experience first hand the processes involved in assessing commercial feasibility for an idea and the steps involved in taking these ideas to the market.
THREE: What would a typical Kimera package look like and what sort of thought goes into curating it?
We try to curate each box with the student in mind. The great thing about Kimera boxes is that it has a mix of everything, making it suitable for a broad group of people.
Each month, we take into account the university calendar. So during exam periods for example, we try to make sure the boxes have items suitable for cramming sessions, like caffeinated products. In addition, we try to include at least one new or fairly new brand which keeps the boxes exciting as they often contain items consumers are less likely to come across themselves. We also know that snacks are a big hit with students so we make sure that each box has some yummy food and beverages.
FOUR: How many items are in each Kimera package and how much is the package valued at?
We make sure that each box is valued at around $50. There are seven to nine items in each box and this varies depending on the value of the items.
FIVE: Can you customise what goes into a Kimera package? What about catering for things like dietary requirements?
At the moment, our customisation is limited to customers having the ability to give us a few of their interests when they sign up. Based on these interests, we try to include at least one item in each box that matches up. For example, we try to include cosmetics for customers who have indicated an interest in makeup. We hope to increase the level of customisation as we grow.
At present, we don’t have an option available for customisation based on dietary requirements. This is something we hope to provide once we become a little more established. However, customers are able to email us if they have any special requests and we’ll try our best to meet those needs.
SIX: What sort of subscription options are available? Do you have to be a student to qualify?
We have a one-off gift option for people who want to try it out without committing to a subscription. We also have monthly subscriptions, semester-based subscriptions (4 boxes) and annual subscriptions (9 boxes). While we target our boxes at the moment to a student audience, the boxes can be bought by anyone and for anyone.
SEVEN: Do you any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?
Our objective is to cater to all students in New Zealand with a curated subscription box that’s affordable and meets their needs. We want to provide a personalised solution for parents to stay connected with their children that are staying away from home. We’d like to establish a solid base in New Zealand before looking to grow the business internationally, starting with Australia.
EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a start-up or business that you really admire right now.
NA: Mint Innovation. This is one of the most interesting startups I’ve seen recently. I think it’s a great idea to extract precious metals from the growing amount of e-waste. I’d also like to mention Dollar Shave Club and how I admire the way it’s grown from nothing to being acquired for a billion dollars by one of the biggest consumer goods companies in the world in five years.
SS: Eat My Lunch. I think it’s amazing how quickly Eat My Lunch has grown and I think the ‘buy one-give one’ business model has been implemented very well by the company. The way they’ve incorporated social good into their business inspires me to think of similar processes that can be incorporated into the Kimera experience in the future.
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