Happiness Through the Mail: The Indescribable Allure of Quarterly Co.’s Celebrity Gift Boxes

Mitch Lowe tells all

From co-founding Netflix to his new role as CEO of Quarterly Co., Mitch Lowe has made it his business to bring the magic back to the mailbox. Quarterly Co., for the uninitiated, is a subscription service that sends you curated packages from influential contributors. It's like receiving a personal gift from your celebrity bestie. Lowe sat down with AdFreak to talk about Quarterly's latest celebrity addition—Bill Nye, the science guy—and why you won't be able to subscribe to your favorite brand anytime soon.

AdFreak: Tell me about adding Bill Nye as a contributor.

Mitch Lowe: He's someone that so many people have grown up with. He's the kind of guy who's always imaginative, and we really loved his idea of trying to make the world a better place by science. So we were attracted to his passion and vision. He's just so creative, and in like five minutes of conversation he came up with so many interesting ideas. Some people have sort of gotten to a point in their careers where it's just sort of a job, but he's still so passionate, and he's been doing it for so long.

How do you curate your curators? Do you choose the contributors, or do the contributors choose you?

We choose them. The flavor we're looking for are people with large followings who are passionate to the point that people really want to know more about them. Huge, huge celebrities are probably too well known. People already know too much about them. But there's a level where people are just really knowledgeable about their key area so much that people want to be inspired by them. So the first criteria we look for is people with large Twitter and Facebook followings. And then we look for the category they're in and the length of relationship. Just recently we hired a person who is responsible for seeking out our kind of contributor.

Bill's packages will contain a collection of tools to change the world and raise awareness of environmental issues. Changing the world was the mission of his TV show, and he did. How do you think he'll change the world with his Quarterly packages?

I think what he'll do is change the perspective and understanding of the people who receive the boxes because he'll be giving you that tactile understanding of the science that people are talking about. From global warming to all the big environmental issues, you'll get a tactile meditation into the issues. Instead of reading an article about how global warming is affecting us, you're going to be able to understand that firsthand.

You've changed the world yourself a few times with Netflix and Redbox. Will we be able to subscribe to you soon?

I am passionate about business and about young people starting in business, but I'm just more of an execution guy than an ideas person. I'm very rarely the originator of ideas like Bill Nye.

C'mon, you're telling me you never thought about what your theme would be?

(Laughs) Probably exercise and hiking. I love the whole meditation of hiking.

Of course, contributors don't go it alone. Tell me a little about the assistants that Quarterly assigns to each contributor. What's their role?

What we believe is that the contributor should play the major role with the ideation and the creativity behind each delivery, but they really aren't a buyer or manufacturer. So we assign them a contributor talent manager to take care of all that. We find one who has a passion for that particular genre. The contributor says they have this idea and this is what they want to do next quarter, and the manager goes out and finds the items and gives the contributor options for how they could make the idea work.

Do you run into a lot of limitations for what can be selected for a box, and how do you deal with interstate commerce inconsistencies? For example, if Bill Nye wants to add a favorite wine to the box, Florida subscribers are out of luck.