Gabriel Flores 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I'm here of the creator of Fox boxes, hat, Miller cat, how are you doing?
Kat Miller 0:13
I'm doing okay. Thanks for having me.
Gabriel Flores 0:15
We've been actually chatting for a little bit. And so we've been kind of catching up. Really, really awesome. Awesome, a nonprofit you created here. But first, before we get into that, introduce the world to Cat Miller, please give us give the listeners at home introduced into cat.
Kat Miller 0:33
I am a mom. I live in Portland, Oregon. And I have spent my career in design. I started in branding and advertising as an art director. And I left to work on products and technology. Because I really love the idea of building something that is useful for someone else. And mobile software was the first kind of introduction to that for me. And yeah, yeah.
Gabriel Flores 1:05
Now, I want to talk about Fox boxes. But before I get into that, I'm gonna kind of I'm gonna save that question, because I think it's a great story. First, now, Vox boxes for the folks at home that may not be aware this is a nonprofit organization. So first, let's let's talk about how does one start a nonprofit?
Kat Miller 1:23
Oh, that's a that's a great question. I think it really relies on what is the point of the business that you're starting. And for us, because we're very mission driven. We and we also wanted to align brands and private and public money. A nonprofit structure makes a lot of sense.
Gabriel Flores 1:44
Okay. Now now, is this your first business?
Kat Miller 1:47
So I, so I started in advertising, and moved into product design. And when I was working at a product design agency here in Portland, I met my now husband, and we left to start a mobile prototyping design company. And we went through the Portland incubator experiment at widening cash. Yeah, so we went through that in? Oh, 2013, I think. And then we went through TechStars in Seattle, in 2014. And then in 20, I think it was 2015. We shut that company down. And I went back to being a design consultant.
Gabriel Flores 2:29
Nice. So for the folks at home that may not be familiar with the PDX experiments pie. Can you kind of elaborate on your experience?
Kat Miller 2:39
Yeah, so pie. Pie still exists. It's an amazing organization that's run by Victor OC. And it was at the time when I was at Wayne and Kennedy, it was this combination of kind of incubation of ideas and companies in conjunction with a design agency, and with a really strong sense of community. And so for me, when I think about pie, then I think about pie now the biggest benefit benefit for us was being able to be a part of that bigger community. And I think that's something I didn't really realize until I was in my late 20s, and 30s. Just how important community really is. And the pie community is really quite wonderful.
Gabriel Flores 3:27
That's awesome. You know, in for those folks at home rich Rosie pie was actually on this show before. So if you have not go back and listen to it, however, you know, you mentioned a great word right now community. In fact, before we scheduled this, you informed me that there's another former guest that I actually kind of have a dotted line to you with Brave care, correct. Yeah. So how, let's talk about a little bit before we get further, brave care, where's the connection with Brave care?
Kat Miller 3:57
Oh, yeah, that's a that's a great story. So actually, when Cypress who inspired Foxbox when he was born, about two weeks later, my husband started brave care with a group of amazing folks. And they are really focused on kind of revolutionising and changing pediatric primary and urgent care. Very true. And
Gabriel Flores 4:23
so again, for folks, brave care accounts, another former former guests, and that's I think, going back to that community thing you know, Portland is, is such a great community. Now, let's, you mentioned you mentioned Cyprus. Now, let's get into for the listeners at home. What is Fox boxes and how was the concept created? Yeah,
Kat Miller 4:40
absolutely. I love talking about Cyprus. He was the most amazing baby. So he was born in February of 2019. Right in the middle of winter, and he just came out as a ray of sunshine. Always happy always Laughing giggling. He loves music and he loved when folks would sing to him. And he would try to sing along like he was just, he was just joy. And when he was, he had just turned four months old. And the month before that he was feeling not so happy, and was feeling kind of crummy, which was really different for us, because he was the baby who slept through the nights at a few weeks old. He was rarely grumpy. The only time he really cried was when he had to get clothes on, which, you know, I understand who wants to wear clothes. He was just, he was just so joyful. And so when he started to not be that way, we became really concerned. And we, we had a really similar story to a lot of parents of oncology patients, there's something wrong with their kid can't quite figure it out, you take him to the doctor a few times. And you're kind of sent home, right? Because I think a lot of medicine is looking for. You don't look for zebras. And unfortunately, kids with cancer or zebras, it's it's, it's uncommon. But it's not so rare that every major city has a pediatric oncology group. So we went to our pediatrician one nights. And they sent us to