[Interview] Hobby in the Box lets busy people try new things

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[Interview] Hobby in the Box lets busy people try new things


Joe Yu-jin, CEO of hobby subscription service Hobby in the Box, poses for a photo at its offline space Hobby Ground located on the fifth floor of Lotte Avenuel in Jamsil-dong, southern Seoul, on Jan. 21. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Enjoying hobbies has long been thought of as something of a luxury in Korea, with students too busy either studying or finding a job. Things don’t get better when you finally find employment - most people are just too busy to find time for themselves.

Korean start-up Hobby in the Box aims to change that deep-rooted culture by delivering a monthly curated box that helps subscribers try out a new hobby.

“Finding the right hobby takes a period of trial and error, but many Koreans don’t go through that process because they can’t afford the time while they are at school,” said Joe Yu-jin, founder of the hobby box delivery start-up as she sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 21 at the start-up’s offline experience zone in Lotte Avenuel in Jamsil-dong, southern Seoul. “I think that’s why people end up finding out what they like to do far too late.”

Joe decided to make a hobby kit that enables even the busiest people to try out different hobbies and established the start-up in 2016.

“Our hobby boxes are really for people like me,” she said. “I was one of those people who studied, went to college and found a job, following a path expected by others rather than focusing on what I really like to do.”

According to Joe, each box is designed so that people can complete a given project without too much effort. For difficult projects, the start-up also offers video guides.

“We don’t want hobbies to become work,” Joe said.

The most popular hobby boxes include a hand-drip coffee making kit and a gingerbread house making kit. The start-up tries to find unique hobbies that Koreans may not normally have access to and often partners with artists and outside companies to make what could have been a costly activity affordable. Around special holidays - like Christmas or Valentine’s Day - the start-up sends out themed boxes.

The boxes are curated by the start-up so that hobbies are sent randomly to customers’ doorsteps. A one-month subscription costs 29,900 won ($27), but if users subscribe to a six-month deal, the monthly price becomes 25,900 won.

The start-up used to offer the boxes at 39,900 won per month, thinking most of its users would be busy office workers in their late 20s or 30s, but as the service gained popularity among college students, the start-up decided to lower the price down by 10,000 won to make it more accessible.

Hobby in the Box now has between 300 and 500 subscribers, but it expects to grow thanks to a series of recent business opportunities.

In October, it set up an offline experience zone called Hobby Ground in Lotte Department Store’s luxury branch Lotte Avenuel in Jamsil.

“Lotte is hoping to make the fifth floor of the Avenuel into a play zone where people can come and experience hobbies, make rings and play with slime,” Joe said. “People can now experience some of our hobby boxes here and take one-day classes as well.”

In March, Hobby in the Box also collaborated with Courtyard by Marriott in Namdaemun, central Seoul, to offer a “Hobby in the Room” package. Customers were able to book a room that came complete with a hobby box.

“In the longer term, we hope we can design boxes that enable people to try out Korea’s traditional hobbies,” Joe added.

As curated subscription services are on the rise in Korea, there are other local hobby-related start-ups like HobbyBox and Hobbyful. HobbyBox uses a test to find out what hobbies work for subscribers, while Hobbyful mainly offers textile hobby boxes like knitting and quilting.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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