Herbal health subscription box wins UGA Idea Accelerator top prize

Kristen Dunning, a former pitch competition victor, awarded $2,500 for The Herby Box

Merritt Melancon | Oct. 18, 2021

Kristen Dunning, the creator of Gently Soap and Herby Box, accepts the prize for UGA Entrepreneurship's Fall Idea Accelerator pitch contest.
Kristen Dunning, the creator of Gently Soap and Herby Box, accepts the prize for UGA Entrepreneurship's Fall Idea Accelerator pitch contest.

She won over Athens’ soap dishes. Now she’s coming for its mailboxes.

Kristen Dunning, a University of Georgia graduate student and founder of Gently Soap, impressed judges with her idea for a subscription box of craft and herbal goods during UGA’s Idea Accelerator Demo Day pitch competition at Studio 225 on Oct. 13.

Her pitch for The Herby Box, which she plans to launch in January, won her $2,500 in startup capital for her new venture. She plans to use the money for a social media marketing campaign to fuel the sale of 150 boxes by the end of January.

“I feel that this could be the beginning of an industry-funded marketing campaign (for herbal products,)” Dunning told the judges. “This box gives buyers a starting point where they can jump in and learn about different products and all the small businesses they can support.”

The Herby Box will contain herbal products created by the small businesses Dunning met while marketing her Gently Soap.

Dunning is a veteran of the UGA student entrepreneur ecosystem. She won the Idea Accelerator in the fall of 2020 when she told judges about her desire to expand her fledgling soap line. Dunning has continued to work with the advisers at the UGA Entrepreneurship Program and refine her idea and operation. Gently Soap sells bars in several states and expanded to include one full-time employee and two interns.

When she came up with her idea for The Herby Box, she decided to launch the project the same way she launched Gently Soap — with the help of the Idea Accelerator program.

“In the Idea Accelerator, the way we treat the process of building a company is through experimentation,” said Jim Flannery, organizer of the Idea Accelerator and a lecturer in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program. “The three teams you’re going to see tonight are in various stages of experimentation … This is the beginning stage of helping teams at UGA build actual companies.”

The first fall Idea Accelerator started with 27 teams, but only three made it to the final pitch contest. In addition to Dunning, Terry management information systems student Laila Pettigrew pitched her idea for a branded iron-rich microgreen company called Lovely Acreage. Daniel Rouhani, a Franklin College student studying genetics, pitched his 3-D scientific illustration company Exon Scientific.

The UGA Entrepreneurship Program hosts a pair of four-week Idea Accelerator programs during the fall and spring semesters. The programs are open to students from all majors. Registration for the second fall cohort is open through October 21.