By Tessa Battles
Photos courtesy Bama in a Box
When small businesses in Alabama began closing their doors due to the pandemic, Angi Horn Stalnaker, owner of Virtus Solutions in Troy, took notice. She and Office Manager Laney Kelley also noted a push for consumers to buy more American-made products. She combined these observations and by June, Bama in a Box, a subscription service filled with Alabama-made items, was born.
“We wanted to buy American, but further than that, we wanted to buy local from Alabama,” says Stalnaker. “The more we researched, the more we realized that literally almost everything you use every day can be bought from a company that makes it in Alabama.”
Amy Jinright, owner of Southern Scents and Sensations in Troy, says that if it had not been for Bama in a Box, her business might not be here today.
Jinright opened Southern Scents and Sensations 16 years ago, but has only been in her building in Troy for two years. She started the business by making candles, but later moved on to soaps and lotions. Self-taught, she started by selling products out of the back of her car.
“I’d go to the different businesses where I might know one or two people that worked there,” says Jinright. “And then I would go in and all of the women would come out and shop at the back of my car.”
When she opened her business in downtown Troy two years ago, she had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic would end up shutting her doors. She was left with a few wholesale customers, special orders and regular customers. Then Stalnaker reached out to her about participating in Bama in a Box.
“Our goal was to sell 50 boxes,” Stalnaker says. “That was a year ago and now we have sold thousands of boxes all over the world.”
Bama in a Box not only includes seven items made in Alabama, but information about each business so customers can reach out to them if they want to buy again.
Jinright’s bath bomb was in the first Bama in a Box. She soon began getting Facebook messages from all over the country.
“I met these people this weekend that were from Alaska,” says Jinright. “They’re actually from Alabama and someone had sent them a Bama in a Box. She told me what was in her box and I said ‘Well that’s my bath bomb.’”
Stalnaker says boxes have been sent to Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Delaware, Michigan and Korea.
Johnson Labs in Troy provides dishwashing detergents, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Unlike other businesses, Johnson Labs saw sales increase during COVID because of their products.
“There was a sudden drop off the next year and because we had an increase the previous year we didn’t qualify for some of the PPP loans,” says Karla Johnson, CEO of Johnson Labs. “Then we had a sudden shutdown because of supply issues and things like that.”
Johnson heard about Bama in a Box on the news and says she doesn’t remember who reached out first, but that it is a “happy marriage.”
“It’s helping us grow that retail customer demographic that we have not had,” says Johnson. “It has done a lot for us to help get our names out there and have a little more recognition.”
Soaps, snacks, sauces, syrups and much more can be found in the boxes. The only things you won’t find are perishable items, like vegetables. Over 500 high-quality products from Alabama are included in Stalnaker’s inventory.
For either a month-to-month ($39.95) or three-month subscription ($104), a box of products made in Alabama will be shipped to your doorstep monthly. The included products change each month, so you never get the same box twice. You can also order one-time specialty boxes, such as a grilling kit, breakfast in a box, ultimate Alabama gift box, coffee sampler, bath in a box, and the Bama snack pack. Boxes for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas are available.
“You’ve never seen Amazon on the back of your kid’s little league jersey,” says Stalnaker. “You should buy things from inside Alabama if you can because you’re helping yourself. You’re helping your schools, textbooks, roads, bridges and community.”
For more information visit bamainabox.com.