Doernbecher. Children's Hospital to the IDI and we thought we would be there overnight, so we would get antibiotics, we go home, maybe be there for testing. So overnight, a day or two. And that turned into two and a half months, because we found out that Cypress had a really rare form of leukemia. So we had the kind of leukemia he had required us to stay in the hospital. So we were at Doernbecher. For the majority of almost a year, after that day, which actually was the early morning hours of July 4. Every time July 4 rolls around, it's it's not so joyful for me. And we had three rounds of chemotherapy. We were fortunate enough, so lucky to have a bone marrow transplant. And that was his only chance at a cure. And through that we ended up spending a little over a month in the pediatric intensive care unit at Doernbecher. Then, Cypress, I think part of what was really confusing about cypresses leukemia was that it showed up in his skin. So when he was it kind of looked like blisters, and they were kind of in this diaper area. And so everyone kind of thought like it was a diaper rash. But it was actually something called leukemia cuteness. And he actually got it again. So after transplant before we could go home, it showed back up. We did what we said, yeah, it was two weeks of outpatient radiation oncology, at OHSU to control that. Because those, those blisters are actually really painful. And then we found out he wasn't going to get better. So in May of 2020, we had his end of life at Doernbecher. And we did that because Cypress so loved his hospital family. So that same joyful baby that I described when he started feeling a little bit better through chemotherapy, he was still just that joyful. And he was most joyful being around people. So I would walk in three to five miles a day around the oncology floor at Doernbecher with him and the baby carrier and the pushing his giant IV pole. And he just loved people and he loved his nurses. He loved his providers, he loved his therapists. He loved his CNAs he loved his hawks, he loved everyone. And so when we thought about having the best place for his end of life, it really made sense to do that in the place where he loves so many people
Gabriel Flores 9:35
love it now now Cypress used to carry something with them that that kind of inspired the creation of Fox boxes. Am I correct?
Kat Miller 9:43
Oh foxy Yes. So he actually Cypress being the joyful baby that he was he he was never really attached any toys or blankets, except for this fox. Um, so a kind person that works with my husband gave us a fox Blinky and I hadn't seen them before. So we have an older kiddo cypresses Big Brother. And when he was little, I never saw these amazing creations. But they're kind of like a small blanket with a stuffed animal head attached to it. So we received a fox one. And there was a night where he was having a really hard time with withdrawing from chemotherapy. So in conjunction with chemotherapy, sometimes they get pain medications, and those can be hard to kind of wean off of, and so kind of in the throes of that I reached for a toy, and I happen to grab the fox, which he hadn't really seen very often. And he just grabbed it held on to it and calm down. And the rest was history, we actually had to buy 10 of them. Because if you drop something on a hospital floor, but especially if you're an oncology patient, you can't touch that again until it sanitized. And so there was a night where another night where he was having a hard time, and he threw socks on the floor. And I just remember staring at it thinking, Oh, no, that's the one thing that comes into. And we had the the night physician came in and they're like, is there anything that really calms him down? And I just remember staring the fox and just saying through like such sleep deprived, you know, eyes and soul and voice of like, foxes box. So, yeah, we learned really quickly to have multiple foxes. But he went everywhere with Foxy. And he really loved it. But I actually, you know, it's interesting. So what inspired Foxbox was actually a saucer, an extra saucer, from Skip hop that just showed up at our house one day. And a friend of ours, who had a baby about a week before Cypress was born, sent it to us, and that that gift, provided so much hope in a way that I couldn't articulate. It took away kind of that stress of financial burden of being able to buy something that was really expensive. It took it took it alleviated that stress of wanting to be able to provide the very best things for your baby away. And it actually just as an object itself provided Cypress, such independence, it allowed him to have a place where he could do a lot of fine motor exploration. He could sit, he could sit in his doorway. So oncology rooms are really fascinating because they have something called positive pressure. So the air actually pushes out. So if even if you're immunocompromised, and of course, this is before, majority of his treatment was before COVID. But before COVID, you could sit with the door open and socialize. And so we used to put his saucer and his story away. And so he would be able to laugh and giggle with everyone that walked by. We could do a lot of sign language and singing and just kind of see people and so it provided him such independence in a way that you just couldn't anticipate. And actually, one of our one of our boxes at Fox box has that saucer in it.
