by Stuart Lennon

“I liked it so much, I bought the company.”

I’m sure that has been said somewhere before. (Thanks Viktor.)

Before I was packing up subscription boxes at PoNo Towers, I was eagerly awaiting my monthly delivery. The first Field Notes, Write Notepads or Word. notebooks that I ever held were delivered to me, as a part of my subscription.

That’s why the Pocket Notebooks subscription remains so important to me. Subscription is an expression of trust and confidence. Subscribers are in effect saying, “Here’s some cash, I trust that you’ll send me some nice stuff.”

Each month, Clare and I work on putting together the formula for the next box. We aim to create variety; nobody wants to receive the same books again and again. We want to surprise people from time to time.

Since April of 2017, each subscription has included a donation of £1 for our chosen charity, the National Literacy Trust. Somehow or other, the donation always gets rounded up to more that a £1 a box. This is an idea that we have adopted from our suppliers. Story Supply, Write Notepads Co and Public Supply all put some money back into their communities. The National Literacy Trust does a great job helping people whom, for whatever reason have not learned to read.

The subscription should be excellent value for money for the subscriber, in that the contents should add up to a total greater than the retail cost. Likewise, PoNo should turn a profit on them - for the business to become sustainable. This can be a tough balance to strike.

At times, the subscription has been the bane of my life. One month, I included a pack of pencils. These pencils came in a plastic cover that needed to be folded over to fit inside the box. This fold created a small bulge. Undeterred, I added stamps to the packages, but them in a bag and walked around to the postbox. A day early, no less.

The first email arrived over the weekend.

“I was a bit glum at having to pay £2 to get my subscription delivered.”

(Surely the most gentle complaint ever written?)

My heart sank as realisation came as to what had happened. That tiny bulge had tipped every subscription from a large envelope to a small package. I had paid insufficient postage on each subscription.

What a muppet!

As subscribers responded to my email (entitled Mea Culpa), a trend emerged. To a one, nobody wanted to cancel, and nobody wanted a refund. Even now, months later, I shake my head in wonder at that insight into the nature of the customers we are blessed with here.

This year, we issued two bonus boxes, at no charge to subscribers. One was to celebrate the birth of the site and another was for Christmas. We’re hoping that the CEO (Nero) doesn’t notice the impact on margins.

We already have plans for 2018. There will be a lot more pencils on the site, which will feed through to the subscriptions, and we plan to keep sourcing new and interesting suppliers. We won’t get the postage wrong again - that is a lesson well and truly learned!

Subscriptions are £21 per box including postage for the UK, and £21 + postage for overseas. They can be taken monthly, every other month or quarterly.

Try one.

I did, and ended up liking it so much I bought the company.

Remember, forget the app, there’s a pocket notebook for that.