the shiz behind the biz
vicki Tonner - A box of...
blogger, curator, foodie, mum of two, entrepreneur
Chief Gift Giver, A box of...
“Handbags and shoes, books, entertaining, the beach, travel, and supporting women…”
“I was born in England, mum’s English and dad’s Australian, we moved out to Sydney when I was a baby and I’ve lived there for most of my life.”
For Vicki Tonner, relocating to Townsville from fast-paced Sydney two years ago when husband Greg was appointed the CEO of the NQ Cowboys meant getting the family settled, renovating the house, then finding something to replace a 20 year corporate background in Human Resources for the investment banking sector.
“I’d always worked in male dominated industry so supporting women has been something I’ve been very conscious of, but I didn’t want to just cut off 20 years of career. I loved it, but having children changed that.
I went back to work after having both girls, they’re quite close together, now aged ten (nearly eleven!) and nine, but the stress levels in the house were ridiculous. I wanted something different that would keep me engaged, so I studied nutrition. It was more for self-interest, but I was always doing a lot of cooking so I started a foodie blog, Boiled Eggs and Soldiers, for everyday, achievable food for busy people wanting to feed their families on the healthy-ish side. It was a hobby, but it gave me an introduction to the online world.”
Vicki says that the fast-paced world she left behind was focused on greed, so she wanted to do something that was centred more on giving, and got her involved in the community as a way of meeting people. Although there are online gift businesses in major cities, there was nothing like that in Townsville, so A Box Of… was born.
“There are actually two parts to A Box Of… one is about giving, what are gifts that people actually like to receive that are actually useful and thoughtful, and the other part is supporting women, there’s a lot of talented women here doing a lot of things, working from home, so I handpicked a lot of products - I’m very open to seeing new ones as well.”
Vicki says the all products she has picked have a purpose, “it’s not just like a gift box full of stuff that gets shelved, when people receive them I want it to spark joy even if they’re having a really tough time, that makes me feel good, that fulfills me.”
The gifts are all about beautiful things, and the workshops Vicki is doing are all about living beautifully,
“I hope that the Box Of… website morphs into a lifestyle website where I can do things around bringing back old-school type of manners, etiquette, things that are missing from this fast-paced world and just taking it back. You know when you visit someone, give them a nice little gift, the art of the hand-written note – I’ve got stationary on the website and a stationary subscription club; I want the blog to grow around these kinds of topics.”
Vicki says coming from a big city where there’s a new restaurant opening every week, Townsville is more about looking for experiences and different things to do, and the workshops are a nice way – particularly if you’re caught up in the day to day of small children – to enjoy an escape.
“I’ve done a few and I’ve got a lot more planned for next year; the first one was stress-free, easy entertaining for dinner parties. It was so much fun because you can actually enjoy it, it’s all in the preparation. I give handouts, there’s new recipes, and this stuff can all be made ahead, so all you have to do when your friends arrive is pour the drinks and have chats!
The second one I did I’ll continue next year, it turned out to be a girl’s night in.
We had a hairdresser and we offered blow dries, and how to create the perfect party grazing platter. You see them all on Instagram and Pinterest - they look amazing and people think, ‘I can’t achieve that,’ but I’ve got the whole ‘How to’ that I give to people and it’s actually really easy. We had it at Moxa in Palmer Street under the Crown, so some went out afterwards, and others stayed on because it was game night! Some people said they weren’t interested in catering but would love me to come and put it on for a hen’s night or baby shower, otherwise you’re just sitting around a lot.”
Vicki is also considering putting her HR skills to good use by doing team building experiences, “ultimately I’d like a space where I can deliver workshops where people can showcase their products and give people in Townsville who are looking for new and different things somewhere to have a nice experience, as well as a place where you can shop the items from A Box Of…”
“I’ve always been interested in fashion and I remember absolutely insisting on those hideous high waisted mum-jeans in acid wash – I had a poodle perm and my first suit was lilac with the most enormous shoulder pads! I guess in the corporate world that part of me was stifled, so my only outlet was shopping. I lived in London for six years and just had the best time, back in the day you could go to Florence for the weekend for five pounds and go to all the designer outlets. It’s something I’ve always had a passion for so I do have a handbag collection and a shoe collection, but I don’t buy designer clothes just for the sake of it. I think you can style a beautiful outfit without having to spend a lot of money because you can accessorise, you just have a statement piece. Up here I’m more relaxed and flowy, more weather appropriate, but I go for classic styles that don’t date and every season I get a few seasonal things that don’t date, from Zara or something.
I’ve always been into magazines and love surrounding myself with nice things; I loved doing our renovations up here, I wouldn’t want an interior designers opinion on it, but I loved choosing every single part and pretty much designed the house myself, much to the builder’s chagrin!
Looking back I’ve always curated things, put them together or themed them, so I guess that’s where the gift boxes come in… it may seem frivolous or fluffy but I worked so hard for such a long time, I was consciously wanting to create a life surrounding ourselves with beautiful, not necessarily expensive things that spark joy, and have meaning. My attachment to material things has passed, it’s more about experiences, and people, and memories, that’s what’s important.”
Favourite fashion item:
“I’ve got a really big citrus yellow Celine tote that I love, Greg got it for me when he was away…”
“I’ve got pretty teenage tastes in music! I’m a 70s 80s 90s girl so Duran Duran, INXS, Michael Jackson, ABBA - but whatever’s on the radio at the moment, I’m into the latest top 40, I’m loving that Havana song…”