What a difference a year makes. Last fall Rob Little, founder and CEO of Cairn, was pitching his newly started subscription box for outdoor lovers at PubTalk and the BVC. His startup is now shipping more than 10,000 boxes — and seeing double-digit growth —  each month.

“Our referral network is really strong, and we’ve hit our stride with social media,” Little says. Many subscribers pay months in advance, a model that gives the company some nice cash flow. That’s allowed Little to hire five people — most recently bringing on a second marketing person.

Rob Little, founder of Cair, at the 2014 BVC.
Rob Little, founder of Cair, at the 2014 BVC.

There’s certainly some competition in the subscription box market. (We may be reaching Peak Box any moment.) But from the beginning, Little has envisioned his company as providing data and market analysis to the companies that place products in Cairn boxes in addition to sending subscribers fun packages.

“We’ve been able to drive review rates on our products in excess of 30%,” he says.

Eventually, Little says he sees Cairn evolving into a company rooted in both the outdoor and technology industries, one that utilizes data and transforms it into a revenue stream. For now, the company is trying to gain as many subscribers as possible.

A Cairn box filled with goodies.
A Cairn box filled with goodies.

Cairn’s rapid growth has also required the startup to make some changes from how it did business in its first year.  The most significant is that the company recently moved the work of packing and sending its boxes from Bend to Connecticut.  “As our numbers continue to grow, we no longer have the time or bandwidth to pack here in Bend,” Little says. The company will continue to have a relationship with Abilitree, the Central Oregon nonprofit that was previously helping with the work.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley