Thursday, October 30, 2008

Retail Therapy: goodEGG Industries

Quick Facts:
# of employees: Just the two of us!
Did you write a business plan? Yes
Day your online doors opened: May 22, 2008
Owners: Laural Raine and Jen Anisef

>> Think you're ready to open up a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the register...

1. Laural, you've been a crafter since you were young child. Can you recall a specific event or thing that triggered your creativity and passion to craft?

I can’t recall a specific thing that triggered it – it was always just something that was a part of our lives when I was a kid because my mom was always sewing or knitting or doing other crafty things with us. Maybe it was my desire to make my barbies fabulous outfits! I do know that I asked for a sewing machine for my twentieth birthday after many years of not really doing any kind of crafting and that really triggered me to get back into sewing and being creative as an adult.

2. Jen, you co-founded the Montreal Church of Craft and are both very active in the indie-craft community. Can you offer some tips or how to's to those interested in becoming more active in the community and forming similar groups in their hometowns?

I think it’s honestly just a matter of getting out there on a consistent basis & reaching out to others who love craft. Most of my projects developed through conversations with strangers or acquaintances at craft fairs or other craft events – where we discovered a similar desire for something to exist that didn’t already and we decided to join forces to make it happen.

If you are lucky enough to live in a craft-friendly city, then there are likely already stitch n bitches you can join (check crafty stores or community centres if you don’t know of any), indie craft fairs you can vend or volunteer at, or community-arts projects you can participate in. If craft is still a dirty word where you’re at, there are almost definitely other people like you who would love to connect around craft. Post a handmade flyer at your local community centre, that one local shop that seems to “get it”, or on any number of craft message boards (e.g. Craftster, Glitter, Get Crafty) seeking people in your area to get together and make stuff, or make stuff happen!

1. Many Mixers Cocktail Napkins $26 by Avril Loreti
2. Stuffed Gnomes $11.50 by Sarah Apple
3. Screen Printed Tea Towels $15 each by LU prints
4. Diamonds Cross-stitch Pin $45 by Pin Pals
5. Proud as a Peacock Merit Badge $25 by Lee Meszaros
6. Teacup Necklace $40 by Amy Belanger
7. Mixed Tape Notebook $20 by Coldsnap Bindery
8. Lime Zipper Necklace $27 by Vanessa Yanow
9. Waist Sweater $155 by Maked
10. Hanging Vine Tote $75 by Astrosatchel

3. Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds? What compelled you to go into retail?

Jen did her Master’s thesis in contemporary craft culture, runs the Toronto Craft Alert and founded the craft community collective City of Craft, and Laural has been writing on her blog and selling her handmade work for a few years. We met at a Church of Craft holiday craft fair selling at tables next to each other so we had a lot of time to chat about all kinds of things, including about how we both had separately thought about the fact there was really a need for an online shop selling the work of Canadian artists and how great an idea that would be. Awhile passed, after seeing each other off and on at different events and last fall it just seemed like the right time to team up and actually start the shop.

>> click here to continue reading about goodEGG

4. How did you come up with the name "goodEGG Industries"? Can you share 3 other names that were close runner ups or ones that would have been disastrous in hindsight?

We didn’t really have any runner up names actually – Jen came up with the goodEGG part (an expression that her former gentlemanly roommate would use when referring to someone he was fond of) and we tried adding a bunch of words to that like shop, boutique, etc. but industries just seemed to have the right sound.

5. 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?

That’s tough – We would have no idea how to spend that much money in just a week! Probably we would buy some serious fancy advertising somewhere that we could never otherwise afford, like a giant one week marketing blitz. The nice thing about an online shop (once you’ve paid to set it up) is relatively low overhead, but marketing costs are definitely hefty.

6. Do you have a magical "buying" formula and what three tips can you share with first-time buyers getting ready to make their first batch of wholesale orders?

We really work at creating a collection that has a certain aesthetic appeal, and are things that we truly love. Originality of design and concept are really important to us. We don’t think there’s a magic formula, but a lot of it is just going with our own instinct and taste. We actually work on drop shipping model (kind of like consignment) so we don’t actually do any direct buying.

7. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Can you illustrate this balance using 3 points.

Jen: Planner bee – pushes the creation of a thorough game plan (e.g. with the business & marketing plans).
Laural: Prefers to wing it and is likely to say “okay, enough planning it’s time to just put this into action!”

Jen: Loves networking and promotions because she’s been so involved in the crafting community for many years.
Laural: More active behind the scenes due to her experience with the technical aspects of running an online shop.

Jen: Writes most copy for the shop and PR.
Laural: Is a whiz with the graphics and design elements of the site & outside promotions.

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

It’s a mix of both. Being actively involved in the craft community we had a number of people in mind before we got started. We are always on the look out for new Canadian crafters and designers with interesting work – on the internet, in magazines and at craft fairs and shops selling Canadian-made. As the goodEGG buzz has spread more people have been approaching us to be part of it, which has led to the discovery of some great new craft designers - always exciting.

>> So you think your goods are perfect for goodEGG?

9. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out in your mind?

Our goal is to develop a curated collection with a good mix of products, materials, processes, and also a diversity of designers from across the country, so we consider all those factors when determining if a designer’s work fits with our collection.

Three things artists can do to stand out:

1. Develop an original product line. We really look for work that has a unique aesthetic style, and an original idea behind it. Something done well that we haven’t seen before will really get our attention.

2. Do your research. Make sure you know whether your work will be a good fit with the shop before you approach someone – that it fits well with the existing products, is a similar style but fills a gap rather than being something too similar to another product that’s already being carried.

3. Present your work well. For online sales, presentation is also really important – because customers can’t see the products in person, how the products are portrayed in photos becomes really essential. Designers usually contact us online to sell their work, so they have to be able to demonstrate the quality of their work through clear, well lit, professional looking photographs.

10. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how they end up spending their time:

10% Buying
25% Marketing & Promo
20% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
20% Customer Service
10% Fulfillment/Shipping
15% Accounting/Billing/Finances

11. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started Good Egg - something that neither biz how-to books or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

That would have to be how much time you can pour into your business, it’s never ending! This is something they tell you that in all the how-to books and workshops but it’s not something you really understand until you start your business and you realize that there’s always something more you could be doing to make it more successful. It probably doesn’t help that we are both kind of workaholics too!

12. Does the thought of opening a brick & mortar shop ever cross your mind?

It is something we’ve discussed, particularly because it’s always been a dream of Jen’s. Having an online shop is a good place to start because of the low capital investment upfront, and it’s a good stepping stone to branch out to a brick & mortar shop if that’s something that ever seems like the right thing to do in the future.

The Incubator blog:

Thanks Jen & Laural!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Such a great shop, such adorable gals and boy, I do so love those merit badges! Thank you and really enjoyed the lovely ladies random facts! So fun!