Gabriel Flores 13:52
Oh, cute. Love it. So so for the folks at home. What what what does Foxbox provides?
Kat Miller 14:01
That's a great question. So in a big way, we provide hope. So we are 501 C three nonprofit and we're dedicated to supporting infants and their families through long hospital stays. And when we talk with our nurse, friends, provider, friends, the families we've supported the families that we talked to before we started TalkBox get a better understand of what kind of support we could provide. The biggest thing that we provide is hope. So from a very like, like physical point of view, we provide boxes of helpful items. So for babies, we personalize our boxes based on their unique personalities, their likes and dislikes, their preferences, and then we also tailor it to make For that everything we include is evidence based. So we include developmental activities, social emotional items, and supports educational items. So we love books. So we provide a lot of really specific tailored items that help alleviate that. That feeling that feeling I was describing earlier of, you have this baby, they were just born because we support just infants three to 12 months. And you are suddenly in the situation where you are now, living in a hospital, that hospital room is your new nursery. And a lot of parents spend a lot of time thinking about all the hopes and dreams in the future that they want for their baby. And that doesn't go away when you stay in hospital. But that doesn't get to be your priority anymore. Your priority is now being a medical advocate. You get to tell your nurse practitioners and your doctors and your therapists, and your child life specialists and social worker, you get to interpret how your baby's feeling and work with them to come up with a plan. And it doesn't take away all of the hope that you you have for your baby. And I think something I experienced and something other families we've talked to have experienced is when you're sitting in that hospital room, and your baby has this world changing crisis diagnosis, it can be really hard to have hope. You know, for me, it was really hard to buy toys. So another family of ours who had an infant and treatment and it was really hard for them to buy clothes that were our size up. And so a lot of what we do at Foxbox. So we provide items that help now. And we provide items that can scale to when they're older. Because we know that providing that hope and that story and that support. And being here now in the moment. And being there. Six months leader with those same items is really important. And so we support babies with boxes, but we also support other really important people in that baby's life. And so that is the primary caregiver who's likely living with them in the hospital. It's their siblings, and then we're also trying to figure out the best way to support their staff, their hospital family.
Gabriel Flores 17:33
Sense. Now why Why was this so important? Why was I was creating this so important to you?
Kat Miller 17:39
Yeah, I think I never thought or realized that. Babies were in the hospital, I knew that the NICU existed. And there's that really great story. When you think about babies in the hospital, you just think of the NICU. And in reality, there's so so much more support needed for infants who have really long hospital stays that aren't in the NICU. And it was interesting because I thought about it from a branding and storytelling and advertising perspective. And it's it's a part of what why Foxbox is important is because we want to tell the stories of babies and families that are in all aspects of the hospital, to create awareness that there are families with infants who are living in the hospital every day. And unfortunately, the donations that are infant specific in all children's hospitals are rare. And you know, from a from a advertising like from a branding from a messaging and communication and design kind of perspective. I, when we were in treatment, I kind of struggled with that I really wanted to understand why. And so we asked, we asked a lot of people. And I think what it really boils down to is that it's really hard to think about babies in the hospital. So most people don't. But we do.
