Sarah Botham, a marketing director with Botham Vineyards, always saw gift baskets as a problematic gift — oddly shaped, inefficient and hard to send.
While looking for ways to generate additional revenue for the vineyard, which her husband owns, Botham began to consider ways that their wine could be gifted in a more elegant manner.
“I looked at it as, how do I solve the gift basket issue if I want to do something like this?” she said. “I thought boxes would be a better solution.”
What emerged was Wiscoboxes, a Mount Horeb-based company that specializes in making Wisconsin-themed gift boxes. The boxes hold not only wine, but other classic state staples such as chocolate, Bucky-shaped cheese, and Colectivo coffee.
Initial ideas for the company took shape in early 2016 but only began to come into fruition after Botham met up with a former student, Megan Madsen, now the company’s brand manager. Botham teaches classes as a faculty associate with UW-Madison’s Department of Life Sciences Communication.
“We put our heads together and here we are,” Botham said.
With a few hundred box sales now under its belt, the new business just received a 200-box order for a corporate-run event — its biggest order yet. Wiscoboxes splits its business about 50/50 between personal gift orders and corporate orders, Madsen said.
The pair launched the company in March 2017, with the meager goal of just ten boxes to sell to people outside of their social circles. They met and exceeded their initial goals, with sales soaring through May due to Mother’s Day gift purchases.
The boxes contain products made by 50 vendors from 30 cities across the state.
“We are really celebrating the makers, artists and manufacturers of our products,” said Madsen.
Botham said the pair have made a concerted effort to ensure everything is made in Wisconsin, and that the contents “embody the spirit” of the state.
The boxes’ 13 themes take on charming, sometimes-kitschy names like “Cheese Please,” “Purebred Red” — a Badgers-themed customer favorite — and “Enticing Vices,” and range in price based on the size of the box and value of the contents. For example, “Enticing Vices,” which labels itself as the “holy trinity of guilty pleasures,” costs $45 for a small box. The box comes with a small bag of Colectivo Coffee, truffles and chocolate-covered espresso beans from Sjolinds Chocolates, a Mount Horeb-based craft chocolate store, and a bottle of Latitude 43 wine from Botham Vineyards.
But customers can also build their own boxes to suit the occasion.
“We wanted to make Wiscobox workable for everyone who was gifting,” Botham said.
She imagines the boxes can be used for housewarming occasions, birthdays or bridal showers.
However, the boxes have attracted professional clientele as well. Wiscoboxes has worked with hotels, law firms, real estate agents and accounting firms, with six regular clients that are companies. Businesses have used the boxes for everything from welcoming a new employee to congratulating someone who has received a promotion.
Wiscoboxes is looking to hire more employees as demand for its product grows — currently Botham and Madsen make some of the local deliveries. The company’s customers are primarily based in Madison and Milwaukee, though they have shipped orders throughout the state.
“The idea is to celebrate Wisconsin in all of its glory,” Botham said.