by Lizann Lightfoot - December 4th, 2021
Our Guest: Nicole Utt of Sandboxx
Daughter of a Marine, wife of a Marine, and Director of Brand and Creative at Sandboxx. I grew up with such pride for our military, and met my husband in college. While he was away I used the app called Sandboxx to get letters to him quickly, and I loved the app. I reached out to them after he graduated, and they needed someone in marketing! I have been with the team for 4 years, and I love being able to help people stay connected.
What is Sandboxx and why was it founded?
Sandboxx was founded by 2 Marine veterans. General Ray Smith and Sam Meek understood the importance of letters throughout your career, from Basic Training onward. There used to be a product called Moto Mail, but after it went away, they wanted to revive that idea, and that’s how Sandboxx was born. We always say we want to “do good by being good.”
It has evolved over the years to help people stay connected throughout the military journey. We want to allow people to become the support and encouragement their service member needs throughout training.
Why use Sandboxx instead of mailing a letter?
We have digitized the entire process. We are all so connected to our phones these days, but recruits don’t have phone access during training, and then they are so lost. So you can log into the app and write out your letter as a simple text message. You can even attach a photo! When you upload it, Sandbox prints out the entire message into a letter with the airmail colors on it, so everyone knows it is happy mail. We print out the photo on another page, which recruits love to hang up or keep in their locker. And what is unique about Sandboxx is that we include a self-addressed envelope and stationary to reply.
When you’re in basic training, writing mail is not your mission and it isn’t always easy to get supplies. We want to make it easy for them to connect and get that support from home. When they are in basic training, we overnight letters to the base, so not only does it get there quickly, but it has a tracking number, so you can see exactly when it arrives, and know that your service member is getting your message. At boot camp, they get mail every day, so don’t withhold all your communication for one long message. Send something quick and easy as frequently as possible.
At PCSgrades, we know that letter-writing is important and meaningful. Our Content Editor is Lizann Lightfoot, the Seasoned Spouse. She recently wrote an entire book of letters for the military community called Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses. We will give away a copy at the end of this webinar!
It’s always exciting to get a letter in the mail! There are great user stories on your site. Do you have a favorite?
My favorite is an Air Force wife, and her husband was at Basic Training. He had left about half-way through her pregnancy. They knew it was possible she would have complications, and planned to use the Red Cross if necessary. Well, she went into labor earlier than expected, so she sent the first picture of their newborn son through a Sandboxx letter! She sent the Red Cross message too, but it is so moving to know that Sandboxx was the source of their first baby photo! Not only is this such a sweet story, but it demonstrates how easy and convenient the technology is with the app.
Why do family members come back to Sandboxx after basic training?
We also send letters to deployed service members. That’s when most family members start to re-engage with us. Depending on the deployment, service members don’t always have access to stamps and envelopes. So it’s great to be able to send them something that includes an easy way to respond.
We have also focused on providing more information and answers to questions, so we started building out our blog which is now a media site answering questions about how to check in at the gate when arriving on base, what to expect at your first duty station, etc.
So often, spouses are the ones who need to handle logistics and figure out how to navigate military life, so we have tried to provide that support system for our supporters, so they know where to find things and what to do. Then they can focus on supporting their service member.
Does Sandboxx also help with booking travel?
We started arranging basic training travel to help families arriving for graduation. There is so much uncertainty, and that extends into the service member’s life cycle. We try to help simplify the process, so families can focus on everything else. Military families and service members can use our app and our website to see which hotels are closest to base, which ones have shuttles, how to get to base from the airport, etc. The travel is through Priceline, so we can get good deals. We aren’t just trying to help in a generic general way, but we want it to feel like we are holding your hand through the entire military journey. The tools, letters, travel and more all help with mission readiness.
Does Sandboxx help with cards?
Yes, we have an ecommerce site where you can get cards for birthdays, basic training, graduation, etc. So yes, we have cards, and we are hoping to expand them for holidays and seasonal cards.
We have also talked about ways to get deployed service members access to Sandboxx so the letters can get back here so much faster. We have been working on the best way to go about that, because it’s important for service members to be able to send a timely greeting to their family too.
How can our audience get involved with Sandboxx?
We are hiring for many positions right now, and we are part of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, so we are always looking to hire military spouses, and for ways to give back to this community. We have about 10 jobs open right now!
We are always looking for ways to continue our mission of making the entire military community more mission-ready so all service members can thrive. We are looking for ways to actively help service members with their careers. Reaching out to us and sharing your ideas often leads to new features! We have Sandboxx news, which always shares great stories and content. Stay tuned for new features coming out next year!