Small, women-owned Chatham business creates college care packages with purpose

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PITTSBORO — A new women-owned subscription box service for college students launched out of Chatham last fall, but the idea first started years ago.

Founded by Jaime Detzi and Jen Bowman, Detzi says the idea for the new service — Jasper — first came about when their kids were much younger.

“Jen, I will first say, has always had this hankering or desire to better equip our kids with life skills,” Detzi said, adding that the original vision of that idea surrounded offering camps of programs.

Then about 18 months ago, the women revisited the idea more formally — landing on an education-focused subscription box, which later they decided would focus specifically on college students. But “it was just an idea,” Detzi said, one that required much more fine tuning and attention to business details.

By March 2021, the two-woman team had narrowed down its business plan; they made their website live in September.

“We just started thinking about what could we do that would bring health, wellness, financial literacy, life hacks, and that type of things to the college world,” Detzi said, “and then, we made a subscription box for them.”

The name, Jasper, is inspired by the semiprecious stone known as a “supreme nurturer,” the Jasper website says. The stone is believed to sustain people during times of stress, encourage honesty, provide courage and aid quick thinking, among other things.

“While not everyone buys into the concept of rocks having metaphysical qualities (admittedly, we’re skeptics, too),” the website says, “it does sound like something we could all benefit from, right?”

After some tinkering, Detzi said they readjusted their marketing strategy to advertise and connect with families through college engagement programs, rather than sifting through Facebook groups and platforms.

By November, the team sent out its first round of subscription boxes. Four boxes are scheduled per year, with the next is set to be sent in February. There are two subscription options: the “nugget box” for $44.99 or the “big box” for $74.99. Each box includes high-quality products like organizational tools, water bottles, healthy snacks and a “Jasper Journal,” that makes the connection between materials in the box and the life skill the item supports — ranging from things like studying to using a credit card.

Eventually, the team hopes to build out to 500 subscriptions, at least under its current staffing model.

For Detzi, who is the founder and director of local nonprofit Chatham Education Foundation, finding a way to make the boxes accessible to more students was an important part of developing a model. Detzi and Bowman wanted to create a business that makes a profit, but not by creating a product that only college students from higher-income families could benefit from.

After some brainstorming, they landed on a solution: Jasper’s Equity Program, which partners with individual colleges to provide boxes for low-income, or first-generation college students.

Partners can use Jasper as a fundraiser or by enrolling in the equity program. The idea is still being finalized, but essentially would allow universities to sell the boxes as a fundraiser and get 10% of sales back, or that percentage can go toward specific products or subscriptions for different student groups.

“Long term, my hope is that we will be partnered with a larger foundation that would be able to send these boxes at some discount to first-gen students,” Detzi said, “But I see that as years down the road.”

Jasper is in the early stages of talking with four universities about partnerships, and is signing with N.C. State this month to be a part of the VIP plan — giving them access to 5,000 families through summer orientation, in addition to online publicity.

“Schools love the concept,” she said. “They’re all over this because the majority of care packages that they work with right now companies are literally all junk food.”

Moving forward, Detzi and Bowman hope to grow their subscription base and their relationships with colleges, but for now, they’re glad their long-held idea has finally launched.

“Jen and I want to be a small women-owned business that is succeeding right here in Chatham, that is enabling both of our girls to see that while we’ve spent a lot of time and energy raising our family that we are completely capable of turning something small into something big,” Detzi said. “That it’s not easy and that hard work pays off, and that we’re going to be able to help college students live more fulfilling lives when they’ve graduated from college.”

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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