Hostess with the Mostess

Houston-based subscription box startup plans expansion and new subscriber features

Lindsey Rose King created a seasonal home goods box that shows consumers how to enjoy each item. Courtesy of Mostess

A few years ago, Lindsey Rose King offered to host her friend's engagement party, and she realized she had no clue where to start. There weren't any real resources out there for her to seek out.

King created Mostess, a seasonally curated home goods subscription box aiming to make it easier to host friends and family into their homes. The company was founded in January of 2017.

"I came up with the idea out of a need," says King, founder and lead curator, "it's hard to casually invite people into your house."

Almost two years later, King has managed to accomplish a lot of her goals, and Mostess has a great retention rate of subscribers with about a 30 percent growth each quarter, King says.

"We have a 5 percent churn rate, so 95 percent of customers have been customers since their first purchase," says King.

Mostess moves to disrupt the retail space by changing how consumers shop for home goods, accessories, and tabletop items. The box presents products in a different setting than consumers are used to seeing in a brick-and-mortar store by combining products from different brands and lines that may not be typically paired.

"Consumers are getting a product because we are referring it and picking it for them," King says. "We're choosing for the consumer, rather than them choosing themselves."

Growing business
In need of more space, the growing company recently moved into a warehouse in the Houston-area in a partnership with Alpha Graphics West Houston to launch its first local fulfillment center.

Currently, Mostess ships to 48 states, and next year, King says she wants to be able to ship to Alaska and Hawaii by July. Since the box has already got some buzz around it in Canada, King says she hope to be able to start her first international shipping there by 2020.

Mostess is in the wrapping up its busiest season; the company just released its winter box, which, along with the autumn box, King says subscribers usually purchase additional boxes for friends and family.

Looking forward to 2019, she's got exciting advancements for her subscribers.

In 2019, Mostess will begin offering slight customizations to each seasonal box and a special evergreen box. Customers will be able to purchase add-on items beginning with the spring box, such as extra candles or accessories in addition to what is offered. The Mostess evergreen boxes will have neutral and classic home accessories and hosting pieces. King says she wants these boxes to be a go-to gift idea or party-hosting asset for everything from a housewarming to an engagement party.

Starting from scratch
King first had the idea for Mostess toward the end of her 10-year stint living in Washington, D.C. Anticipating a move to Houston, King began to research local bloggers and small businesses to build a support system and platform for Mostess prior to the launch.

"In the small business world in Houston, there is the blogging community and there are actual small businesses," says King. "Both are very active and both very open to chatting about how to make business work between both of you."

King tells InnovationMap that Houston is an ideal city for an entrepreneur, offering a collaborative community of friendly, laid back, and hard-working small business owners.

King shares that she launched Mostess without any outside investment, using only her personal funds to get the product off the ground and relied on her friends and family as a test market. From there, she sought feedback from every single customer and potential customer, collected data, and tweaked details leading up to the launch.

"There was not a home goods subscription box on the market," says King, "I didn't have something to model after."

Elegant items shipped to your door

Paige Baker/Mostess

Mostess memberships begin at $120 per seasonal box.

Houston was home to more than 117,000 skilled freelancers in 2018. Photo courtesy of Common Desk

It's no wonder coworking is taking off in Houston. A new study shows the community of skilled freelance workers in Houston ranks as one of the biggest in Texas — and the United States.

The study, commissioned by freelance marketplace Fiverr and conducted by market research firm Rockbridge Associates, indicates Houston was home to an estimated 117,260 skilled freelancers who generated more than $4.1 billion in revenue in 2018, just slightly less than the financial haul in 2017.

Houston ranked second statewide and 11th in the U.S. among major metro areas for the size of the skilled-freelancer workforce and for the amount of revenue produced, according to the study. Between 2017 and 2018, Houston's pool of skilled freelancers grew 2.5 percent.

From 2011 to 2016, according to the study, Houston's community of skilled freelancers increased 7.7 percent, while revenue declined slightly by 7.8 percent. The Fiverr study places skilled freelancers in three buckets: creative, technical, and professional. These freelancers include attorneys, graphic designers, musicians, software engineers, accountants, and consultants. Any self-employed person whose work requires "specific skills and abilities" was counted in the study; excluded were folks like Uber and Lyft drivers.

"Highly skilled freelancers are an understudied and often overlooked segment of the workforce," Brent Messenger, Fiverr's vice president of public policy and community, says in a release. "By analyzing the data around these … workers, we're able to get a clear picture of the types of jobs they're doing, the amount of revenue they're generating, and the cities in which they're having the most impact."

DFW ranked first in Texas and seventh nationally in the study. In 2018, DFW was home to an estimated 154,617 skilled freelancers who generated nearly $6.38 billion in revenue in 2018, up 5.4 percent from the previous year.

While DFW dominates Texas in terms of freelance population and revenue, Austin boasts the fastest-growing freelance scene.

In 2018, the estimated 67,044 skilled freelancers in the Austin metro area produced nearly $2.7 billion in revenue, up 7.5 percent from 2017, the study says. During the one-year period, Austin's pool of skilled freelancers grew 7.4 percent. The study pegged Austin at No. 18 nationally for the size of the population and revenue of skilled freelancers.

From 2011 to 2016, according to the study, Austin's community of skilled freelancers shot up by 26 percent, with revenue climbing 31 percent. The study identified Austin and Nashville as the country's two fastest-growing hubs for skilled freelancers.

A recent study by commercial real estate website CommercialCafé found that Austin, Dallas, and Houston ranked among the most affordable U.S. cities for freelancers. Meanwhile, personal finance website NerdWallet in 2016 ranked Austin as the best place in the U.S. for freelancers, with Dallas at No. 3, Fort Worth at No. 8, and Houston at No. 15.

------

A version of this story originally appeared on CultureMap.com.