Thursday, May 29, 2008

Retail Therapy: Three Potato Four

>> Thinking about opening a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the add to cart button...

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started Three Potato Four - something that neither biz how-to books or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

Probably how frequently the business evolves and how fast and flexible we need to be to just go with it. Stu spent a lot of time on our business plan and we did a ton of upfront research and planning, but a lot of that just couldn't prepare us for what would happen once we opened the doors.

We actually have not looked back at our business plan since we opened - I bet a lot of the things we wrote would seem funny to us now on how wrong our assumptions

We actually have not looked back at our business plan since we opened - I bet a lot of the things we wrote would seem funny to us now on how wrong our assumptions were. One example is the balance of vintage and new items we keep in the shop. When we first started we were really taken by surprise how fast the vintage items went. We didn't anticipate this demand and had to quickly develop a plan to heavily stock up on vintage as much and as often we can. This means that we are always going on several vintage shopping trips a month. It's one of our favorite parts of having the shop so we love it. But on the flipside, it comes with a ton of legwork: driving, finding, photoshoots, copywriting and just the constant updating and maintaining of these items in the shop.

>> continue reading Retail Therapy

The hardest part of having our business in our home is being able to turn work off and to stop thinking about it, talking about it, or checking our email constantly...

2. How many hours a week do you each work?

We try to maintain a constant balance between work and family life. Usually one of us will be working and the other taking care and playing with our daughter Holly. The flexibility of having the shop in our home is nice since we can take a break and go to the park or out for ice cream anytime we want. But on the flipside, it's just as tough, if not tougher to try and maintain a consistent schedule that doesn't leave us working until 2am (which happens to Stu at least a few days a week). I'd say that usually our combined work week is about 60-80 hours a week. The hardest part of having our business in our home is being able to turn work off and to stop thinking about it, talking about it, or checking our email constantly...but it still always happens.

3. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Stu and Janet end up spending their time:

30% Buying
10% Marketing & Promo
20% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
5% Customer Service
30% Fulfillment/Shipping
5% Accounting/Billing/Finances

4. If Oprah decided to give you $10,000 tax free for your business, but you had to spend it in one week, what would you do with it?

This was tough to boil down, but if we had to use it all in one week, we'd probably go on a buying/procurement trip overseas. A few dollars for airfare and hotel and spend the rest on inventory and costs to ship it back. Any remaining money would go to additional marketing/advertising efforts.

>> A rock solid partnership
Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Let's see how they balance each other out...

1. Stu is meticulously organized and loves to make lists.Janet is a confessed procrastinator, doesn't mind chaos and does best working under pressure.
2. Stu is good with numbers, financials, spreadsheets and very business-minded.Janet stays away from the numbers as much as she can, does the creative side, photography, design, etc.
3. Stu is an expert packer and shipper. Does not have gift-wrap skills or have good handwriting, therefore does not wrap or write notes for customers.

Janet is the expert gift wrapper and writes all the hand-written notes for customers. Does not know how to pack an item correctly or what sizes shipping boxes to re-order.
>> So you think your goods are perfect for Three Potato Four?...

5. Do most of the other designers you carry come to you or do you actively seek out new designers/crafters? If so, where?

We actively seek new artists/designers and crafters through things like etsy, craft fairs, friend's recommendations, obscure magazines or work we see on other blogs. Often we get submissions from designers, but mostly it's us seeking out great work.

We really stick to only buying items that we, personally, would buy for our own home and that would blend well in any modern or vintage interior environment. We're still a very young shop and still figuring out what works and what doesn't - I would think that this is the perpetual question for any store - "what will sell?". As for submitting artwork, I would say:

1 - Include as much upfront information as you can in the first contact (pictures, pricing, press, story)

2 - Sell it. Do a little research into the shop you're submitting to and maybe try and pitch exactly why you think your work would do well in our shop. Is it because you feel you have a similar audience base or maybe we've both been featured on the same blog... something like that.

3. Please be understanding. Stores get a lot of people that submit work and believe me that we feel horrible having to turn people down - a lot of times we do really like the work on a personal level, but just have a feeling that it's not a right fit for our shop or for our customers.

6. Janet and Stu are originally from NYC so I thought I'd ask them to... Name 3 things that you miss about the Big Apple and 3 things about Virginia that makes up for it.

We miss the food, the people watching, and how no matter what time of day it is NYC always feels so alive. The things that make up for it living in the suburbs of Virginia are being able to run around, play and garden in our own yard, barbecues in the summertime on our deck, having our shop and doing what we both love in the comforts of our home.

1. Xylophone Playing Wood Dog
2. Collection of Turkish Pots
3. Henry Road Panama Tote - Fleur Sage
4. Ceramic Pigeon Vase by J. Mendicino
5. Glass Chickadee Vase

6. "Bird Survey" by Matt Cipov
7. Fabric Journal in Tangerine by Henry Road
8. 1950's Royal Typewriter (Restored) - Turquoise
9. "Field Car" by Elizabeth Soule


Thanks Stu & Janet!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Fantastic! These two seem absolutely lovely and what a beautiful home they have. Love 3 potato 4!

Jessie Cacciola said...

3 potato 4 is so fantastic. great post!
- Jessie -

Jinnie said...

I love Three Potato Four! Thank you for this insightful post and for the opportunity to learn more about the people behind such lovely store.