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.

When it comes to venture capital invested in the first quarter of 2019, Houston raked in less than 10 percent of what Austin reported, but the state as a whole has seen an increase, according to Crunchbase. Getty Images

While the state marked significant growth in first quarter venture capital investments year over year, Houston fell far behind its Texas sister cities. Houston startups received just 10 percent of what Austin startups reported, and Houston lost its lead it's had on Dallas for two quarters, according to Crunchbase data.

Texas had a reported $790.4 million in Q1, per Crunchbase, which is up from Q4 2018's $530.6 million as well as being up year over year from $587.2 million in Q1 of 2018. The number of deals for the state was cut almost by half — 64 Q1 2019 deals compared to 118 in Q1 of 2018 — "indicating larger investment sizes as the state's startup market continues to mature," according to Crunchbase's Mary Ann Azevedo.

Meanwhile in Houston, the city's startups received $44.7 million of that reported investment last quarter, which is down from the $121.4 million reported in Q4 2018. Austin raked in $493.8 million — more than 10 times that of Houston — and Dallas reported $245.4 million, which more than doubles what they reported for Q4 of 2018.

Houston lost its lead it had on Dallas for the past two quarters. In Q4 of 2018, Houston outdid Dallas with $121 million in venture capital investment, according to Crunchbase. Before that, Houston crushed Dallas in the third quarter too with $138.8 million compared to Dallas' $38.1 million. That quarter was when Houston came close to Austin's VC funding.

The largest deal in Houston was for biotech startup, Solugen, which closed its $13 million Series A in March, Cruncbase reported, and Y Combinator contributed to the round.

The Crunchbase report mentioned a few huge deals that tipped the scale this time around for Austin and Dallas. Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics closed a $150 million Series E round in February. In Austin, Disco — a company founded in Houston but relocated to Austin — closed a $83 million Series E round, and Austin's Billd drew in $60 million in a Series A.

Houston's cut shrinks

Houston's piece of the Texas VC pie continues to shrink. In Q3 2018, the city had a third of the funds and, in Q4, had over 20 percent.Via Crunchbase News

Dallas is back at No. 2

Dallas came back with a vengeance after being outdone by Houston for the past two quarters.Via Crunchbase News