We had the good fortune of connecting with Aisha Martinek and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aisha, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
About 8.5 months ago, I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child when I was texting my good friend about a toy box I ordered online for my baby’s nursery. Somehow, toy box was misspelled as “YOUbox.” I went along with it, thinking how nice it would be to have a monthly box in the mail with personalized contents — a special box just for you. This little typo planted the “box” seed in my head and soon after I began to identify with that one Bachelorette contestant on Hannah B’s season who jumped out of the box (a quick google search led me to Joe Barsano: “The Box King”). I felt like I was onto something. There was just something about boxes calling my name.

Now, at this point in time, we were in peak coronavirus pandemic conditions which coincided with a rapid acceleration in our already shifting shopping habits to online purchases. With each passing week, it seemed more and more local small businesses were shutting down, and of course, I knew that my preference for browsing online catalogs, with or without a pandemic, certainly has had a role to play in the bigger picture of it all. Grrr – us darn millennials! *shakes fist*

I wanted to do something to help our Northern Colorado small businesses adapt to this new economic landscape. The internet isn’t going anywhere and e-commerce is in its relative infancy. Whether it was the sadness I experienced when I saw Satin Camisole (my favorite Old Town Fort Collins lingerie shop) permanently close, my new found passion for boxes, or the rush in third trimester pregnancy hormones (or all of the above), I was deeply determined to mobilize my passion to support local small business artisans into an e-commerce based small business. I wasn’t sure what Nocobox would be, but I knew it would offer one solution to help make supporting local Northern Colorado small businesses easy.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Patience, I’d say, has never been my strong suit. Allowing for the space and time that projects need to slowly grow into their various stages of development requires patience and acceptance/trust in the process.

I’m careful here to not think of my project in linear/final terms with an inception date and some sort of end date that marks a defined point of “success” or “failure.” This sort of thinking has proved problematic in my life both on intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. It’s a mental framing that has led me to habitually burn myself out in the passionate pursuit of goals, only to then invariably lose interest in said endeavors when I find myself at a point of what I’ve defined as “failure.”

I challenge myself to think of projects as existing in an endless circle the symbolizes cyclical adaptation. I am learning that one important mark of a “successful” endeavor is to practice adaptation in the face of challenges and to contextualize that adaptation within a continuous process of change.

So, the difficulties I’ve experienced in starting Nocobox and keeping the momentum going have largely been in learning about my thought processes more intimately and attempting to foster healthy changes that nurture the sustainability of the project. Perhaps that is not the response one would expect when inquiring about the challenges of starting and working on a small business project, or perhaps it is. All I know is one’s state of mind is critical in goal-setting and achievement.

I started by sharing the patience has never been my strong suit — and that has been true, but I am developing my patience by persevering, and I am able to persevere by actively reflecting on and tinkering with the thought processes that in the past have blocked sustained interest and effort.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Northern Colorado is beautiful any time of year, but I’d prefer for this friend to visit during the warmer months, so I’m going to assume such 🙂

A week long trip to Fort Collins, Colorado would would have to include the following activities:

-I’m assuming my friend will want to spend at least a few nights in downtown Fort Collins, so I’d recommend The Armstrong Hotel for one night and The Elizabeth Hotel for another. Both of these hotels are located in Old Town Fort Collins and both offer onsite fine dining, live entertainment, and are perfectly located walking distance from all of the best restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues that Old Town has to offer!

-If the timing is right, a guided Cache La Poudre River rafting trip is a great experience for the adventure seeker. Rafting to then naturally be followed up with a trip to Paddler’s Pub and perhaps if you have the energy a visit to Swing Station to catch some live music.

-Hiking or generally getting out to enjoy the great outdoors is a must. Visiting You could spend a whole day exploring Horesetooth Reservoir. There are some fairly easy trails up in the lower Poudre Canyon like Young Gulch and Hewlett Gulch. I’d pack a picnic (pack everything in and out) and make a fun date day out of it. I’d stop by The Howling Cow Cafe on the way back into town for coffee, fresh eggs, butter, MouCo cheese, Noosa yogurt, and any other fresh local goodies that tickle my fancy.

-Brewery visits are a must in Fort Collins. Just a few of my favorite spots include Snowbank, Horse & Dragon, Funkwerks, Odell’s, and Turtle Mountain for local fresh kombucha. Many of the local breweries offer free tours and I’d for sure take my friend on one or two brewery tours!

-I LOVE good food (who doesn’t?) and depending on the mood there are endless possibilities for culinary delights. For an Old Town Fort Collins fine dining experience, I’d treat my friend to a meal at Jay’s Bistro where we can dine and also enjoy live music to enhance the ambiance. For more casual food and drinks, I love a good reuben sandwich with tater tots from Lucky Joe’s, an assortment of flavorful rolls from Jaw’s Sushi in Campus West, or some delicious smoked wings from Mo’s BBQ. If I’m feeling pizza, which if we’re being honest, I always am, I’d visit Otto Pint for a perfectly sized personal wood fire grilled pizza.

-I’d definitely make a day out of shopping the local boutiques all over town, starting at Heyday at Jessup Farms (but first a cup of joe at Bindle). I’d make my way to The Fox and The Crow for a cheese & meat plate or a sammie for lunch and make sure to stop at Madd Boutique while there. Then of course I’d make my way to Old Town to stop at Blue Harvest, Akinz, and Sunday Supply Co. to name a few!

-The nightlife in Fort Collins is quite lively, with an established music and growing comedy scene. I’d take my friend to Washington’s or The Comedy Fort for a show and wrap up the evening with a bite and drink either at
Ace Gillett’s, Social, or Elliot’s.

-The Museum of Discovery offers plenty of fun-filled activities and opportunities to learn! We could catch a show at the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater inside the museum.

-I personally love plants and gardening. I’d take my friend to The Gardens on Spring Creek for a relaxing garden walk. We also have so many local nurseries that I could easily spend a day visiting different nurseries and picking up seasonal plants and pottery. Many of my friends share this passion for plants. The Fort Collins Nursery is a few miles away from my home and they often host fun events too!

There’s something for everyone in Fort Collins and my list is just scratching the surface, though writing this all has made me so excited to get back out and about enjoying the city!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have two special shoutouts:

One – My first shoutout is to Sean of Happy Lucky’s Teahouse who gave me a call back as I was going into labor to follow up on my email asking to partner up. Happy Lucky’s is my favorite Fort Collins teashop and I reached out to see if they would be interested in working with me to be included in my first round of boxes. I was and still am so grateful for them to have worked with me!

Two – Chris of Fort Collins’ Ola Granola spent at least a good 30 minutes talking to me and giving me general advice as I was contemplating this start-up. He had no obligation to offer mentorship, but he freely did and it truly helped me out tremendously!

I’ve met countless of passionate, beautiful souls who have guided and mentored me. The kindness and generosity that exists within our small business community is truly unmatched. I believe there is no better place in the nation to start a small business than Northern Colorado.

Website: www.nocobox.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/noco.box

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/nocobox

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/THENOCOBOX/

Image Credits
Photos taken by Miranda Deblauwe

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