Small-Business Success Story: Man Crates, For the Man Who Has Everything

This company offers trendy alternatives to ties, shirts and run-of-the-mill gift cards.

(Image credit: © 2016 Eric Millette, All Rights reserved)

Kiplinger's spoke with Jon Beekman, 37, founder and CEO of Man Crates (pictured above), a Redwood City, Calif.-based company that serves as an online marketplace for men's gifts, about how he started his small business. Here's an excerpt from our interview:

What is Man Crates? We want to be the best place to buy men’s gifts online. We have 85 gift packages, priced from $20 to $180, and we constantly launch new ones. Our biggest sellers include the Premium Jerky Ammo Can [$50], the Smash and Grab Gift Card [a digital-gift-card code comes encased in a brick; $75], and the Whiskey Appreciation Crate with a personalized decanter and rocks glasses [$150; whiskey not included]. And we’ve launched a line of maker kits: You can carve a pipe, cure bacon or brew beer.

How did you grow? I worked out of my apartment in Palo Alto with my amazing cofounder and two other talented guys. We worked without pay until September 2012, when we convinced some early investors (mostly people in the Stanford network) to invest $500,000, and we moved into our first warehouse. At the end of 2014, many of those same investors and a couple of new ones gave us $2.5 million, which helped us continue building our team. Today, we have 50 full-time employees, five customer service reps from a staffing agency, up to 120 seasonal folks and two warehouses. In 2015, we had about $22 million in gross sales. We’re still growing aggressively.

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How do you describe your brand? We are 100% not a bro or frat brand. We want to be edgy and fun, but not offensive. More than three-fourths of our customers are women. We want our products and customer experiences to be lightheartedly sincere and humorous.

What’s your greatest satisfaction? Hearing our customers’ stories: We’ve brightened the mood of people who were sick or hurt, surprised a husband serving in Afghanistan, and made a giver look like the coolest mom ever!

Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.