In a year that’s been short on pleasant surprises, it’s especially nice when a box full of comfort shows up on the doorstep. That premise has kept Brianna Petersen’s small business, Unwrapped, busily sending packages from her home in Cobourg into the Northumberland community and beyond. Every month, Petersen packs Unwrapped Experience boxes with a selection of artisanal products from makers across the country, from bath products to jewelry to chocolates, and mails or delivers them to her customers. Some go to regulars looking forward to a monthly treat; others are gifts for a special occasion, and some are little indulgences just because.
Unwrapped launched September 2019, before COVID thrust online businesses abruptly to the fore. The project was a success prior to lockdowns, though Petersen says the boxes have become even more popular with customers seeking a break from routine, or who use them as a way to connect virtually. She shares a story about friends who ordered boxes together and opened them on a Zoom call as proof – when the days pass in self-isolation and there’s not much to chat about, a package can inject some spontaneity into the conversation. “I’m really glad I launched when I did, but I definitely think it’s needed, whether it was going to be COVID or not. A lot of people still don’t realize how many amazing products and small businesses are out there. I was constantly telling my friends like, oh, have you heard of this? Have you heard of this?”
To help spread the word, each product in an Unwrapped box comes with a “spotlight card,” detailing its retail value and a little bit about the makers behind it. “One of the spotlight features may be more about the product, one of the spotlight features on a different business might be more about how they started,” Petersen says, adding that she works with each business to decide how they’d like to be presented. Applications for artisans who’d like to be included have recently reopened, but the response over the last year was enthusiastic enough to fill experience boxes through to 2022.
With each box’s unique selection only available for a limited time, many customers choose to receive a box monthly. There’s no obligation to subscribe, though, and while the contents aren’t announced beforehand, the retail value is always higher than the price of the box itself. To accommodate more products from her ever-changing list of artisans, Petersen also adds one or two vouchers that can be put towards products or experiences too big to include.
“I’m not guaranteeing that you’re going to like everything in the box,” she says. “I try to mix it up so there’s not a whole bunch of beauty products one month, or a whole bunch of, you know, art pieces one month. I try to split them up accordingly.” That’s part of the charm for her regular subscribers, but for customers who aren’t as partial to surprises Petersen offers a separate tier. The Unwind series feature selections from an established list of Northumberland County businesses. The Deluxe box includes items from all seven, while the Mini includes a sampling of three. Unlike the standard experience boxes, customers can choose from among those offerings and personalize the selection themselves.
Those local options include an at-home facial kit from Nourish Boutique Spa, art by Cobourg Wood Designs, cookie set from Roda’s Kitchen, and hand-lettered cards from Little Owl Lettering, among others. Petersen says she’s happy to support the artisans who helped inspire her in the first place. The concept for Unwrapped came to her while on maternity leave from a job as a financial advisor, when she found more time to explore local shops. “When I first had Isla, my daughter, we started going to these markets and these little stores and finding just the coolest items. I was in such a corporate world I just never really paid attention to that.”
Now she’s making up for lost time, familiarizing herself with artisans and makers at home and across the country. “I wanted to introduce people to these awesome makers, all the talent that’s out there. There’s just so much, and especially over the last almost two years, I can’t believe how many people are out there. They’re just so lovely to deal with.”
If you have a friend or loved one who needs some pampering, or could use a little self-care yourself, an Unwrapped box could be a lovely deal, too.
Are you enjoying our Meet the Makers series? Please consider supporting the small businesses in your community this winter, as they rely on our support now more than ever. Reinvesting in our communities allows our hard-working artisans continue doing what they love – and allows us to continue enjoying the beauty they create.
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