Posted by: Amy – Apr 07, 2017
Care packages were always awesome to get in college. Homemade brownies or your favorite junk food snacks, hot chocolate, or other little treats to make you miss home were just what you needed after a stressful exam or a late-night study session.
Local entrepreneur Melissa Simmons has taken the care package idea one step further and localized it with RVA To Go, selling customized gift boxes filled with everything from peanuts, to hot sauce, to pasta to Ukrop’s rainbow cookies, all made by merchants right here in the city.
You can pick from five, seven, or 10-item boxes and fill them with your desired goods and have them sent out to your friend who’s just had surgery, your kid who’s away at college, or someone who just loves everything RVA-related.
RVA To Go carries 15 to 20 vendors mostly based in Richmond with a few in Virginia. Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix, Bombolini Pasta, Ame’s Hot Southern Honey (read about them here), Willie Byrd’s Chocolate Sauce (read up on them here), Virginia Gentleman Chipotle Hot Sauce, RVA T-shirts, and Carriage House Cheese Straws.
“I like to have a variety of items because the boxes are made to suit,” she said. “You may be sending an RVA box to your friend or cousin, and you know they are a barbecue nut so I put Buz & Ned's barbecue sauce ,and they love coffee I've got Blanchard's Coffee or they love tea, I've got Rostov's Tea.”
Her boxes run from $45-$75, and can be more depending on how much you want in your box.
RVA To Go stemmed from the sister company, Tailored Touches, a beauty and personal care business Simmons has run for the last three and a half years selling homemade lotions, all-natural soaps, bath bombs, lip balms, and scrubs that Simmons makes out of her home in Rocketts Landing.
“I’ve always done this kind of thing, special little favors and Christmas ornaments and birthday gifts,” she said.
Simmons bought RVA To Go from a local IT businessman in August 2015 who was just using the site to test it out.
“it was a guy who was into marketing, he started the website as an experiment,” she said. “My daughter was looking for other outlets to put our Tailored Touches items and she came across this guy.”
Since he never intended to do anything with it, he sold it to Simmons and they’ve been running the online business ever since.
Simmons’ Countdown basket is actually what led her into going into business for herself. About six years ago, she broke her leg, leaving her unable to get around for eight weeks, which is when her mom swooped in with a present that sparked the idea.
“My mom talked to my sisters and my cousins and my friends and neighbors and put this basket together and there was one gift every day with a date on it for eight weeks,” she said. “And that’s how I came up with the Countdown Basket.”
The 10-day Countdown basket, which costs $115, includes a hand-stitched fabric basket filled with ten handcrafted gifts made to pamper the recipient along with a poem on how to “countdown.”
“I wanted it to be geared to whoever it’s going to,” said Simmons. “If it’s going to you, you’re female, you may really love lavender and you like the color pink, and you're a dog lover, so I wanted all the gifts to be suited to you. But the next one might be a guy who loves golf so all the gifts are suited to the person getting it.”
Prior to running these two businesses, Simmons worked in sales for Scott's Fertilizer for 13 years and after that, worked for the federal government selling lights and sirens to military and police personnel.
After she was laid off from that job, about four years ago, Simmons’ daughter Elana convinced her to pursue her passion.
"Everyone was all doom and gloom, but Elana like, ‘this is awesome,” she said laughing. “She said ‘now you can do your own business which is what you’ve been wanting to do for years.'”
Simmons hopes to one day have a local storefront to sell the RVA To Go boxes.
“Ideally, I'd love to have a storefront,” she said. “I've done little trade shows and craft shows and people come up and are like, 'I really like the smell of this one' and that’s what keeps me going.”
But for now, she said they are working on getting other programs off the ground like a gift concierge service.
“We’re all so busy, and your heart might be in it, but you just forget,” she said. “So that’s what we’re working on, some sort of reminder service like two weeks before say ‘hey, this special occasion is coming up what do you want sent, and you don’t have to worry about it.”
Simmons also has a soldier program that they’re hoping to roll out by Memorial Day.
“I’ve had some care packages sent to APOs and FPOS, you’ve got a friend that’s stationed somewhere and you can send them a gift,” she said. “I grew up with a military family…our veterans have always held a soft spot with me.”
Check out the products for RVA To Go here and Tailored Touches here. You can also find Tailored Touches products at Muse Me Décor on Forest Hill Avenue and Cultural Arts Center Gift Shop in Glen Allen.
Words by Amy David. Images courtesy of Melissa Simmons, RVA To Go, & Tailored Touches