Starling Box is a quarterly subscription service featuring artisan and handmade items from ethical companies. Amazingly, 100% of the profits are donated to organizations that fight human trafficking. This is a review and unboxing of the Winter 2019 Starling Box.
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I was so excited to open the Winter 2019 Starling Box, my very first Starling Box! It contained 7 items, delivering on its promise of 7-8 items per box.
It also contained a 10-page glossy color informational pamphlet containing a bit of information about the products included in the box. The brochure contained a ton of detail about the companies who made these products.
The brochure had a personal, homemade feel. I am glad that Starling Box chose not to spend a ton of money on a flashy print job. More money for the causes!
Without further ado, here are the items that I received in my Winter 2019 Starling Box:
- Fringed Poncho from She Rescue Home (Black, One Size)
- Peppermint Bark Candle from WAR Chest Boutique (4 oz)
- 18k gold-plated heart earrings from Eden Ministry’s “Courageous Heart” collection (Gold, 1 cm)
- Rose (Nourish) Bath Bomb from White Field Farm (5 oz)
- Tea Tree Mint Lip Balm from Thistle Farms (0.15 oz)
- Lungi Headband from Eternal Threads (Mauve Pinks, One Size)
- Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt (60% cocoa) from Divine Chocolate (3.5 oz)
Fringed Poncho from She Rescue Home in Black
The first item in my Winter 2019 Starling Box is a black fringed poncho. The poncho was handmade in Cambodia to support the It’s Not OK Project and the SHE Rescue Home, a safe haven for girls ages 5-16 who have been rescued from trafficking, rape, or prostitution. Wow, talk about heavy! It’s absolutely devastating to read about what these girls have suffered, and I just love the mission of this company.
Unfortunately, although it pains me to say it, I am not a big fan of this poncho. The cotton fabric is pretty blah, the neck trim is very basic, and the fringe looks like very cheap and unfinished. To me, the poncho looks like a cross between a mop, a hairdresser’s smock, and a handmade Halloween ghost costume.
Here’s what it looks like if you lay it out flat:
And here is the neck detail:
What’s more, the fringe strips are just too chunky and indelicate. If they were curled or otherwise detailed, the poncho would be more visually appealing and it would appear more elegant and refined, but they are pretty clunky and hard to ignore. Here’s a close-up view (ignore the gray – this is just a lighting issue, and the pictures above represent the color more faithfully):
Most importantly, even if I dressed up the poncho by covering the neck with another scarf, it would still be WAY too heavy (in weight) for me. I have myasthenia gravis, which causes my muscles to fatigue easily. The last thing I need is to be weighed down by heavy clothing, especially something that doesn’t make a statement.
In addition to its physical weight, the poncho is also extremely heavy in appearance. It is way too big and baggy for my petite, boyish frame. While this look might work for someone tall and skinny, like the model on the website, on me it really looks like a sack.
Given all of these issues, I will probably use this poncho as an emergency blanket and stash it in my car.
I saw a cute “wet bag” from the same company in a prior box, so it is really disappointing to receive a piece like this. However, I want to keep my promise to be honest in my reviews, and I would honestly advise you to steer clear of this item.
Although I couldn’t find a black fringed poncho on the US website for She Rescue Home, I found a gray version that looks like it is cut similarly. The website lists M and L sizes, but the tag on my black poncho says that it is one size, so this might be a slightly different item. The retail value of the gray version of this poncho is $25, and you can purchase it here.
Peppermint Bark Candle from WAR Chest Boutique (4 oz)
The next item in the Winter 2019 Starling Box was this peppermint bark candle from the U.S. Training Center of the WAR Chest Boutique. “WAR” stands for “Women At Risk.” As the name suggests, the company provides opportunities to girls and women fleeing sex trafficking. They offer dignified employment so that women can gain skills and training, obtain medical care, and ultimately achieve economic independence. The WAR Chest Boutique has also built safe houses and workspaces for trafficking survivors around the world.
The peppermint bark candle comes in a clear glass jar and smells absolutely fabulous. The aroma is really soothing, and the peppermint is not cloying like some other candles tend to be.
I lit this candle in my living room for five minutes, blew it out, and left home for two hours. As soon as I opened the door into the entrance hall when I got home, I caught a whiff of that yummy smell. Impressive staying power!
I will be savoring this candle and lighting it whenever I need some relaxing me-time or a bubble bath. Love!
