Carolyn Harness

Carolyn Harness

MOUNT CARMEL — One Mount Carmel High School student stepped out of her comfort zone to try something new and different. Now, she wants people to experience the element of surprise as well.

"I knew it was going to be really out of my comfort zone and I knew I was going to have to deal with it eventually because I want to work with people and public speaking," Carolyn Harness said. "I knew it would be a good foundation for me personally."

Carolyn, daughter of Nancy and Jason Harness and the oldest of four children, got the idea for her small business from a concept called "blind date with a book." The idea behind it is to read a book without looking at the cover or synopsis beforehand.

"I love that idea of surprise," she said.

As her brainstorming continued, Carolyn realized people could have a blind date with a book at any public library — so she found a new way to surprise consumers.

"I really like the idea of customers not knowing what they are going to buy and I have an obsession with subscription boxes," she said. "I decided to put those two things together and it's a surprise subscription box."

Many people have heard of subscription boxes, such as BarkBox for dogs or Birchbox for beauty products — but Carolyn's boxes will be a delightfully unexpected array of items.

The only thing she has known for certain since the very beginning is the name of the business: Flabbergast.

"I really like the word — it's not something you hear everyday," Carolyn said.

And just like the name, the products will be unique.

"I'm dedicated to the idea that each box is different," she said. "One of my favorite ones is a 'western living' box and it would have different succulents, a decorative animal skull, funny items like a giant belt buckle and silly things like candy-flavored jerky."

"I want people to open up the box and think 'This is interesting, this is new,' so something that can be useful but also fun," Carolyn said.

Boxes will be available for purchase at the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities Trade Show in April.

The CEO program has given Carolyn more than just business experience — it has also taught her more about the Mount Carmel community.

"In high school, especially in freshman and sophomore year, I always thought 'Mount Carmel is the most boring place in the world, who could ever move here? How are we still a good community?'" Carolyn said. "After going through CEO I can see why we are still going strong is because of all of the people who own small businesses and all of the people who still believe in Mount Carmel. I definitely see the town in a different light because there are so many strong, independent people who are willing to start a family here and that's really something."

"I'm really proud to be in this town now — it's something I didn't appreciate growing up," she said.

For more information about Flabbergast, contact Carolyn Harness at charness@wabash348.com.

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