At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erika Dolan decided to create her own business, Boxy — a custom and premade gift box company with a focus on supporting local businesses and charities. But before Boxy, she first had to discover her place in the world.
Growing up in Mexico City, Dolan says there was a lot of social pressure to enter into a professional career field like medicinal or engineering. But when she came to Canada she felt like the opportunities were endless, which led her to a creative career she loves.
In 2018, Dolan attended Bow Valley College and received her certificate as a hospital unit clerk, where she hoped to work in health care as a way of helping people.
After completing her program she was unable to find a job in the industry, but then the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Dolan felt the impact that the pandemic was having on the community and wanted to help local businesses.
“I kept hearing on the news that there were so many businesses closing and I just felt so bad,” she says. “I wanted to buy everything from everyone so they wouldn’t have to close.”
Dolan’s sympathy for local businesses was well-founded. In a recent study by Statistics Canada, it reports that almost 40 per cent of businesses in Alberta will be forced to “consider staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy” within 12 months, if they “continue to operate at current revenue and expenditures.”
In May 2020, what started as a simple idea for a gift basket business quickly turned into Boxy, a company that creates unique gift boxes for occasions like birthdays, holidays, get well, sympathy and more.
It was no surprise to close friend Laurie Fales that Dolan decided to create her own business. Fales says that Boxy aligns with Dolan’s moral character.
“She took a very challenging time […] and she turned it into something positive.”
But starting her own business hasn’t been without challenges.
She received criticism based on the colourful and youthful nature of her gift boxes. But instead of changing her brightly coloured gifts, she realized that it was a unique style she wanted to keep.
“There’s other gift box businesses and they just look so serious,” she says. “I just wanted to make them fun!”
Dolan also holds true to this philosophy by trying to create products that have a distinct personality, just like her ‘Bundle of Love’ box. This box includes a custom sweet-smelling candle labeled “You Are My Favourite Person,” and a jar of “Wild Rose Bath Soak” — all set delicately in a pastel-pink, crinkly-tissue-paper-lined box.
“It’s her passion to create beauty, comfort and joy for whomever she’s creating it for,” Fales says.
Starting a Calgary-based business wasn’t Dolan’s original plan, but neither was living in Canada. Dolan first visited the country when she was 19-years -old.
Her original plan was to visit Canada for six months, but when she began touring the country she realized that she wanted to stay, eventually getting a job as a nanny in Vancouver.
“There’s so much freedom here, you can do so much,” she says. “I feel that in Canada I can be who I really am.”
After living in Vancouver for a few years, Dolan became eligible to apply for her Canadian citizenship. Although her love for the country was strong, she took the time to seriously consider what citizenship meant for her.
Dolan remembers her friends saying, “You’re crazy! You can apply for your citizenship and you’re not, just because you want to make sure?”
“I waited until I felt in my heart that this was the country I wanted to serve,” she says. As soon as she decided this was the country she wanted to live in, she became a citizen.
After living almost a decade in Vancouver and a short time in Edmonton, Dolan eventually married and moved to Calgary. Four years later, she started Boxy.
Dolan does the majority of the marketing for the company herself, including running social media pages and taking photographs. Currently, she has just over 1,100 followers on Instagram.
So far, Boxy only has a handful of reviews on Google. But currently the business has an overall five-star rating, with the reviews mentioning Dolan’s personal sincerity and the overall quality of the gift boxes.
In addition to Dolan’s creative passion, one of her main focuses with Boxy is giving back to the community. She buys most of her products from local retailers and makes a few items at home.
Each month, Dolan prioritizes donating to a local charity. Sometimes she donates financially or gives gift baskets that can be used for fundraisers. Currently, she is planning on donating roses and bringing them over to women who are staying in a shelter.
Fales says Dolan has always had a heart for helping people and giving back to the community.
“She is deeply empathetic and compassionate to people in need,” Fales says.
Dolan also feels like it is important to help those around her through sharing what she has been given.
She hopes to shift people’s perspective from the idea of a profit culture that prioritizes financial gain, to one of generosity.
“I think we all need a little bit of help and I want to inspire other businesses to do the same.”