There is a corner of the world where the art of gifting is thoughtfully planned — from the items chosen as gifts to the people who unknowingly receive the gifted goodness. Neatly tucked in Virginia Beach is Wanderful Boxes, a little gift shop that is brimming with clean and sustainable (many woman-owned) everyday products awaiting to find their place in a hand-made gift box.
Owner Sara Andrews enjoys helping people express love and appreciation for others on any occasion. She shares,“We help people simplify gifting. A lot of people overthink gifting, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or difficult.”
A gift for you, we share Sara’s entrepreneurial story — the spark that led her to open the business and the flames that keep her going.
How It All Began
With a background in psychology, Sara’s career began in social services. “I have always been interested in people,” she says. After having her son, she was motivated to get back to work and she felt a pull in a new direction, one she says would be significant and worthwhile.
She found herself drawn to the fond memories of her mom’s gift closet growing up and her love for gift boxes. Sara followed her heart and opened Wanderful Boxes in the fall of 2017. She eased into the business, starting out small in size with both inventory and space, but always had her vision set for future growth. When talking with Sara, you sense how much her customers are a gift to her. She listens to their needs, ideas and feedback and keeps people at the core of her business, as inspired from the very beginning.
She coined the name Wanderful as an homage to her love for travel — and the way in which she adventures. Sara explains, “It started with my mom. We traveled a lot when I was a kid, and we would find the makers around town and visit craft fairs.” She continues, “Whenever I travel now, I look for farmers’ markets and meet different brands and makers. It sets the tone for my trip.”
A source of wander, the products take you on an imaginative road trip around the country. Find handmade mugs from local potter Jars of Dust, cocktail kits made under the palmtrees in Florida and candles from our neighbors in Richmond, to name a few. The shelves are dressed by theme to help make gathering items for your gift box even easier. Build your own box for any occasion or select a signature gift box from the Wanderful collection, including the Ready to Wander, Pause and You’re Doing Great bundles.
You can curate boxes on your own or place an order for Sara to create something for you. She explains, “I can be as involved as you want me to be. You can choose the items you like on your own, or you can share details about the recipient, give me a budget and deadline and off I go.” Gifting price points range from $35-180, as it depends on the items included in the box. “I try to have the same products available in different price ranges to meet different budgets. It can be tailored to your needs and be the same experience at a price point that is comfortable for you.”
Whether personal or for business, Sara has created a place to make gifting beautiful and convenient. Drop in the store to build a box yourself or place an order online and she will work her magic on your behalf. We promise whichever route you take, the experience will be sweet and momentous.
Sara’s biggest wish is for customers to feel joy and fulfillment when shopping small, local and intentionally. There is also a special moment that takes place when someone is choosing a gift for a special someone in their life. “I ask the customer a few questions about the recipient, and I love the pause — a moment spent reflecting on that person and choosing what to share about them. It is almost always a moment of gratitude.” This is something we could all relish in a little longer.
Before the products hit the shelves, Sara considers several factors to determine whether they will make the cut, including if the business is similarly minded, sustainably responsible and uniquely branded. She delves into the story of their business and looks for woman-owned shops whenever possible. What we learned very quickly is Sara’s business is built on relationships, near and far. Outside of her own research through personal travels and on social media, she likes learning about products from other people. “I love recommendations and have several customers who send me ideas all the time,” she says.
Keeping it local is important to Sara as well. “I look locally [for products] first. People enjoy discovering new things not everyone has.” Locally made products have become central to her Corporate gift orders too. “Corporate gifting tends to be completely local, and you can use more perishable goods. I love working with May’s Parlor, Three Ships and the Pink Dinghy, for example.” [Shoutout to our former Spotlights, Benevolent Design Co. and Sugar & Grace, who also partner with Sara routinely.]
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
Sara is most proud of the triumphs the business achieved in 2020. Our world pivoted during the spring in response to the pandemic, and Sara was preparing for the hurdles and challenges she may face as a small business. “My website wasn’t where it needed to be, and I was going to take time to hone my aesthetic.” Until, she was invited to participate in Quickbooks’ monthly vendor spotlight as introduced by a friend. She continues, “They asked if I would be their first virtual feature, and it completely changed my business. Our website orders shot from 10% to 90%, and I shipped to every state except for 10 last year.” This experience was a compelling opportunity for growth, both for the business and Sara professionally, which engaged her to optimize her website to maintain consumer response and demand as well as shift to accommodate more corporate and out-of-state orders. This was so unexpected and influential for Sara, and she has been nothing but grateful.
She finds herself to be the biggest obstacle in running the business. “I am learning to grow and delegate, but you know, there is always self-doubt. It can be hard to let go of the control.” Additionally, she experienced new obstacles through the pandemic. “Packaging has been hard for me and for my vendors, and then there were the challenges with shipping. This year has been real for all of the vendors. You adapt to one issue and face another.”
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
Sara’s note of wisdom is to “Build your support network. It is not just one person starting a business — it is everyone closest to you too.” She also encourages people to reach out to other business owners, as they love to share what they have experienced and learned. “Entrepreneur mentorship is so critical — to both receive and give it.” Or, gift it, if you will.
Experience All That Wanderful Boxes Has to Offer
You can follow Sara on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on new releases and promotions. Build your own box in the store, located at 515 N Birdneck Road, or place an order online, where you can shop individual products and gift boxes. Want to catch her on the fly? Send her a message via the chat box on her website.