Startup Story: The Stella Project

Lizzy Yana’s The Stella Project seeks to empower women.

FOUNDERS: Lizzy Yana

YEAR FOUNDED: 2019

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: One (herself)

The Business: The Stella Project, a supportive space for positive female friendships, was launched by Lizzy Yana, 42, of Naples in early 2019. It includes her website, thestellabox. com, which sells The Breakup Box, an edgy, humorous gift for women to send to a close female friend who has ended a relationship. The Stella Project also features a blog, a monthly newsletter, and social media.

The Background: “Stella was, in my early 20s, my alter ego. She was the most powerful version of myself. I became Stella over the years. There’s a Stella in all of us. That’s who our best friends bring out. That’s why friendship is so important to women.

The Idea: While living in the Virgin Islands with her husband, Jason, and daughter, Scarlett, Yana blogged about island life. But she missed her girlfriends back in Chicago and knew her passion project would be to create a website that focused on female friendship and fill a void in the market for real gifts to send your girlfriend when she’s shattered. It wasn’t until Yana’s family was displaced by Hurricane Irma and relocated to Naples that she was able to find all the necessary distribution channels —with the help of Natalie Anguilano of Eagle Packaging in Naples—to launch her business.

Yana says The Breakup Box is the equivalent of walking through a friend’s door, giving her a hug, cursing her ex and telling her she’s amazing. It includes inspirational quotes and a humorous list of things to do ranging from reflection to revenge. The box features a wine glass, champagne gummies, red lace panties, lipstick, a friendship love letter and more. 

The Money: Yana had a soft launch in February, but she didn’t seriously start selling the boxes until her website was overhauled in June by Jennifer Leach of Screaming Fans Marketing in Naples. “Now that the website’s on point, sales are speeding up.” Yana says she’s selling 20-30 boxes per month at $66 each. Her goal is to sell 500 boxes per month, and her social media presence is growing with close to 8,500 Facebook followers and over 500 Instagram followers.

The Talk: Yana says as word has spread about The Stella Project, she often hears about other women’s alter egos. “Everyone tells me, ‘Oh my God, I was Monique for years!’ We all have her, even if we haven’t named her. She’s there.”

What’s Next: Yana plans to roll out one of four more themed boxes every six months. She also plans to launch a podcast in which she interviews best friends about their crazy antics.

Lessons Learned: “When somebody is snarky or nasty on the Internet, it’s such an opportunity to be graceful and loving to that person and practice what I preach. All we can do is lead by example and show them their Stella.”