Kerr Street Mission – An Easy Referral

Word-of-mouth referrals are some of the best ways to drum up business and when Heidi Avery was asked for a referral, she knew just the place. 

Avery – the director of marketing for the Kerr Street Mission in Oakville, Ontario – launched a subscription box business in late 2020. So when KSM needed something to pack meals in, Avery knew she could turn to the same company – BoxUp – that had produced her own boxes.

“Every year, (KSM) would do a donor appreciation event,” she said. “We usually host it at Kerr Street Mission, and we’d transform it into an event space. We would have about 100 people in, cook a meal, have an entertainer, and talk about the impact that Kerr Street’s making – really a way to just thank our donors and show our appreciation.”

But, like many businesses in 2020 that were affected by the COVD-19 pandemic, KSM didn’t get to hold the celebration and that certainly impacted the organization.

“About 18,000 people in Oakville live beneath the poverty line,” she said. “It’s a pretty affluent city, so there’s lots of wealth around the community, but there’s also a lot of poverty.”

Avery shared that the purpose of KSM is to help feed, care for and educate this population, which lives in one of the most densely populated areas in all of Canada. This includes:

  • A food bank, where people who need food staples can “shop”, and a program called Choose Fresh, which provides the clients with fresh vegetables, fruits and proteins. (“We’re giving them food we would want to eat versus the leftover food that no one wants,” she said.)
  • Community meals, in which 80-100 people would show up for dinners and a connection with others.
  • A drop-in youth program, where students can do homework, chill out, play video games, or play in the gym for some organized sports.
  • A summer camp, where children can participate in traditional day camp activities and field trips.
  • A debt program, which counsels clients who are struggling with financial support.

KSM makes a lot happen in Oakville. And while it does receive some funding from the government and private agencies, the bulk of it is coming from individuals and organizations.

So when 2021 rolled around, the team knew they had to make the donor appreciation event happen.

“We did a virtual event,” Avery said. “It went really well. We partnered with two local restaurants in Oakville and they prepared meals for all of our guests. The meals were packed up and delivered in the BoxUp boxes. They got a meal, a bottle of wine, some material about Kerr Street, and our staff volunteer board members took the meals from the restaurants and delivered those to our guests.”

Custom Kerr Street Mission meal box

Avery and the KSM group chose a Carry Handled box from BoxUp for the donors’ meals to best fit the feel of the event.

“On the side, we had little thank you notes from kids and clients, which was a nice thing for the donors, and then we had our branding on the top,” she said. “The boxes were a huge hit. Everyone loved them.”

Avery knew the BoxUp boxes would work out well, since she’s worked with their team for her own subscription box company.

“So outside of my role at Kerr Street, I actually founded a subscription box with my daughter, who’s 13,” she said. “It’s called Ruby Crate, and it’s for teen and tween girls. We do boxes four times a year with fun things like hair accessories, beauty and makeup.”

As a Canadian, she naturally first sought out an option in the Great White North.

“But just from a cost perspective and a speed perspective, no one came close to BoxUp,” she said. “I’ve had such a great experience. The box quality has been great. Everyone loves them, and they’re fast.”

The relationship with BoxUp has just been easy, Avery said.

“The only challenge has been the exchange rate and the shipping,” she said. But it’s just part of business: “From a shipping perspective, from a weight perspective – all those things you need to take into account before decide this is what you’re doing.”

The benefits of working with BoxUp make it all worth it. Avery appreciates good customer service – a reason that she hasn’t even thought of changing up her packaging supplier.

“Everything is digital,” she said. “They were able to show me a 3D version of what the box looks like, so that’s great to see.”

But it’s not only important for customers like Avery to see what it looks like digitally; it’s just as crucial to her to get that box in her hand.

“There’s also the option of doing a sample box before you do a big order,” Avery said. “It’s hard to put in an order of 500 boxes when you don’t know what they’re going to look like, so that’s definitely an amazing feature.”

Her best experience with customer service came after the KSM boxes were delivered. It’s when she realized that BoxUp was truly trying to build meaningful relationships with its customer base.

“At first when we did the picnic box for Kerr Street, I wasn’t sure how to put together the flaps at the bottom,” she said. “So I reached out and they sent me a video that we watched and it was perfect. So that’s a big part of their success – that customer service response time and their willingness to help.”

Avery was glad that she’d had the personal experience with Ruby Crate when it came time to make the KSM virtual event have the same type of impact as the in-person one.

“I was really confident that we would get an amazing product,” she said. “And we did.”

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