Charitable Startup Finds New Use for Old Cardboard Boxes

charitable startup

How many empty cardboard boxes do you have in your home? If you shop online, the answer is probably quite a few. But what if you had a way to take all of those boxes and do some good with them? That’s what Monika Wiela thought about when she decided to launch her charitable startup, Give Back Box.

The idea behind Give Back Box is simple. Online shoppers can use their cardboard shipping boxes to send some of their unwanted goods to secondhand charity organizations. It allows them to clear space in their homes, donate some unwanted items to worthy causes, and recycle.

Wiela first got the idea for her charitable startup, Give Back Box, when she was walking through Chicago one day and saw a homeless man with a sign asking for shoes. She didn’t have any shoes to give him, but she thought about one item that she did have in abundance – cardboard boxes. While they wouldn’t immediately help the homeless man she saw on the street that day, she did see the potential.

Wiela was already a successful entrepreneur before starting Give Back Box. She is also the founder of online shoe store StyleUpGirl. In fact, she was able to use that company to test the concept for Give Back Box for a year before its official launch.

For the test, she simply included a prepaid mailing label addressed to a secondhand charity inside each box, along with donation instructions. That way, shoppers could use the shipping boxes to send some of their unwanted goods to new homes. Currently, the program partners with Goodwill for its donations and Goodwill covers the cost of shipping to increase contributions.

During the test with StyleUpGirl, 13% of customers used their boxes to send unwanted goods to charity. Now, Give Back Box has partnerships with other online retailers like Newegg and Overstock. The company also allows other online shoppers to print out shipping labels from its website so they can use boxes from other retailers in the same way.

This program may have grown from one woman’s desire to help someone, but it makes a lot of sense on different levels. It provides an easy way to recycle and get rid of unwanted items while helping charitable organizations. And it can improve brand reputation for StyleUpGirl and the other partner retailers when customers see their focus on environmentalism and philanthropy.

Wiela explained in an interview with Fast Company:

“When I started talking to Goodwill, they told me their biggest challenge is a lack of donations. People are busier and busier and they don’t have time to drive to the store. At the same time, the big online retailers have a sustainability problem. They don’t want to see a lot of boxes in landfills. This is a beautiful solution, because it is a win-win for everyone.”

Image: Give Back Box


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

7 Reactions
  1. If Goodwill is picking up the tab for the shipping, this is a real win-win. I personally just drop my stuff off at the physical stores, but I can see how many people might not take the time to donate. They’d probably just throw it away.

    • I’ve always dropped my stuff off at stores too, but this seems so much easier. The easier the process, the more people will probably donate!

      • Yes. It will depend on how easy it is. The shipping idea is great. It would even be better if they have people pick it up at people’s homes.

  2. This is a cool idea. Deals with waste – turns an empty cardboard box into a gift containing gifts.