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You clicked. We listened.

minnbox survey

The results of the MinnBox customer survey.

 

If a person takes an online survey and the company learns nothing from it, did it make a difference? – Ancient Minnesotan Proverb

 

First, we need to say thank you. A whole big bunch of you took time out of your busy lives to answer our questions and help us make MinnBox even better than it already was. Were your answers insightful? Yes, very much so.

Here’s five takeaways from the MinnBox customer survey that has helped us move our subscription service forward.

1. You Love Local

An overwhelming number of you say that supporting local products is the number one reason you subscribed to MinnBox. And, what a coincidence: it’s the number one reason we relaunched MinnBox. While we had an inkling you all had a soft spot for local makers and creators, it sure was gratifying to see that our passions are yours, as well.

2. Made in Minnesota

More than two-thirds of you selected our focus on Minnesota-made products as the thing you like best about MinnBox. The great news? That won’t be changing. Ever.

3. More Bath & Beauty

You love a lot of what you discovered in previous editions of MinnBox, and what most of you want more of are bath and beauty products. We hear you loud and clear. You can bet we’re scouring the state to find the very best for you.

4. Theme It Up

You love the surprise of opening each MinnBox, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t also love a hint. A lot of you requested “themed” boxes, designed around our changing seasons or major events like the holidays, fishing opener, and the like. We think that’s a great idea. So much, in fact, that we’ve already got a MinnBox Holiday Gift Box available!

5. You’re Happy To See Us

The best thing we learned was how happy you all are to have us back. Reading your words of excitement and encouragement thrilled us and we are working hard every day to fulfill our promise of shipping honestly good Minnesota products from honest, good Minnesota companies.


A Northwoods Renaissance Man

douglas wood

Meet Douglas Wood, one multi-talented maker.

 

Douglas Wood — musician, keynote speaker and author of 37 books — grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. And, from very early on, he felt a little out of place.

“I always knew that I belonged where there were lakes and rivers and waters and woods,” he says. “My dad’s side of the family was all from Minnesota. My grandparents lived in Illinois, but had a tradition of heading to the Northwoods every summer. From a very early age they brought me with them. And from that same early age, Minnesota became my favorite place.”

Along with that love of Minnesota came a love of the great outdoors. “My grandfather took me out in a row boat to a little pond full of bluegills and sunfish. That was the moment I became enchanted by the magic that surrounded me in the natural world. Ever since, my life has been about finding more of those magical connections in this world of ours.”

Wood moved to Minnesota in the late 1970s, spending two years as a high school teacher before, as he puts it, “retiring early” to focus on his passion for the Northwoods. “When I was struggling to figure out who I was, I discovered Sigurd Olson, who wrote great essay collections about the Northwoods. Reading his books helped set me on the path I needed to be on.”

That path has led to a life sharing the joys of our natural world through story, song and as a wilderness guide. “I’ve been told that I have a great ability to communicate,” says Wood in what we feel is a pretty grand understatement.

Wood possesses a deep empathy for people, and understands how important a connection with nature can be for people of all ages — especially children.

“As a child, I had a lot of trouble in school,” he says. “I was very shy. Reading was difficult, paying attention was a challenge. Years later I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, but the way I coped as a kid was by developing this connection to nature. Now I have this real love for the underdog. I want to help kids like me succeed.”Discover his music, books and more at douglaswood.com.


Why we bought MinnBox

minnbox

Transforming our state, one craft economy at a time.

“It’s really great you’re doing this,” said Ruth Marcks, Custom Product Business Specialist at Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery, as we loaded up boxes of the mugs that would wind up in our Holiday Gift Box. “You’re promoting people who are trying really hard to make a living.”

It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop, take a deep breath, and smile. Because, in the throes of purchasing MinnBox from dear Dirk and Paula, overhauling and relaunching the brand, and connecting with Minnesota makers all over our state, it remains something that is really important to me.

Ten years ago, the country was hit by a recession to rival the Great Depression. People lost their jobs and their homes. Companies folded and industries collapsed. And, sadly, it was a series of events that felt all too familiar to many Minnesota communities.

In our home city of Duluth, for instance, US Steel built a community around its plant in Morgan Park, only to nearly destroy that same community when they left in the early 70s. Thankfully, Duluth has always resisted the undertow of economic collapse, reinventing itself as a tourism, medicine and craft leader.

Now, watching the adopted city I love forge a new future, I realize that the reason we bought MinnBox is the same reason I began Swim Creative — MinnBox’s parent company. At Swim we spend every hour of every day helping people realize their wildest dreams and accomplish their loftiest goals. We are experts in the field of branding, packaging and marketing, and we work tirelessly for companies large and small, taking over their messaging so they can remain focused on being the very best at what they do.

MinnBox is no different. Whether it’s Reggie at Press du Nord hand-crafting letterpress pieces on 7,000 tons of ancient cast iron, or the team at Woodchuck USA using state-of-the-art precision tools to create their real wood products, every member of our MinnBox maker family is taking control of their futures. They’re all dreaming big dreams and taking big swings. And we’re here to help.

We bought MinnBox to make a difference in our state. We will connect you to the finest crafters and artisans in Minnesota. And, when you purchase a gift box or sign up for a subscription, you’re making a difference, too. You’re helping these companies grow, and helping their local communities stay strong.

Along the way, we’ll shine a light on some of what makes this state so great. Namely, the belief that working hard, being kind and doing good still matters.


Much more than a mug

Discover the legacy of Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery

The story of Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery, one of the companies featured in our MinnBox Holiday Gift Box, can be traced all the way back to 1861, when a German Immigrant named J. Pohl discovered a large pocket of clay on his land. Pohl was a potter by trade, and he used that clay to make the very first stoneware ever created in the newly founded town of Red Wing, Minnesota.

It wasn’t long before the residents of Red Wing discovered their hometown was rich in clay. Potters opened companies across the region, with the Red Wing Stoneware Company opening in 1877, supplying farmers with crocks and jugs for food storage.

As the country grew and changed, so did the city of Red Wing. The Industrial Revolution led to a migration from farms to cities, and that special clay filled the demand for ceramic sewer pipes all over the now thriving city of Red Wing.

The invention of the refrigerator led to a decrease in demand for stoneware food storage, which meant even more change. In 1906 the Red Wing Stoneware Company joined forces with two other potteries to become the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company, producing flower pots, vases, dinnerware and art pottery.

Increased access to imports and a union strike signaled another shift in the changing world of stoneware and pottery in the city of Red Wing. Flashforward to 1984, when the dormant company was brought back to new life as the Red Wing Stoneware Company. By the mid-90s potters were again hard at work in the old ways, hand-throwing clay pots and salt-glaze firing them.

Today, Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery owners Bruce and Irene Johnson lead a talented team of master potters and stoneware artisans in the creation of handmade, unique pieces crafted from a recipe designed to replicate that same special clay that started it all.