Sunday, February 19, 2012

Umba Box: My Review

I have been trying various subscription services. First I tried Birch Box, which I love. I have enjoyed their lovely little boxes, full of make up, hair and skin care, and wellness samples.

When I saw a post somewhere on the interwebs about Umba Box, I thought, well I will give it a try. The idea is for $26 a month (inclusive of shipping) you will get something: "home goods, women’s accessories, jewelry, stationery, and bath products" mailed to you monthly. What I like is the items are homemade or artisan made. This appeals to me on so many levels. I think we have moved away from homemade items and it is at our own peril. Call me old fashion, but I do think homemade goods, can be superior to mass production. I have committed myself to trying to shop local and if not local, then stay focused on small businesses, specifically artisan and homemade businesses.

Subscriptions are sold as 1 month, 3-months, 6-months and 12-months. You can also give a subscription as a gift, which is a nice option. Signing up is easy, you don't get mountains of SPAM, just a confirm email and an email letting you know your item has shipped. I like this. If you choose, you can also follow Umba Box on twitter and facebook.

When my first box arrived, I couldn't wait to see what was inside.

It comes in a plain box and the shipping time isn't unreasonable.

Inside I found a plain fabric drawstring bag and some beautiful packaging material. The children love shipping peanuts, I do not.

Inside  the fabric pouch, I found a very pretty make up/what not pouch. In cream canvas and buttery brown leather. (and yes I consider this a twofer... the little drawstring bag is so nicely made, I plan to use it as well as the actual make up/what not pouch.)

I was busy thinking about how I might use the pouch, when I stopped and read the card. At first, when I read about the artisan enclosure card, I thought, well I guess that is nice, but will it actually add to the buying experience? I think it does. On the Umba Box website the artisan enclosure card is explained:

What makes Umba Box so special is the personal relationship each subscriber has to the artisans who make them; stories of the artist and product are included in every delivery. Stories that artisans can share with consumers are what the Big Box sellers just can’t match. It’s so much more enjoyable to buy something when you feel connected to the person who made it. Umba Box brings together the best from the handmade community.

After receiving my first box, I have to agree. I liked hearing about Angeline's experience and learning about her business, Velle Purse. She went to school in the US, studied for a field that she did not enjoy, went back to school and then returned to the country of her heritage, but not her language and stumbled upon something, in her case a scrap leather shop, and that was the spark.

As a creative person and a woman, who has had similar career dissatisfaction, this speaks to me. I also have to say, I have a beautiful hand made pouch, from an artisan in Indonesia. The craftsmanship is exceptional and I know I am going to enjoy using this little pouch.

When I signed up for Umba Box, I decided I would try it for a few months. It is a nice way to perhaps find some great gifts for friends, meet new to me artisans and test out this new way of shopping. I do think the subscription service is a nice way to shop, you answer some questions about your skin type, your color preferences or find a service like Umba Box, where they narrow the field to a list of types of items and you are good to go.

I am already wondering what Umba Box might have in store for me next month.


Brie said...

I was given an umba box subscription as a gift, and was very excited about it. I have since been pretty disappointed in the contents. A hand painted dish towel is just not practical and not worth $26 a month. I think it is a great idea, but it has quite a bit of room for improvement.

Susan said...

@Brie-- I liked the towel-- but it isn't something one can use per se.

I have to say my first two boxes were great. The last two have been so-so. This month I like the candle and the magnet, but I am not sure items like this will keep me subscribing.

I committed to 6-months, so we shall see.

Have you checked out Good & Lovely? I have tried their service and think it is a great value. I need to blog about them.

cait said...

@Susan - I recently found out about Umbabox when I was approached by them with the offer of being a featured artisan. I was surprised to realize that they do not offer to pay artists for their goods, but solicit donations in exchange for the publicity of being featured in a box. I doubt most subscribers realize this - I wouldn't have, but maybe I am naive. The literature on the Umbabox website is very vague in its reference to 'connections' between artists and consumers.

You may be interested in the company 'Indie Gift Box', which seems to have a similar crafty theme but does buy goods from artists at cost.

Susan said...

@Cait-- thanks for stopping by. I think either format is ok. I doubt the artisans would choose to participate with Umbabox if the relationship did not seem to hold potential for them. Sometimes the free advertising or the trade might be worth it.

I have been connected with so many great homemade, handmade products thru Umbabox, they have great customer service and I have gone to a few of the artist I have become acquainted with thru my subscription and purchased something else.

I will check out the other Indie Gift Box, but I would caution you from thinking Umbabox is doing something underhanded.