Gabriel Flores 19:14
You know, one of the things you mentioned to us, you know, networking with other folks to kind of figure this out, right to kind of ask questions. What, you know, for folks at home that might be interested, you know, this is a nonprofit, as you mentioned, what has been some of the difficulties about starting this nonprofit that folks at home should be aware of if they're interested in starting a nonprofit, or maybe what are some things that may have been a little bit
Kat Miller 19:40
easier? Yeah, that's a great, that's a great question. I think there's kind of an old adage in nonprofits where it's the idea of replicating services and support. So if if there isn't really a nonprofit doing the work that you want to do That's means it's probably a good idea to start one. But nonprofits are, they're expensive. And they're it's a lot of work to start one. And there's a lot of really great mission based nonprofits. I mean, they're all mission based, but folks that are very mission driven, that have nonprofits already. And so, you know, advice that we got early on was that if you if there's another nonprofit doing the same work that you're doing, you know, think about supporting them or working with them. But the really, there wasn't anyone in our space, and there wasn't really anyone providing the exact kind of holistic family infant support that we do. And so it made a lot of sense to start our own nonprofit.
Gabriel Flores 20:52
Nice. You know, one of the things you mentioned was was the funding piece, you know, it is expensive. How does, how did how did VoxBox is how did you begin your funding? Did you kind of have grassroots effort to do? Did you go out to angel investors, and for the folks at home, so there's just so they're aware, if they need to start a nonprofit, they can kind of have an idea of how that looks?
Kat Miller 21:11
Yeah, we get our funding from people like you from anyone listening we are. Our funding comes from individual contributors. So families, people, parents, grandparents, we also, were able to partner with some really amazing brands to get in kind donations. So products that are donated. Ergo baby was our kind of first company that believed in our mission and us. And so that's why we get to support families with really amazing infant carriers, so they can pick between a rap or a structured carrier. And also support pillows.
Gabriel Flores 22:00
Awesome. And you actually so your team actually collaborates with with quite a bit of different partners, correct. Other than Ergo baby, I think, yeah, for baby pants, and Angel year and Yeti. That's pretty amazing organizations, how did your team kind of collaborate? How did that all occur?
Kat Miller 22:19
Yeah, I think that's the idea of community. And I have spent a lot of time just in the design space. And I really, I went to LinkedIn, and I found connections at this companies. One of our board members was connected to some of them. And so we were able to find connections there. We the pie community has been really wonderful and amazing with trying to help connect the dots. So we really, were very intentional about every single brand that we partnered with. And there's a reason why we partnered with every single brands. I think the life in the hospital is really tough. It's emotionally tough. It's physically tough on objects and cleaning. So we went to make sure that everything we include in our boxes could withstand the harsh environment that's living in a hospital. So we were very, very intentional about every single brand and every single product that we put in our boxes to make sure it's the very best. And I think that plays back into the hope piece. You know, we want to provide families with the very best baby products possible.
Gabriel Flores 23:31
Love it, when you again, you went to Doernbecher where hope is discovered, right? There inspiration, their their motto now, what advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur interested in your industry?
Kat Miller 23:45
I think it's really important to, again, look and see if there's another nonprofit that's doing work that is similar to what you want to do. And seeing if you can support them, or do a program with them. And if not, I think it's really important to have good storytelling. And so that's what we focus a lot on at Foxbox is how can we tell meaningful stories increase awareness for babies who have really long hospital stays for families who experienced that really long hospital stay? And how can we help kind of change the conversation about it and provide the most support that we can. I also think it's really important to find board members. So when you start a nonprofit, you need a board. And that board helps drive the direction. So when we thought about the board for Foxbox, I wanted to make sure that we kind of captured skill sets that were important. And folks that had a passion for the pediatric space and who could approach it from a lot of different perspectives.
Gabriel Flores 24:57
Nice. Now now one of the things you mentioned Was this is a nonprofit in this funding comes from individuals like myself as well as our listeners. So with that said, how can the listeners find you the business social media web page? How can they if they're interested get more invested into Fox boxes?
Kat Miller 25:15
I love that question. Thank you for asking it. So we are Fox boxes.org And then we're on Instagram. Our handle is Foxbox baby we're also on Tik Tok. So a lot of the behind the scenes, mocks building Tik Tok some music happens on Tik Tok. So you can see us build boxes, what we include why we include them. And then our Instagram has our family stories. It has our drop offs and kind of our longer form evergreen kind of social stories there.
Gabriel Flores 25:50
Love it. Cat Miller, the founder of Fox boxes