Leeanne Antonio is a trail blazing, first generation Asian American entrepreneur, bringing the world empathy in a box. She is the Founder and CEO of Bad Day Box, and an advocate for self-care and mental health.
When life didn’t go as expected a couple years ago, she channeled her bad days into finding healthy ways to heal. Crying in showers, adventuring around glaciers, rock climbing on granite, and eventually starting a business.
“What really resonated in the world surrounding me — is that there is no shortage of bad days that need a little brightening,” says Antonio.
Leeanne launched her business in 2020, but she persisted. “The pandemic brought a lot of unexpected bad days for so many of us and I’m glad I was able to provide a way to make some people’s days a little brighter.” Self-care is personal and can come in many forms. When people are going through hard times, they might find comfort in staying at home and focusing on wellness, or being distracted by traveling, getting outside, or trying something new. Bad Day Box brings personally curated gifts with self-care and better days in mind for anyone, featuring handmade, small batch, women-owned, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ-owned, eco-friendly and charitable products.
I caught up with Leeanne just in time for Asian American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. She shared her entrepreneurial journey, how her career in marketing paved the way for creating a brand and what’s next for Bad Day Box.
Stephanie Burns: The idea for Bad Day Box came at a time when you yourself could have used it. Can you dive into the genesis of the idea?
Leeanne Antonio: The road that led me to starting Bad Day Box stemmed from heartbreak. I had a couple challenging years in my personal and professional life the fallout of what I thought was a very long term and committed relationship, and the loss of a job which I thought was my dream job. It was a dark time, but I was fortunate enough to have so many people show up for me. At a time when there was definitely “no card for this,” they found ways to express love and remind me to eat, sleep and be kind to myself. One of my friends flew me across the country the next day, another friend used her points to take me on an ice climbing adventure. I received sleeping aids, a snack box, a massage and a place to stay. All of this would later lead to my inspiration for Bad Day Box.
Burns: What made you branch out and decide to become an entrepreneur after having a successful career in marketing?
Antonio: With my life-long proclivity for sending snail mail and gift giving plus a lull in creativity in my 9-5, Bad Day Box felt like a calling. It became an outlet for creativity and the best coping mechanism for healing. I designed Bad Day Box as a way to package up the empathy shown to me when I hit bumps in the road, so that others could easily send and receive self-care when they need it the most. I looked around and saw friends going through health issues, grieving deaths, struggling with heartbreak. There are times when we don’t know what to say, but we still want to show that we care. The traditional flowers, plants or edible arrangements can feel generic and in some ways, not inclusive. There is a clear need in the market that I have to continue to explore.
Burns: What challenges have you faced in the startup phase and how did you overcome them?
Antonio: I planned to crowdfund and launch the campaign on March 8, 2020 (International Women’s Day), days before California shut down for the pandemic. It didn’t feel like an appropriate time to ask for money. I gave it another go in 2021, trying again to launch on International Women’s Day, and in less than 48 hours my project was declined by Kickstarter because it included a resale component. I searched through various Facebook groups I belonged to while I was in line for my second vaccine. Later that night, I submitted my project to iFundWomen and when I woke up with a very sore arm, it was approved and I launched as planned. In a lot of ways, those stars really aligned for me. It’s a much smaller community that is invested in women in business, women of color and provides resources and opportunities. I was able to recoup some of my personal expenses from starting up but more importantly I was able to pay my designer and dear friend who really brought my vision to life.
Burns: How has your marketing background helped in developing this idea and getting it out into the market?
Antonio: I didn’t create a product, I specifically created a brand with lots of marketing opportunities; no detail is too small. I leaned into my knack for stretching no budget and focused on storytelling and ways to visually reinforce the logo and Bad Day Box sentiment. With the curveballs of 2020 I reminded myself what this brand stands for: showing up for each other.
During the pandemic I created branded, fun social media templates for people to share while they were forced to stay at home, created GIFs and launched giveaways for our frontline medical community, sending gratitude in a box to nurses and other heroes. I curated three Stay at Home friendly boxes, inspired by the changing times around us in 2020. In a year when all small businesses were struggling, I found little ways to keep Bad Day Box growing.
Burns: What’s next for Bad Day Box?
Antonio: While I raised some capital through crowdfunding, a lot of it will go towards product offering, inventory and packaging. The next big focus is on small business grant applications followed by creating an affiliate marketing program. I have a lot of ideas around collaborating with licensed therapists, authors, creators and others in the wellness space to bring healing through content and to doorsteps. There is still a lot of work before this becomes my full time endeavor but I’m looking forward to the journey.