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It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us here at INW Trading Co.!

We are so excited to be so close to our goal of 100 subscribers in the first month – it’s unbelievable. And, it’s all thanks to all of our awesome subscribers! So, THANK YOU!

INW Trading Co. in the news!

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Most of our newfound success can be attributed to all of the great exposure our business received from local Spokane news outlets. On June 29th, we were interviewed by Ariana Lake of KXLY, and featured on the 6:00 news that evening. Due to COVID-19, Ariana did all of her own camera work, and was very professional and respectful of social distancing — she did such a great job, and we were so excited to be interviewed by her! 

Almost immediately after the segment aired, we started receiving orders! In fact, our orders tripled. Up until then, 100% of our subscribers were friends and family. Suddenly, we had over 30 orders to deliver on July 1st! 

Spokane couple overcomes pandemic struggles to start small business
KXLY with Ariana Lake | Inland Northwest Trading Co.
View KXLY Story

On Wednesday, July 1st, we did our first round of deliveries for those of our subscribers who live in the Spokane area in addition to shipping any boxes to out-of-state subscribers. During deliveries, Gary and I (Mariah) drive all around Spokane, hand-delivering each subscription box.

July 1st was our first delivery, and it was definitely not an easy task. We had a lot of issues to troubleshoot, from printing labels to planning a delivery route. After we got everything in order, we were off! Then we spent almost five hours driving all around Spokane — we delivered roughly 20 subscription boxes in addition to the 10 or so boxes we shipped. 

Delivery ended up being a really fun, and really rewarding experience. Hand-delivering each of our boxes also enabled us to get a better idea of who our subscribers are. Some people met us at the door — it was really exciting! 

Overall, we were thrilled with how our delivery went and decided to add an additional delivery date of July 15th for all of our new subscribers. This means, if you signed up for a subscription between the 1st through the 15th of the month, you will receive your box on the 15th of every month; if you signed up for a subscription between the 15th of the month through the 30th or 31st of the month, you will receive your box on the 1st of every month. Long story short, your box will arrive either on the 1st or the 15th, depending on when you signed up for your subscription. This way, we will be able to handle the volume on our end, while also maintaining our high standards for quality service. 

Spokane-based monthly subscription box helping connect people with local businesses
Spokane-based monthly subscription box helping connect people with local businesses
View KHQ Story

Immediately after we finished our first round of deliveries (literally, on the drive home from our last stop), we got an email from KHQ about another interview!

On Thursday, July 2nd, we were interviewed by Sean Owsley which aired on The 6:30, which is a business centered show on KHQ. Sean’s segment was a little more from that business perspective — how companies are handling COVID-19 and the changes to business. 

During the interview, Sean actually HAD COVID-19, so we conducted the interview via Zoom. Hope you’re feeling better, Sean!

After that story aired, we were contacted yet again by Amy Edelen of the Spokesman Review to do yet another interview! We spoke to Amy on Friday, had our picture taken on Saturday, and the article ran on Sunday, July 5th. 

So, a lot happened for us in a very short amount of time.

New Business Developments

It has been pretty intense balancing interviews with our regular work schedule, but we are still committed to making our business the best version of itself it can be. So, we realized that our newfound success meant a couple of things:

We want to make sure our subscribers have the whole story. KXLY, KHQ, and the Spokesman Review all did an amazing job of featuring our business, and we want to fill in the gaps so that those of you who have chosen to support our business know exactly where your money goes. 

On July 1st, we were so concentrated on actually executing deliveries, we forgot that people would actually be receiving and reacting to our boxes. Most of the reactions were overwhelmingly positive, and the majority of our subscribers were excited to support our business and a new way to support local.

Unfortunately, there were also some people who were a little disappointed. Our Basic Box, which is $29.99/mo. contains the least amount of items (6-8), and is not as full as our other two boxes. We definitely knew this going in — the Basic Box is, well, pretty basic. But we wanted to keep an approachable price point on our website for those of our subscribers who can’t afford a $50.00 monthly charge. That being said, the items in the box do retail for almost exactly the cost of the box — and that doesn’t include our labor costs. 

