Guybox delivers essentials to men who have better things to do than shop


Guybox is a trimonthly service that sends out packages filled with men’s essentials such as underwear, socks and deodorant.

This is not a try-before-you-buy subscription service like the ever popular Birchbox or South Africa’s Rubybox. Instead, Guybox’s mission is to free men from the grind of picking up grooming essentials.

The Pretoria-based service is a one man show. Its founder, Oscar Baruffa, says that Guybox delivers the convenience of a curated basket of essentials aimed at men, without the frustration, boredom and time-suck associated with a traditional shopping experience.

Subscribers can expect products from brands such as Oral-B, Colgate, L’Oréal, Gillette, Nivea, Jockey, Durex, Bear International, VO5, Aquafresh, Solo and Shield.

While Guybox offers prefab packages that start at R349 (USD$30) and go up to R1199 (USD$110), there’s also the option of building your own. Packages are shipped within a week of ordering — shipping is free in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and George — and three months later, Guybox will ask you if you want another one.

Baruffa says that Guybox is modeled after the US-based Manpacks. “I came across Manpacks and immediately understood the value. I couldn’t find something similar in South Africa so I decided to start it myself,” he tells Ventureburn.

Guybox is self funded. Baruffa, a qualified engineer, is a weekend entrepreneur and currently works as a project manager in the recycling industry. Like many, he hopes to eventually work on his project, launched in January this year, full-time.

Guybox is not a bad idea and shares traits with some noteworthy peers. Following an accelerator programme, Manpacks went on to secure US$500 000 in Angel funding and Dollar Shave Club, the startup that sends out new razor blades every a month, has amassed US$22.8-million in seed and Series A and B funding.

Guybox differs from Manpacks in two important ways. Guybox offers less variety and choice. Manpacks customers have the ability to select from a range of products within a category. For example, while Guybox offers you a package that will include deodorant, you don’t get to choose which brand. Paying money upfront for a box containing products you might ultimately not be happy with, could be seen as risky.

Would it make sense to build in choice, or is simplicity its trump card? After all, does it really matter which brand of toothpaste or black socks you get?

“We may offer some very limited choices for individual item categories if there is a reasonable demand for it, and then only in the ‘build your own’ option. The pre-built boxes will always be a curated selection of items. The aim of the service is to let Guybox do the choosing for you. Many men (myself included) don’t like too much choice. They just want to know that what they are getting is good quality at a fair price,” says Baruffa.

What would happen if Guybox specialised? It worked for Dollar Shave Club.

Baruffa reckons it will be difficult to specialise in one product when limiting the market to South Africa. “The economics of ecommerce here mean that unless you have major volumes, then you need to have high/highish value items with a large margin — for example Rubybox, Yuppiechef, League of Beers — or many items which have a low margin (Guybox). I don’t think South Africa’s delivery, banking and packaging costs allow for low margin items to be sold viably,” he says.

There could be a third approach. While they ultimately operate under different models, Rubybox, the popular South African beauty product subscription service shares similarities with Guybox — the matching three-month pricing is telling. Connecting the two is important since the latter received South African VC-based funding before eventually joining, the Naspers-owned portal.

Since Rubybox acquired GlamBox SA, its major competitor at the time, Rubybox became the dominant beauty sampling subscription service in South Africa. If Guybox added samples to its stable, it could emerge as a new competitor to Rubybox, which also caters to men under the Manbox monicker. While men’s care takes up a minority portion of a beauty care industry which is expected to reach US$265-billion by 2017, research from Mintel notes that beauty and personal care launches specifically targeted at men have increased globally by 70% over the past six years (2007–2012).

This is one option however, Baruffa is eager to rule out. “I really like the idea of Manbox and have signed up to it myself. It’s very different from Guybox though. Manbox is a random selection of samplers which change with every delivery. Guybox on the other hand, is a steady supply of men’s daily essentials — underwear, socks, razor blades, condoms and so on. I think Rubybox/Manbox does a good job of this already. The only time Guybox will include a free sample, will be when we source these from suppliers — even then, it will be a total surprise for the customer,” he says.

For the time being, Guybox stands by its differentiating model. It will be interesting see how the market reacts.



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