The MSRP of this candle is $8, and if you missed the Winter 2019 Starling Box, you can purchase it here.
18k gold-plated heart earrings from Eden Ministry’s “Courageous Heart Collection” (Gold, 1 cm)
The next item in the Winter 2019 Starling Box is this beautiful pair of gold-plated heart earrings. These precious and dainty heart pendant earrings were handmade by women who have been forced into the sex trade in red light districts across Asia. Eden Ministry has rescued over 500 women, giving them resources and dignified employment so that they can rebuild their lives. If you’d like to learn more and support the cause, check out Eden Ministry’s story, impact, and programs.
The Eden Ministry website notes that the hearts were inspired by a trafficking survivor and mother named Mei Mei, explaining:
[T]his miniature heart hangs as an invitation for both mother and daughter to live a life of courageous love.
Who can argue with that? The earrings even come with a card that tells a bit of Mei Mei’s story, signed by the artisan who made them. It’s a gorgeous personal touch that really makes you feel connected to the women.
Not only is Eden Ministry’s mission powerful, but these 18k gold-plated earrings are a delight! They are subtle and sweet, and they would work for all ages, across casual and professional settings alike. And if they’re not your style, they are absolutely gift-worthy and you should have no trouble finding a good home for them.
The earrings are from the Courageous Heart Collection, which also includes two necklaces and bracelet. The entire collection comes in sterling silver if that’s more your jam. So if you are looking to round out your set, be sure to check it out.
The MSRP of these earrings is $19.99, and if you missed the Winter 2019 Starling Box, you can purchase them here.
And if you’d like to complete your Courageous Heart Collection, you can check Eden Ministry’s Etsy shop to find:
Rose (Nourish) Bath Bomb from White Field Farm (5 oz)
The next item in my Winter 2019 Starling Box was this rose bath bomb from White Field Farm. This New York company works with the Hope Project to give jobs and training to women who have survived trafficking. Many of these women struggle to find work because they have criminal records for prostitution or other crimes that were forced onto them by their captors. The Hope Project provides living necessities to the women, who make handmade soaps, candles, and body products while rebuilding their lives.
This bath bomb packs a punch! It has a really deep and rich smell, and the rose smells really fresh and not at all perfume-y. It’s pretty chilly here in Tokyo, so I cannot wait to sneak in a me-time bath tonight after my kids go to sleep.
The brochure even contains a page explaining how to make a perfect bath. Starling Box really went above and beyond with this one!
The packaging states that the bath bomb contains shea butter, citric acid, baking soda, coconut milk, kaolin clay, rose botanicals, and fragrance. It does seem to have some visible seeds, so I’m not sure what that’s about. Also, the third-party seller linked below claims that the ingredients are baking soda, witch hazel, rose clay, rose botanicals, and natural oils, and that there are no parabens, phthalates or dyes. Perhaps White Field Farm changed the formula? Given the confusion, this may not be the best product to try if you have nut, seed or plant allergies.
White Field Farms doesn’t seem to be selling any bath bombs at the moment. However, I was able to find this product for sale at Lavender Fields. The MSRP is $6, currently discounted to $4. If you missed the Winter 2019 Starling Box, you can purchase it here.
Tea Tree Mint Lip Balm from Thistle Farms (0.15 oz)
The next item in my Winter 2019 Starling Box was an all-natural lip balm in Tea Tree Mint from Thistle Farms. Talk about an enticing flavor concept! I could feel the tingling even before I tried it out. The mint is from real peppermint oil, making this the second item in the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition with this aroma. Very wintry indeed!
The ingredients are beeswax, olive oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter fruit, tea tree leaf oil, and peppermint oil. This is a list you can feel great about!
Thistle Farms provides jobs, housing, and other critical support to women with a history of prostitution or trafficking and drug/alcohol addiction. The jobs give them a path to stable and dignified lifelong employment. Thistle Farms is based in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, and it also offers transitional programming for incarcerated women who are slated for release.
The MSRP of this lip balm is $4, and if you missed the Winter 2019 Starling Box or would like to try one of the other flavors (Lavender, Citrus Wood, or Unscented), you can purchase 3-packs on Amazon (click to view prices).
Lungi Headband from Eternal Threads (Mauve Pinks, One Size)
The next item in this Starling Box Winter 2019 edition was this beautiful pink and mauve headband from Eternal Threads. Surprisingly, this headband is made from a recycled “lungi,” which is a type of sarong worn by women in Nepal, parts of Southeast Asia, and South Asia. What a creative idea! Eternal Threads helps artisan women around the world obtain a sustainable income.
