Puzzle Culture was created by Dawn Walsh, an avid puzzler, lover of all things geek/nerd culture, as well as a fan of subscription boxes. Dawn felt she could combine the best of what she loved about those things into one experience.
In this interview, Dawn talks about the original source of inspiration for starting the Puzzle Culture, what’s the meaning behind the brand name, and what’s new and interesting in their future plans.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you do before you started your business?
I am a native New Yorker from the Lower East Side of Manhattan and a proud Latina with Puerto Rican roots. I attended Hunter College of CUNY, obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in Economics.
The majority of my career was spent in the retail planning world working for major department stores like Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and lastly as a VP of Divisional Planning at Century 21 stores. After the bankruptcy of Century 21 Stores due to the pandemic, I decided it was time to follow a dream and start my own business.
How was the idea for Puzzle Culture born?
As a person with high anxiety, I have found puzzles to be a great stress reliever and provides excellent solo and family activity time. I knew I wanted to do something with puzzles, but in a different way. Subscription boxes were the way I wanted to go, especially after doing some research and finding that there weren’t any puzzle subscription boxes on the market. I knew I could bring a unique experience to a very traditional pastime.
What does Puzzle Culture do?
Puzzle Culture is a subscription box that helps families, couples, and friends bond and reconnect through monthly-themed puzzles and gifts sourced from small businesses and independent artists.
How did you name your brand?
I wanted to choose a name that showed what I was trying to build. Using independent artists, creating connections with other small business vendors, puzzles bringing people together, and connecting over the activity, all of these things build community and culture. Hence Puzzle Culture. There’s also a little play on Pop Culture with the name as well.
I wanted to choose a name that showed what I was trying to build.
What was the process of choosing a domain name for your brand?
Choosing a domain name was easy, we are a subscription box company, so I wanted that to be part of it, puzzleculturebox.com is an easy one to remember.
If you could have any domain, which one would you choose?
Puzzleculture.com was already taken, but if it wasn’t, I would want that one.
What is your biggest challenge with this business?
I think the biggest challenge has been finding a way to cut through all the noise of the big puzzle giants out there. It’s not easy to build brand awareness when there are those big brands who have been doing this for decades. I want to make sure I am showing people that there is something different out there for them in the puzzle world.
How did you get your first customer?
My very first customer from my website was a good friend of mine, she was showing her support for my launch! My first organic customer found me on the Cratejoy Marketplace and purchased the subscription as a gift. It was amazing to see the immediate interest in my brand. I got 18 subscribers in the first few weeks. Many subscription boxes can take months to get to the first 10 subscribers, so I was thrilled.
You mention on your site you suffer from anxiety; how has building a business affected that?
I have had to learn how to ensure I find time and space for myself. Building a business can be extremely demanding, but there’s also high and low times through each month. Identifying where I can give myself some more breathing room and learning how to take things one step at a time helps keep me from spiraling. I also make sure to take my time for puzzling, which helps me to de-stress.
What advice would you give to someone else in your situation looking to start a business?
My advice is to ensure you are finding support and resources before you jump in. There are so many resources for small business owners, from networking groups to marketing courses and more, that will help make the journey a little easier. Not everything has to be done from scratch. Don’t reinvent the wheel for everything, many people have done this before you, so learn from them and take what you can. Entrepreneurs are extremely open and helpful to new business owners, take them up on the help and advice.
Who is the typical Puzzle Culture client?
We have two strong customer profiles. One is the person buying a gift for someone else, many times it’s a friend or colleague wanting to buy a great gift for someone to enjoy with their family or partner. The other is the working woman who wants to treat herself to her favorite hobby in an easy way. Our subscription is perfect for providing a gift to herself delivered to her door, she can then have solo time or enjoy it with her family.
What is next for Puzzle Culture?
I am working to really get the brand out into the world in a bigger way. Doing more in person events and marketing.
I am also considering doing a separate independent puzzle line outside of the boxes in the future.
Last thing, if some of our readers have more questions, where can they reach you?