Carmel moms’ care packages turn into big business


By Shelly Gattlieb

When Karen Melbert’s daughters left for college, her natural instinct was to help them destress with diversions and favorite snacks during final exam weeks and special holidays. Soon, multiple students were excited to see what would arrive in the next “Karen package.” That is when Melbert realized she could turn the concept into a new business.

Karen Lafnitzegger, left, and Karen Melbert pack a HappyPak. (Photo by Shelly Gattlieb)

Long-time friend and fellow Carmel resident Karen Lafnitzegger was the immediate choice for a partner. As soon as the idea was described, Lafnitzegger was on board.

“You already know (your friends’) work ethic,” Lafnitzegger said. “They’re smart and creative and so you trust them, and that’s huge.” 

Working out of Melbert’s basement, the partners created HappyPak for college students and soon realized there was a larger audience. Repeat customers, mostly women, began requesting boxes for different occasions with the same customized feel. No matter the circumstance, Melbert and Lafnitzegger wanted their products to fit the recipient’s preferences and inject humor.

“When you take a theme, then your brain just explodes and you can come up with all of this fun, gimmicky stuff to put with it,” Melbert said.

The women started following trends in gifting, conducted a pilot study and increased their inventory. The business picked up online customers and grew organically. Although other boxed gift services are available, Melbert and Lafnitzegger aim for their detail-oriented appeal and thoughtful personalization to set HappyPak apart from the competition. Working with other area small businesses for products and printing services, they offer local items on a national scale.

Customized boxes vary in price and have been given to a variety of people, from chemotherapy patients to transferring priests to new parents. Melbert and Lafnitzegger are collaboratively designing HappyPaks for the holidays, including hostess favors and corporate gifts.

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