You can wear the headband flat for more of a scarf look, as shown in the first picture above, or folded over to look like a headband, as shown in the second.
Also, the headband has a stretchy section that goes at the nape of your neck. When I tried it on, the fabric fit snugly and comfortably against my forehead, whether I folded it over or not. I felt like I could do a lot of moving and it wouldn’t slip out of place. The material is not especially fancy, but I actually think that the grip of the fabric helps a lot with the functionality. Overall, the fit is great!
I am excited to wear this headband the next time I am out and about. In particular, it will be especially helpful at keeping my hair out of my face while wrangling my kiddos or walking around town during the steamy, sticky Tokyo summer.
If you missed out on the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition and would like a piece of the action, the retail price of this headband is $6, and you can purchase it here.
Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt (60% cocoa) from Divine Chocolate (3.5 oz)
And finally, the last product in the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition was this yummy chocolate bar from Divine Chocolate. Hooray for chocolate! Who doesn’t love it?
This bar is Fair Trade certified, and the cocoa is sourced from a co-op of farmers in Ghana. These farmers co-own Divine Chocolate and participate in company decisions. As you can imagine, the set-up stands in stark contrast to the exploitation that runs rampant throughout the cocoa farming industry in Ghana today.
But Divine Chocolate is more than a chocolate maker. It also provides training programs for women to learn working skills, and the business nerd in me loves that it is a certified B-corp.
And now to the chocolate itself… YUM! The salt adds depth, richness, and a bit of texture to this delicious bar. I am sure this bar won’t last long on my house.
Expiration Date: July 2020
The MSRP of this chocolate bar is $3.99. If you missed the Winter 2019 Starling Box or just ate your bar and would like another, you can purchase a 10-pack from Amazon (click to view price).
My Starling Box Winter 2019 edition shipped on January 4, 2019, and it was delivered to me in Tokyo, Japan, on January 12, 2019.
- Delivery time: 8 days
- Average delivery time (as of January 2019): 8 days
Value & Verdict
My total monthly cost for this subscription is ~$64.95.
The total retail value of the items that I received in the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition was as follows:
- Fringed Poncho from She Rescue Home (Black, One Size): $25
- Peppermint Bark Candle from WAR Chest Boutique (4 oz): $8
- 18k gold-plated heart earrings from Eden Ministry’s “Courageous Heart” collection (Gold, 1 cm): $19.99
- Rose (Nourish) Bath Bomb from White Field Farm (5 oz): $4
- Tea Tree Mint Lip Balm from Thistle Farms (0.15 oz): $4
- Lungi Headband from Eternal Threads (Mauve Pinks, One Size): $6
- Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt (60% cocoa) from Divine Chocolate (3.5 oz): $3.99
In sum, here’s how the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition measures up:
- Total retail value: $70.98
- Total savings over retail: $6.03
- Average price per item: $9.28
Overall, I think that I got decent value with my haul from the Starling Box Winter 2019 edition. However, I don’t think that the value is the selling point for this box. I was disappointed with the most expensive item in the box, but I am hoping that this is just growing pains. I’m sure that the Starling Box team can deliver more exciting products in the Spring Starling Box. So I can’t wait to see what the next box brings!
All in all, I am not so concerned about the retail value of the items in the Starling Box. Any “excess” that I pay is going to straight to critical charitable causes. Living in Tokyo, it is especially easy to notice Japan’s shameful inaction on sex trafficking. Therefore, it makes me feel good to know that I am doing a little something to put a thumb on the scale for the women who are suffering from this sort of soul-crushing exploitation.
In sum, if your primary goal is to obtain crazy value over the cost of your box, Starling Box may not be the best subscription for you. After all, the box delivers only $6 over retail value once international shipping costs are reflected. However, if you want to participate in a movement and treat yourself while contributing to a great cause, do not hesitate to dive in.
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For general information about Starling Box, including subscription options, cost, shipping, tracking, packaging, charitable giving, and customer experience, see the Overview post.
Also, don’t forget to check out the rest of our quarterly Starling Box reviews.
And if you are in the market for a fabulous subscription or gift box for women that offers global shipping, check out our round-up of the top 10 subscriptions for women who live abroad!
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Let us know what you think of this Starling Box Winter 2019 edition in the comments below. As always, we love hearing from you.