December 4, 2018

Car-care startup delivers for Waterbury women

Photo | Nicole Zappone
Photo | Nicole Zappone
Melissa Fusco, Francesca DeBonis and Stacie Schiaroli at J&F Auto Wholesalers in Waterbury.
Car-care products inside a sample Autobox gift package.

A trio of Waterbury women with a passion for cars and subscription gift boxes have teamed up to start a new company offering car-care products, Autobox.

Melissa Fusco, Francesca DeBonis and Stacie Schiaroli launched their company and website on Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), hoping to capitalize on a retail trend for packaging specialized items that arrive on a regular basis through the mail. Ordering is as simple as a few clicks and selecting the type of subscription and box you want.

Fusco, a full-time employee of J&F Auto Wholesalers of Waterbury, located at 1148 South Main St., thought it would be great to run the business out of her office. J&F, owned by her boyfriend Jack Frietas, is a used-car dealership as well as a full-service auto shop.

"I spend a lot of time in my car and around all different types of cars, so I know the value they hold in our lives," Fusco said.

Over the last five years, subscription boxes have become highly popular. Fusco said that after researching the market, she knew she could compete and provide quality products and services to customers at a reasonable price.

The basic Autobox costs $29.99 a month and the luxury box, $39.99 a month; one-time purchases are also available. The boxes come in three models: detailing, accessories and luxury. The products in each box are worth more than $100, the founders said, but cost less through Autobox due to wholesale and bulk purchasing. Products inside the boxes include spray wax, car deodorizer and specialized applicators for different products. Items are chosen based on the season and customer preference.

Branded boxes specifically for dealerships or salespeople are also offered, meant to be given as thank-you gifts for customers or employees.

Fusco explained that they wanted the name of the company to reflect the idea that a wide variety of products and customized accessories are provided. The items arrive in a branded box every month that is great for storage, she adds.

The three founders are longtime friends who came up for the idea for Autobox one evening at dinner. They started talking about their commutes and how each of them had a story about their car from that week. They had also talked about starting their own business together as entrepreneurs and making it onto a favorite TV show, ABC's Shark Tank. Fusco started telling them about her research on the subscription box industry and e-commerce, and she said it all kind of clicked.

"We thought, why not create a box for our cars! Once you get three determined girls with an idea, you can't stop them," Fusco said.

The women are currently working on gaining a following in the Northeast region and will expand accordingly based on their continued research. In addition, they are working on establishing relationships with local auto dealerships and getting involved with community car shows and events.

Since its launch, Autobox has generated strong business, according to the founders. "So far, we have sold a whole bunch of boxes, and we're working on getting them all delivered in time for Christmas," DeBonis said.

For more information on Autobox, click here.

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