The Guelph Box

The COVID -19 Pandemic has changed our world and how we do business.  Not being able to visit my parents in Guelph I wanted to let them know I was thinking of them. 

I first heard about the Guelph Box from an article in a local newspaper.  Immediately I googled their website, and ordered my first box for my parents.  My daughter and I were so excited when we ordered, we both agreed it kinda of felt like Christmas Morning!

Their second box should be arriving any day now.  Again we are super excited, as this box is filled with a lot of my parent’s favorite vendors, it will sure to bring them a lot of cheer and joy in these uncertain times.

I have always loved giving and really LOVE, LOVE the GUELPH BOX business on so many levels.  It really makes me feel good to support local business, and to know every box you purchase $5 is going to support local charities is amazing.

My parents keep telling me to stop gifting things to them, (I say yeah OK….) but honestly it brings me so much joy, I don’t think I can.  We cannot wait  once again to hear they have received their latest Guelph Box full of goodies I know they will truly enjoy!

I chatted with owners of the Guelph Box Josh Gray, (19 yrs) and Genevieve Sutherns, (17 yrs).

What is your business? 

Guelph Box is a social enterprise designed to help support local small businesses and charities.  We purchase products from a variety of local Guelph vendors and assemble weekly boxes of goods that are delivered straight to your door.  With every box purchased, $5 gets donated to a local charity and 10 local vendors are supported each week.

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea rapidly transformed from a “grocery delivery service” to the Guelph Box over the course of a few days.  Genevieve was travelling in France and was forced to come home due to the pandemic and Josh was studying at Carleton University when he was also brought home due to the COVID-19.  During a layover in Montreal, Josh FaceTimed Genevieve with the idea of starting a grocery delivery service for those unable to leave their homes.  After a few more conversations this quickly shifted into what Guelph Box is today.  Our goal has always been to help others and we found a unique way to do so in these times.

What is your background?

We always laugh when asked this question as teenagers we don’t have as much formal education as an older person.  That being said, our background truly is our upbringing and the mindset of making things happen!  We were both raised in local minded homes where going to the local Farmers’ Market or getting bread from the bakery was part of our routine.  This love for supporting local definitely helped shape Guelph Box and is the reason we have such a passion for supporting small businesses.  We are both very “make it happen” people and truly believe this made all the difference in the start-up of this venture.  It went from an idea to a business in 36 hours and we have not looked back since!

Josh is currently studying International Business at Carleton University with a major in global financial systems and a minor in German.  Genevieve plans to begin her studies at UBC in neuroscience in the Fall.

What have you learned operating the business?

What have we not learned? Seriously the learning curve for both of us has been incredible over the past couple of Months and we are so thankful to everyone who has stepped in to help us on this journey.  I think that the main thing we’ve taken away from it so far (beyond all the specific skills I’ve had to pick up), is how important community truly is in our lives.  Without the community of Guelph, we would not be able to support these businesses and charities.  Guelph Box has also built a unique community in Guelph when it was needed most, which is something we never imagined when we first launched.  Community truly is everything.

How has the Community welcomed your idea?

The community has welcomed our idea in a way that we could never have imagined!  We have been so overwhelmed by the positive response that we’ve gotten.  In our first week of operating our phone was going off non stop with people calling and offering to help, everybody wanted to be involved and lend a hand.  I think we screamed, “WE LOVE GUELPH” more times than you can imagine!

How do you stay inspired?

It really is the little things that keep us going.  It’s the voicemail, the emails, the smiles and the thank yous that seem to come when we need it most.  Knowing that we are not only relieving some stress for business owners but also spreading joy to so many households across the City is something that we don’t take lightly and remind ourselves of when we get worn down.

What is something people do not know about you?

(Josh)  Before COVID-19 I had planned to live in Vienna, Austria for 10 Months starting this September.

(Gen)  I went skydiving when I was 14 in New Zealand because I wasn’t legally old enough to go in Canada yet!

What is something you would like to share about the Pre-COVID-19, that you miss, and what is something you do not miss?

(Gen)  I really miss coffee shops and being able to hug those around me.  I spend a lot of my time working and hanging out with friends in coffee shops and really miss that so I eagerly await the reopening of some of my favorite Downtown spots.  Something I do not miss is how little I saw my family, there are seven people currently living in my house and it sort of feels like Christmas vacation for Months!

(Josh)  I miss the events going on around the City.  I love walking through Royal City Park near the Boathouse and seeing the Park packed and the gazebo filled with dancers and small festivals or stumbling on Street parties.  I do not miss the daily rush that we found ourselves in.  The change of pace has been a real eye-opener!

How often do you deliver your boxes, how you do you arrange for your deliveries, (respecting social distancing and the new COVID-19 measures)?

We deliver our boxes on a weekly basis and all our delivery protocols are contact-free.  We take multiple safety precautions to ensure that our volunteer drivers, customers and ourselves are not a risk in any way by delivering boxes.  As we started during COVID-19, we used these procedures right out of the gate and all of our drivers wear PPE and ensure social distancing when dropping off boxes.

Do you have new box ideas?

We definitely are full of some new box ideas and plan on doing some sort of “feature box” every couple of weeks going forward.  Our current feature box is the “Fitness Box” and they have recently introduced a “GO Play Box” for young children to keep them busy.   Moving forward people can look forward to our Father’s Day Box too.

How frequently do the items change?

Every single week is a new box!  We keep things fresh as we have many repeat customers and want to ensure that they are always getting new things to try, also this supports a wider variety of businesses.  We do have some vendors which remain constant, however, the products are switched up and over 80% of the vendors switch week to week.  There is always something new to try!

Tell us about the surprise element of your boxes and do people like it?

All of the contents in our boxes are a surprise, however we always ensure over $100 of value.  We think that the surprise element adds so much fun to the whole thing and allows people to try products that they many not actually pick but will learn that they love!  We have had a very positive response about the surprise elements hear things weekly like, “it feels like Christmas Morning!”  “It’s even better than I could’ve imagined!”

Thank you Guelph Box for your time, we too believe; “The Guelph Box feels like Christmas Morning”  Order your box for you or someone special in your life,

Talk soon ~




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