Each item in our boxes is hand made by a real person in the Inland Northwest. Altogether, each box represents hundreds of hours of work from both us and our partners. 

HOWEVER! If you do feel unhappy with your subscription box, please reach out to us directly! You can send us an email at info@inwtradingco.com, send us a Facebook message, an Instagram message — whatever! I (Mariah) am very prompt about answering messages, and we will do whatever we can to make it right.

“Altogether, each box represents hundreds of hours of work from both us and our partners.”

HOWEVER! If you do feel unhappy with your subscription box, please reach out to us directly! You can send us an email at info@inwtradingco.com, send us a Facebook message, an Instagram message — whatever! I (Mariah) am very prompt about answering messages, and we will do whatever we can to make it right. 

We are also being diligent about sending out a survey to collect feedback after every single box. Of course, there will probably be some items that you don’t find useful or aren’t exactly to your taste. But that’s the beauty of a subscription box — each month, the items will be different!

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work out the kinks. This is our FIRST BOX, so we don’t have operations down 100% yet. 

And we think that’s a good thing! We want to be flexible, we want your feedback, and we want to grow our business to fit the needs of each of our subscribers. 

Some of the feedback we’ve already gotten that we definitely plan on developing include: a box recycling program, a local pick-up option, gift subscriptions, and more! We LOVE all of your ideas, so please keep them coming. 

Just a note on box recycling — this is something we wish we could offer right now, but unfortunately due to COVID-19, we are being as precautious as possible. So for now, please keep your boxes (if you can), and we will take them back from you to be recycled at a safer time. 

For now, we are in the process of re-thinking our Basic Box. We made some minor changes for our July 15th delivery, and so far the feedback has been even more positive that it already was. We want YOU to be happy! Customer service is the most important part of our business. 

We want our subscribers to feel that their money is well spent! Again, each item in our box is handmade and the box itself retails for almost exactly the retail price of the items themselves. So, we have also decided to start sending out an email before we deliver boxes, letting our subscribers know exactly what will come in their box. This way, nobody will be surprised by which items are or are not included in their box. 

We are also working on a FAQ page for our website which will hopefully help with any future questions. However, again, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly. We’re really nice, I promise!

Our Story

Inland Northwest Trading Co. Owners Gary Bailey and Mariah Brooks

Now that we’ve covered some of the details we wanted to clarify, let’s talk more about our story! Like we said, the news coverage was great, and we want to give our fans a little bit more background and information. 

We are Inland Northwest Trading Co.! A subscription box service featuring products made in the Inland Northwest, delivered monthly. 

Like our interviews said, we started our business due to COVID-19. We were already planning to start a small business and actually had something in development when the stay home order was initially issued. We had been working on Spokane Specialty Foods, a specialty foods distribution service for local area restaurants.

Luckily, we hadn’t invested too much time or money into the idea before COVID-19 closed most of the restaurants in the Spokane area. 

However, I (Mariah) was currently working at one of the restaurants that DID close on March 15th, and I was very suddenly laid off. At the time, it was okay. The kids were out of school, and Gary was working full-time from home. Also, I didn’t want to be potentially exposing myself to COVID-19 by continuing to work in a restaurant. 

Then, Gary got laid off too. He was working as the Communications Manager for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, which owns Northern Quest Casino and Resort. Unfortunately, Gary was one of the many employees the tribe laid off (almost ⅓ of their total employees).

Almost immediately, Gary was like “babe, now’s our chance! Let’s start a small business!” So, he started playing around with various ideas like drop shipping, freelance design, etc. But I was hesitant — I had been invested in Spokane Specialty Foods because it was something we both felt passionate about. We had yet to find something that really excited both of us at the prospect of making it our livelihoods. 

One day, Gary mentioned the idea of a subscription box business model off-hand; we were trying to be creative about starting a business that could thrive during COVID-19 — something people didn’t have to leave their house to enjoy. 

And something that contributed to the greater local economy. We started seeing small businesses shutter. Some of them didn’t (and still don’t) have websites, and many makers were excluded from Farmer’s Markets and Craft Fairs because their products weren’t considered “essential.” So all of these people in our community were suddenly out of luck.

And then it clicked. 

We were talking about it one day on our porch, and I said, “babe, how about Inland Northwest Trading Co,?” and Gary said, “no, that’s already a thing.” And I was like, “no, I just made that up.” So we looked it up, and it was definitely not a thing. 

We jumped on the opportunity, and immediately started moving forward: we bought the domain, started branding and building a website, placing wholesale orders, writing a business plan, everything! 

It was around April 27th that we really started to get the ball rolling. We had our business license by May 15th, and we started taking subscriptions for our first box around June 1st. 

Luckily, we didn’t get very much traction right away. Like we said, it was pretty much ALL friends and family until June 29th when the first news segment aired. Which was a good thing because we were able to troubleshoot our website and payment gateways before we got a ton of traffic. It definitely was, and still is, a learning experience. 

The seamless shopping experience you all have the pleasure to encounter was due to hours and hours of hard work and lots of tears. We tried to officially launch our website a little early on May 30th, and the restaurant I worked at had reopened for take-out, so I was at work. And Gary was at home dealing with all the website bugs. And I have never wanted to walk out of a shift more in my entire life. It was torture! 

Getting text messages from family members saying, “I tried to sign up and it wouldn’t work!” was the WORST feeling in the entire world. I was sure we were done. 

Then, we got things worked out just in time! 

And now, we have almost 100 subscribers! Which is amazing, and honestly, a little bit unbelievable.

Why INW Trading Co.?

What drew reporters like Ariana, Sean, and Amy to our story was the fact that we didn’t let COVID-19 get in the way of starting our dream. We get asked a lot, “what advice would you give to someone right now?” And honestly, it could have gone either way for us. 

Gary was laid off a couple of years ago (before we met), and he went the opposite way. He was depressed, uncertain, lethargic — and that experience made it easier for him to know what not to do this time around. It was a dark time, and a dark place. And we have enough to deal with a pandemic going on right now, in addition to our regular worries. 

So, we turned it into an opportunity. We were stuck at home anyway, we wanted to support local businesses anyway, and we wanted to make our region the best place to live anyway. It all came together in the form of a subscription box service that features local and regional goods. 

It really has been a case of making the best of a really awful situation. And it hasn’t been easy, it’s been months of even more uncertainty than the average person is experiencing right now, which is a lot. For a few weeks there, I was definitely feeling some imposter syndrome. We were really worried that nobody was going to buy our boxes.

But then you all showed up. And rocked our worlds. 

It has truly been an amazing journey, so far. It feels like it’s been at least 6 months, maybe a year, since we had this idea. But it has only been a few weeks! It just goes to show you that we can accomplish a LOT in a short amount of time. 

So, again, thank you for your support. It means so much to us and our family, as well as our makers and their families. You are truly supporting our whole region when you subscribe to our boxes. 

Stay tuned for announcements about our August partners and items in our August boxes in the next week! And in the meantime, keep an eye out for future emails from us with feedback surveys, information about your upcoming box, and sneak peeks into next month’s box!

THANK YOU!

Ready for your first box?

We love the Inland Northwest! That’s why we created a company that supports other small businesses in our region. Each month, you can feel good about supporting local by discovering a variety of new items made right here in the Inland Northwest.

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Inland Northwest Trading Co. Subscription Box
Mariah Brooks

Mariah Brooks

Mariah Jones Brooks is a co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Inland Northwest Trading Co., LLC. As an avid intersectional feminist, Mariah has always wanted to work for a company that serves a higher purpose. Since moving back to Spokane in 2017, Mariah has been committed to discovering how her skill set can best serve the rapid development of our community.

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