Ship­ping Out Hugs

Me To You Box sends cu­rated care pack­ages to dis­tant loved ones

201 Family - - CONTENTS - WRIT­TEN BY JACKIE GOLD­SCHNEI­DER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY ANNE-MARIE CARUSO

Some­times the best gifts are the ones you give “just be­cause” – un­ex­pected ges­tures that let peo­ple know you’re think­ing of them no mat­ter how far away they are. Annyssa Can­tor and Bri­anna Ricks, sis­ters sep­a­rated by dis­tance, have al­ways sent each other gifts just be­cause, and that sen­ti­ment is at the core of Me To You Box, their new care pack­age busi­ness.

Me To You Box of­fers clients the op­tion of send­ing a cu­rated care pack­age to a loved one away from home, on ei­ther a monthly, oc­ca­sional or one-time ba­sis.

“Bri­anna and I have al­ways mailed lit­tle things to each other’s chil­dren just to say I love you,” says Can­tor, 43, from her Wyckoff home, where she as­sem­bles the boxes that then ship all over the coun­try. “Our fa­ther used to sign his cards ‘just be­cause’ when we were kids, and that al­ways made us feel spe­cial,” she says.

Though Ricks, 45, a mother of three, lives in Cal­i­for­nia, the sis­ters have built a thriv­ing busi­ness as long-dis­tance part­ners in just a few months.

The ma­jor­ity of their boxes are shipped to col­lege stu­dents, so the op­tions are largely based on a col­le­giate sched­ule. “We of­fer three dif­fer­ent types of boxes right now,” ex­plains Can­tor. “There’s a Monthly Box, where you can choose to send just one month or all eight months of the col­le­giate year, and we also of­fer an XOXO Box and our All-Nighter Box.” They’re avail­able for ei­ther male or fe­male re­cip­i­ents, with items geared to­wards what a young adult might want and need when they’re away. De­tails for the dif­fer­ent boxes are avail­able at metoy­oubox.com.

“The con­tents of a Monthly Box are a sur­prise and ev­ery month is dif­fer­ent,” says Can­tor, who care­fully se­lects each item with Ricks based on sev­eral cat­e­gories. “We do a tech item, health and beauty, a trendy gift, a snack and a dorm es­sen­tial,” she says, adding that while clients can­not cus­tom­ize the items in a $34.99 Monthly Box, they can go on­line and see what’s in­side once the boxes ship at the be­gin­ning of the month. “We have dif­fer­ent add-ons, like cook­ies and wal­lets, so peo­ple can cus­tom­ize that way,” Can­tor notes. Ev­ery box also in­cludes a per­son­al­ized mes­sage from the sender.

In re­sponse to par­ents ask­ing for a spe­cial pack­age to send to chil­dren they miss ter­ri­bly, they cre­ated the XOXO Box, a one-time box for $59.99, which they de­scribe as an ex­tra spe­cial hug from home. “We put in items like a cozy Sherpa fleece blan­ket, socks, some Brownie Brit­tle, lit­tle com­forts that say I love you,” says Can­tor.

The All-nighter Box, for $49.99, con­tains study es­sen­tials like a travel cof­fee mug, or­ganic en­ergy chews, USB mem­ory stick and Badger fo­cus balm, all de­signed for stu­dents pre­par­ing for ex­ams.

“When we started this we de­cided

to make it pre­mium and of­fer full-sized items from re­ally great com­pa­nies,” says Can­tor. “We wanted each box to feel like a gift and not just a box of stuff.” To that end, the sis­ters spend count­less hours plan­ning what to put in­side. “We’re con­stantly call­ing com­pa­nies, go­ing to gift shows, search­ing In­sta­gram for new part­ner busi­nesses and look­ing for the lat­est trends,” Can­tor says, adding that they were amazed by the re­sponse from com­pa­nies they reached out to for items. “Busi­nesses like PACT Wear and JAFRA cos­met­ics have been so sup­port­ive and were ex­cited to part­ner with us.”

Can­tor also noted that they de­pend on feed­back to fill boxes. “We sur­vey the kids af­ter they re­ceive a box and ask what they liked or didn’t like and what they’d want to see in the next box, and we use those an­swers to cu­rate the pack­ages as we go.”

When they launched in June of 2016, Can­tor and Ricks were flooded with re­quests for a box par­ents could send to kids at sleep­away camp. So this sum­mer, they’ll have a one-time Camp Box that will in­clude ten spe­cial items campers would want. “We’ll do things like ear­buds, a wet brush, socks and a re­us­able wa­ter-bot­tle. We won’t in­clude any food since many camps have re­stric­tions on that,” Can­tor says. Though Camp Boxes can’t be or­dered un­til kids have ac­tu­ally left for camp, de­tails about the Camp box are al­ready on their web­site.

The phil­an­thropic sis­ters also wanted a char­i­ta­ble end to their busi­ness, so they’ve part­nered with Ju­lia’s But­ter­fly Foun­da­tion, a Wyckoff-based non-profit ded­i­cated to im­prov­ing the lives of ter­mi­nally and chron­i­cally ill chil­dren and their fam­i­lies.

“The foun­da­tion’s re­sources go to­wards great causes, like putting a

“BRI­ANNA AND I HAVE AL­WAYS MAILED LIT­TLE THINGS TO EACH OTHER’S CHIL­DREN JUST TO SAY I LOVE YOU.” Annyssa Can­tor

wheel­chair lift into a van or pay­ing the ho­tel bill for a fam­ily whose child is get­ting treat­ment out of town. So we’ll be giv­ing them a por­tion of our prof­its,” Can­tor says. They’ve also do­nated boxes to nu­mer­ous char­i­ties in­clud­ing Oa­sis, a Pat­ter­son-based women’s shel­ter and NephCure, which sup­ports kid­ney dis­ease re­search, as well as many school fundrais­ers. “We even heard from a woman who couldn’t af­ford a box but wanted to send some­thing spe­cial to her hus­band in the Navy, so we tai­lored a spe­cial box for him and sent it overseas for free,” she says.

Though Can­tor and Ricks have al­ways dis­cussed be­ing busi­ness part­ners, none of their ideas felt right un­til this one. “Bri­anna called me on her way home from mail­ing a care pack­age to her daugh­ter who’s at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­sity. She said she had a great idea for a busi­ness and that was it,” re­calls Can­tor, a mother of two, who gave up her ca­reer once she had kids. “We’re best friends and we work re­ally eas­ily to­gether so the dis­tance isn’t a prob­lem. We fig­ure it out.”

And they’re both glad they waited for the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial to­gether. “A young girl just told me that ev­ery time she opens one of her boxes it warms her heart,” Can­tor says. “We’re hav­ing so much fun do­ing some­thing that makes oth­ers feel good. There’s noth­ing bet­ter than that.”

COAST TO COAST De­spite the dis­tance, Annyssa Can­tor and her sis­ter Bri­anna Ricks re­main close sib­lings and busi­ness as­so­ciates.

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