Kitty Shum, founder of Loti Wellness subscription boxes.
As an occupational therapist, Kitty Shum always understood the value of self-care but when the pandemic hit, it became clear that sustaining mental health was fast becoming a national priority.
Kitty, who started developing Loti Wellness—an ecommerce business based on subscription wellness boxes—months before the pandemic hit, saw sales go through the roof as Canadians across the country entered lockdown.
“I was seeing subscription boxes out in market that were all about grooming but not about the internal aspect of self-care. I wanted to change that,” she said. “A big part of our boxes is about the internal journey. It includes products that not only help with stress relief but it also includes workbooks that help with goal setting, reworking worrying thoughts and coping with stressors.”
An Ipsos study released in February, 2021 found that a majority of Canadians (56%) are feeling increased stress or anxiety as a result of the pandemic. Young adults (18-35) and those with young children at home are among the most affected, the study found.
Kitty said many of the wellness subscription boxes that have been ordered this past year have been purchased as gifts. “During the pandemic, it’s all about resiliency,” she added.
“During Covid-19, it’s hard to see people and spend time with them when they are feeling down and so sending a ‘thinking-of-you’ box of self-care became a huge trend.” she explained. “Now, we’re so busy, it’s grown to a full-time job.”
One of the most important things she did for her business was partner up with a seasoned advisor who helped her navigate entrepreneurship in a digital economy.
Kitty Shum said her business advisor urged her to use PayPal's commerce platform.
Spending more than a decade as a therapist, Kitty did not have a business background and found she was googling everything as she built her side hustle.
“As it grew, I knew I had to seriously look at Loti Wellness as a real business.”
Her advisor talked her through the process of using a fulfillment centre for product orders. He also suggested she integrate PayPal business solutions into her website, both as a payment option and as back-end integration which would allow her to process other payment options.
“It was a no-brainer for us. We built our website with PayPal’s business solutions in mind. It was always a frontrunner because it’s secure and people expected to see PayPal as an option when they do online shopping,” she said. “As a customer, when I see PayPal, I use that to pay. It’s convenient, reliable and I trust it. I wanted to give that to my customers as an option.”
Growing a business during a pandemic certainly came with a fair amount of stress but Kitty said the best thing she did was follow her own mental health advice and take things one step at a time.
One of the first roadblocks she encountered was massive delays in shipping which had a ripple effect on her business. Delays meant stores she worked with were not getting the products she needed for the boxes. It also meant that customers were waiting a long time for their monthly subscription to come in the mail.
“We were honest with our customers and most were understanding and compassionate,” she said.
After communicating with her customers, she focused on some solutions.
They started shifting and planning schedules to give vendors a chance to source their products. They also shifted from using very local vendors to small and medium-sized businesses who were more established and would have an easier time filling bigger orders. She also partnered with more shipping carriers.
The wellness box focuses on the internal journey towards resilience.
She also made sure to manage her own self-care by not taking on too much, too fast.
“I’m a mom to three young kids who spent some time in the last year being home-schooled. I made sure that Loti Wellness did not grow too quickly if I thought I couldn’t handle it.”
Now, as she looks to what the future holds for Loti Wellness, she continues to look for online opportunities to both grow her business and her own experience. She was recently accepted into York University’s accelerator program where she will spend the next five months learning the ins and outs for running a business. It’s a lot to juggle but Kitty is confident it will all work out.
“We talk a lot about juggling, and I don’t know if there’s a perfect balance but you have to find a way to make it work. If you have the skills to cope, you can figure out how to overcome any challenge.”
For more information on how other business owners have found success during the pandemic and how PayPal has helped them grow their business, visit our Newsroom's Business of Change feature. Also, for tips and expert advice, including how to get started with PayPal Checkout, Invoicing, Seller Protection and more, check out our Small Business Resource Guide.
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