Jon McCarthy noticed how excited his wife Elizabeth and their dog Lola would get when a monthly box of surprise dog items arrived at their Victoria home.
What if people also received a surprise box of goodies — either for date night, family night, or both?
Hence, in part, the Small Business Box idea developed.
McCarthy, whose AMI Swim School in St. Paul and Waconia closed because of COVID-19, also recognized the value and importance of continuing as best as possible to patronize small local businesses.
“I thought, how cool would it be to set up a project where we can pre-sell products and gift cards for those businesses, but do it in a really fun way,” he said.
Each month, the McCarthys receive a box “with toys and treats and every time we get it, my wife and the dog kind of open it up together. It’s always a surprise and it’s a lot of fun.
“I thought, what if I created something similar, including restaurant gift cards and fun items, like games and toys and things people can do at home,” he said. “The idea is to package it all together, deliver it to their door and they get surprises from local businesses that they’ve enjoyed and supported.”
McCarthy “cold called” a number of Carver County small businesses about their interest in the venture.
“I got about 10 businesses which were interested, so I bought supplies, boxes, toys and put together an information sheet about things you could also do at home during the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.
“By purchasing a box, people are providing local small businesses with a source of revenue during a tough time,” McCarthy added. “The goal is to support them now, so they’ll be here in the future.”
Delivery within Carver County is included with the purchase of a box.
McCarthy would not divulge the businesses involved in order to maintain the surprise nature of the boxes, but said they include useable items (winery, bakery, restaurants, entertainment).
A “date night” box costs $130, while a “family night” box runs $120. Each involves six businesses. A “complete box,” which involves 10 businesses, runs $200.
As of last week, McCarthy said he’s sold about 30 boxes.
“I’m not sure how far this is going to go,” he said, adding that most gift cards range in the $20 to $25 amounts. “I didn’t know if I would sell even one.”
McCarthy plans to continue the sales effort at least for the next few weeks, hoping work routines will soon get back to normal.
“For every box we sell, we will be donating five items to the Waconia Food Shelf,” McCarthy said. “We’re excited about that donation too. Everyone needs help right now.”