Christina Blok, Curating Comfort

 
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I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “How did you come up with the idea for your business?” The answer is usually simple: it is what I love, packaged together and shared with like-minded people.

For the past year or so, I’ve been running Muse Monthly—a monthly subscription box for books and tea. I pair together a novel and a tea by theme, both meant to be enjoyed together to create an experience, and send them out to my subscribers, or Muses. It’s a simple concept, but Muse Monthly is actually so much more than just filling up your bookshelf and pantry.

To me, and to many others, the act of pouring yourself a cup of tea and curling up with a good book is akin to a good massage, or a long bubble bath, a vacation – it’s a break from the turbulence of everyday life. It’s a vacation for the mind and the senses; an opportunity to let yourself be taken away into a different life, a different world, and to escape the things that cause us stress during the day. I call it “curated comfort.”

Muse Monthly was created because I needed that. I needed comfort. I needed to escape the stress of my everyday life.

I’ve actually been told not to tell this story, but I think it’s important. I was in a job that was causing me so much anxiety that I was literally having panic attacks in my office, sitting in my cubicle. I was having heart palpitations and waking up in the middle of the night in a panic, much to the distress of my darling boyfriend. I was constantly on edge, and it affected both my mind and my body—I felt sick, I felt weak, I didn’t think I would make it from the subway stop to the front door of my office building because I wanted to vomit so badly. It was terrible, and I felt guilty for my anxiety, guilty for wanting to leave my job without a backup plan because I needed the money. But I honestly think that if I had stayed there any longer than I had, I would have become a totally broken person.

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I want to be honest about this experience, because I know somewhere out there is a 25-year-old girl sitting in a cubicle, at a job she hates, suffering from anxiety so bad that she can’t sleep and is worried about her heart health, because she thinks it will be “good for her career.” The job is a “stepping stone”—a way to get to the job of her dreams, but that job is also killing her creativity, her drive, her health.

And I want that girl to Get. Out. Now.

It got to the point where the money wasn’t worth it anymore, and I had to get away before I lost myself. And all I wanted was to make the largest cup of tea possible and curl up with a book, to slip away from my world and into someone else’s. It was the only way I could unwind, and I knew I wasn’t the only one who needed it.

Muse Monthly was born through Kickstarter, mostly because I had no money and no idea if anyone else would pay for this. With Kickstarter, we (myself and a friend of mine who helped at the onset) figured that there was no loss—if no one was interested, we wouldn’t be out thousands of dollars, and if people were, we’d end up with our startup money and a customer base. Boy, was I surprised.

The Kickstarter ended up doing over 400% of our goal after being featured in Kickstarter’s newsletter and on the front page. We made our goal of 50 customers and $3,000 in 4 days, and went on to end with 150 customers and $12,000. It may not seem like a lot, but to me, it was more than I had dreamed of.

It was more than just startup money and the chance to read books and drink tea for a living. First, it was validation that my creative idea was a good idea, and that other people were actually interested in what some weird girl from New Jersey had to offer. Second, it was the chance to work for myself. Finally, I didn’t have to feel like someone was constantly looking over my shoulder. I wouldn’t be “pulled aside” and made to feel like the entire international company was at stake when I made one minor mistake. I wouldn’t feel like just another cog in the wheel, a worker monkey who wasn’t allowed to move from her station. I wouldn’t have to feel like my creative ideas were worthless, and I wouldn’t ever be told to just “focus on the job you have” when I presented my ideas to my boss.

Finally, I can be as creative as I want to be. I can take my ideas and run with them. I can follow things I’m excited about. It’s thrilling—daunting, but thrilling. It’s stressful, but the good kind of stress where I’m motivated and my fingers tingle when I work. It’s beautiful and I am constantly inspired to build my business even bigger. I feel like an entirely new person since the beginning of Muse Monthly, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Written by: Christina Blok