“There really is a Southern style of showing up for people in your life in a neighborly, kind and warm and engaging way,” says Christina Geist, founder of Boombox Gifts, a personalized gift-giving service that helps people create memory boxes filled with custom-printed messages and photos. “I see Boombox as a tool for people to gather together, share and collect their memories and honor someone in their lives with a collection of stories, memories and photos. To me, it is like hearing your own life story told back to you by the people you have touched along the way. That doesn’t really happen in life — only at rehearsal dinners and funerals. My dad always says a funeral is too late,” she explains.
A Vanderbilt graduate, Christina founded Boombox Gifts while on a work hiatus to raise her young children after working as Director of Design Strategy for Johnson & Johnson. Christina credits Vanderbilt friendships as the foundation of her business. The first “boombox” was created for a 40th birthday celebration for her friend Amy, who Christina met during her freshman year at Vanderbilt. Tasked with gathering a memory box for Amy’s birthday, Christina filled an old jewelry box with notes and photos from the main characters in Amy’s life.
“It was true detective work,” Christina says of the first box. “I was intent on finding a boss from Amy’s [college] internship — and we found him! Her mom, who has since passed away, wrote a beautiful card, and her two older brothers, who are not the most emotive guys, wrote beautiful messages. As they came to me, I felt so privileged to be reading them. The goal was 40 messages for her 40th birthday — exceeded that. We encouraged the people in her life to sit down and tell her, in their own words, what she means to them.”
The group of girlfriends that gathered to celebrate Amy’s birthday is now known as the Founding Friends of Boombox. “I immediately fell in love with my friends I met during my freshman year — who are still some of the closest people I have to me in my life,” Christina shares. “Out of college, we all scattered but created a tradition of maintaining our friendships in a way that didn’t relegate the value of our friendships below everything else in our lives. It kept the relationships and friendships on a level of importance I am so grateful for now.” Christina calls them her inspiration for the business and says that thanks to a ceremonial 1% stake, they will be part of the success when the day comes. Her friend Kristen assigned the responsibility for Amy’s birthday box to Christina because she is the creative, crafty one in the group. “If it was my birthday, it would have been assigned to Amy, and she probably would have been the inventor of Boombox.”
After creating more birthday boxes, including one for her father’s 70th birthday, Christina reached the realization that Boombox could be a thing. As it always should be, the timing was perfect. Christina got a call from a former boss, Todd True, who proposed the idea of going into business together. “We launched True Geist as a strategic design and brand consulting firm and that income gave me the get-up-and-running money I needed to fund Boombox. I work with my left hand to fund my right.”
So how does it work? Creating a Boombox is a collaborative process, kickstarted by the gift giver (i.e. project manager). It begins with the purchase of a box. The project manager then invites friends and family to participate in sharing stories, notes and photos. Not dissimilar to Paperless Post, you are invited via email and led to a private page. The Boombox team helps by setting up your project, emailing and inviting contributors, keeping track on a project dashboard, reminding you (and contributors) of deadlines, designing the card layout, printing the cards and shipping you the final product.
“At the end of the journey, every one of our gift givers feels like a hero. They created something they know will have an impact on the recipient — as mine had on Amy or my dad,” says Christina. “There is a deeply sentimental moment that happens with Boombox. It is different than posting something on someone’s Facebook page — this is not a public forum. We are using technology to give people a deeply personal, private gift experience.”
“If it can be my life’s work to create a tool that makes people stop for a minute to think about someone in their lives and tell them the impact they have had on them, I will keep going,” Christina says. “The cumulative effect of hearing the impact from everyone in your life is above and beyond any other experience you can have in throwing a party or giving a toast — this is much more than that.”
Learn more about Boombox Gifts at boomboxgifts.com.
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