Sarah Willmott’s small business was struggling to survive – now just three years later she can’t keep up with the surging orders and massive revenue.
It was 2015, and Sarah Willmott was feeling rotten.
Laid up with a horrible cold, her husband away for work, and two little kids to look after, she didn’t have any family close by to take some of the load.
“It was just the worst week,” she says, looking back. “Being sick is the pits, but being sick without your friends and family nearby is even worse.”
As soon as Sarah recovered, she began thinking about what would have made her experience more bearable – when inspiration hit.
“That’s when I realised,” she continues. “If someone had sent me a care package or some little remedies for illness, and some goodies, it really would have cheered me up. And I decided right then and there – that’s a business idea that could work.”
Thus, the Feel Better Box was born – a care package you can send to a loved one who is sick or doing it tough.
“The original Feel Better Box was specifically for colds and flus – it had throat drops, some tissues, snugly socks, lip gloss, vitamins – basically just little goodies that you need when you’re feeling under the weather.”
Sarah launched her product through Facebook initially, with sales off to a slow start.
“And when I say slow, I mean really slow,” she chuckles. “At first I think it was exclusively my friends buying them just to support me, which was lovely – but in the beginning I think we maybe sold one box per month.”
Word eventually got around, albeit painstakingly slowly, and her monthly sale became a weekly sale, and eventually, Sarah was selling a box every couple of days. People were catching on to the idea, and the young entrepreneur was beginning to think of ways to expand her offering.
And then came the business boom Sarah never could have predicted: March 2020 and the arrival of a global pandemic.
“Covid just blew everything up in ways I could never have imagined,” explains Sarah, adding that even her pie-in-the-sky dreams about what her business could achieve fell short of the reality.
“It was my ultimate goal to one day sell 100 Feel Better Boxes in a week. Seemingly overnight, I was selling 100 in one day.”
In order to cope with demand, Sarah enlisted the help of her parents, sister, husband and even the kids to undertake the massive job of packing and posting all the orders. Weeks passed, but they didn’t stop pouring in.
“Living in Melbourne, when we got through the first lockdown, we never thought it would happen again,” she recalls ruefully. “Little did we know we’d be in for three more. At one point, my mum and dad were working seven days a week opacking these boxes. By the time we got to the third lockdown, they were so tired. They cut back to weekdays, then I’d also work the weekends as well just to keep up. My family has been amazing.”
As Melbourne and the rest of the country battled through one year – and then a second – of Covid, Feel Better Boxes only increased in popularity.
“I sold more product in August 2021 than I did the entire year in 2019,” says Sarah, “I literally sold more than a year’s worth of boxes in under a month. And what really turbocharged things were when big corporate companies started getting in touch to send them to all their isolating staff. I was used to getting orders for one or two people – suddenly these big companies were putting in orders for hundreds in one go. It was absolutely wild.”
“From 2019 to 2021, my revenue increased by six times.”
These days, Sarah has quit her day job and runs the company from a warehouse in Melbourne (“though, would you believe I ran everything from my house until January of this year!” she laughs) and has no plans to slow down.
“One of the issues I had was that the nice snugly bed socks I used to put in all my care packages stopped being supplied in Australia, so I created my own brand called Joode – and now they go in every package, solving that problem!”
There’s now a Feel Better Box for almost every situation – from iso care packages to gifts for people battling cancer and even new mum pamper boxes – all painstakingly picked out to help someone feel a little bit better about a challenging time in their life.
“My goal is to help everyone in Australia who needs it, to feel better,” Sarah states matter-of-factly, “and I just feel so incredibly lucky and blessed that I’m able to do it. Covid has taken so much from so many people, I feel very fortunate that at least for our little business, it’s allowed us to grow in this way.”