From Malpas with love - a package in the post that’s a great pick-me-up

The 'Keep Calm' box

The 'Keep Calm' box - Credit: Archant

Prettily packaged goodies are delivered to the door each month.

Melanie Brooks and Marie Palak

Melanie Brooks and Marie Palak - Credit: Archant

Melanie Brooks and Marie Palak were busy mums who wanted to work but spend more time with their children. They hit on the idea of the Lifestyle Box, a Malpas-based company that delivers a parcel full of prettily packaged goodies to the door each month.

Marie, 36, a Greater Manchester detective on a career break, and Melanie, 41, former head buyer for the Manchester-based clothing company BooHoo wanted to boost other women with carefully selected monthly treats to uplift and inspire them.

Now the ‘Lifestyle’ boxes are being sent out to more than 200 subscribers and they are planning to launch globally, following demand from overseas.

It all started when the pair were working for Forever Living, a health and wellness company that encourages mums from home to sell aloe vera products and build a business from home.

The 'Me Time' box

The 'Me Time' box - Credit: Archant

Both were aware of each other through working for the company but never met until they headed off on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa.

Explains Marie: ‘We were in the top three percent globally which qualified us for a trip to Johannesburg in South Africa where we’d go and collect our cheques for our work throughout the year.

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‘Mel was part of the same team and I’d seen her name because we were always fighting on the leader boards for the same sort of spot but we had never met, however, we sat next to each other and just hit it off.’

When they came back home the pair continued to meet for brunch and started brainstorming various business ideas.

‘I’m on what’s called a career break which is for five years, primarily to look after my daughter Mila, now aged four,’ explains Marie.

‘I really am career-driven but when she came along it changed everything. I was so gutted after maternity leave to be putting her back into nursery that’s when I stated looking for a business from home. I was just desperate to replace my wage so I could be at home with her.’

Mel too wanted to spend time with her sons, Oscar, 11, Archie, eight, and Margot, two as she lost twin boys eight years ago.

‘Things like that make you change,’ she says.

‘I love my career but I need to have other things in my life. I am still very passionate about what I do but I was pregnant again and I thought even if it just gives me a year off to do the school run and all those things other mums get to do that will be great. But it just evolved.

‘It was those brunch dates with the babies where we were just coming up with ideas. It was very organic in terms of how it happened. Just talking about what I like, what was missing was that whole self-care aspect and just the journey we were on as well.’

‘I have another business. I now coach and mentor women to build their own product businesses and we could just see there were so many women, mums wanting to build their own businesses but just weren’t looking after themselves. There is a point where you stop that self-care aspect and that’s where the boxes came from.’

Adds Marie: ‘We are both big readers of self-help books and the message always is, if you’re not looking after yourself you have no chance with anything else really. You may feel guilty about being self-indulgent but then you think, no, take time for yourself, switch the laptop off, get away from the kids and have guilt-free time that’s for you.’

Their main motivation for the Lifestyle Box is the self-care aspect and they are also proud of the brands they include which are not only independent but mostly sourced from other women building businesses from home. It’s also about the experience of what you get through the post.

‘There are different ways you can subscribe,’ explains Marie.

‘We have an easy monthly subscription which is 20 a month and that just rolls until you want it to stop, or you can buy bundles and there are time incentives for paying upfront and committing to each month.’

The most pleasurable part of for Mel and Marie is sourcing the products and basing them around monthly themes.

‘The first theme was Me Time - that was all pale pinks and the idea was that you have a nice rose petal bath, you’ve got your crystal coaster for your glass of wine, a candle and your bookmark with your feather,’ says Marie.

‘The second was the Happiness Box with an orange hand cream, facial serum, all hand-made and a little notebook as we were doing lives on our social media and trying to get women into creating a journal and encouraging positivity, making them think about what makes them happy.

‘The next was the Keep Calm box which included a spoon hand-stamped in vintage silver. There are beauty boxes out there and we like to have a bit of beauty and pamper but also homeware, a bit of consumables and you can try and fragrances. We like the same kinds of beautiful smells, lovely cushions and colour themes which we apply to the boxes.

‘We haven’t seen a subscription box that comes from that angle. I don’t think there’s anything really like ours that has such a mix.’

They both enjoy the feedback from subscribers and have discovered that the reason why they love their Lifestyle Boxes so much is the surprise element.

‘The feedback is they don’t get anything nice through the post. It’s bills and junk mail, so to get something that’s just for them takes them right back to being a child at Christmas,’ says Mel.

With clients as far away as the Isle of Wight and the Scottish highlands and requests from Canada, Australia and the USA the pair are now planning to go international.

Mel said: ‘We were approached by Dragon’s Den through social media and although we both thought it would be a great form a publicity we didn’t know whether we needed anyone else to be part of the business yet. It’s still early days.

‘The important thing for us is that it remains fun. We’ve both has stressful things so it’s nice that it stays at our pace. We just shop for a living and call it work!’