Thursday, November 20, 2008

Retail Therapy: Elsewares

Quick Facts:
# of employees: 3, Ryan, Audrey, and our wonderful shipping manager, Natasha. (We also hire seasonal shipping help during the holidays).
Did you write a business plan? Yes.

Day your doors/site opened: August, 2004
Owners: Ryan Deussing & Audrey Aponte

Use promocode “heart” and
Receive 15% off at
Offer good thru 12/04/08

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

1. Can you please tell us a little about your backgrounds and what compelled you to leave your last gig and get into retail?

Ryan was a documentary filmmaker and journalist who kept coming across interesting people making interesting things in his neighborhood of Brooklyn. Looking to purchase gifts for friends, he was surprised that there wasn't a website where the goods of different designers could be found (this was 2004). So he decided to make it!

>> click here to continue reading about Elsewares

I loved Ryan's plan for Elsewares, and after helping him as much I could through the beginning months, I was ready to leave my job and jump on board. I was working in a corporate setting, and dreamed of working with people who actually enjoyed what they did. Supporting independent designers and makers, and spreading the word about the great things happening in the field was how I wanted to spend my days.

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

25% Buying (and researching products)
10% Marketing & Promo
25% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
20% Customer Service
5% Fulfillment/Shipping
15% Accounting/Billing/Finances

Use promocode “heart” and Receive 15% off at Offer good thru 12/04/08.

1. Boylan Soda Glasses
2. Wood Ring Necklace
3. Sterling Bird Earrings
4. Robot Onesie
5. Punky Monkey
6. Begonia Necklace
7. Medium Chopstick Bowl
8. Hi Hedgehog Card
9. Skull and Crossbones Coaster Set
10. Owl Pillow
11. Vintage Record Cuff

3. You have such a wide range of products and your inventory must be deep. Can you recommend some programs that help track it all or processes that worked for you in the very beginning, that start-up owners can follow in order to keep it all organized and not lose their heads?

Well, we built our online shop using open source software, so designed a pretty robust inventory system into the back-end. It's not the prettiest, but gets the job done. Physically, we use a variety of shelves, bins, drawers and labels so that every piece is easy to find and safely stored.

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

4. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 5 things can artists do to stand out when submitting for your consideration?

We're constantly on the look-out for cool things for the shop, and when we find something we like, we have to consider quality, pricing, availability, and how the item will fit into the shop and current selection. Many times there are items that we love, that are just not right for the present time.

Things artists can do to stand out:
1) Have awesome photos that cleary show the product and all variations. Ideally organized on a web or Flickr page so we can easily go there and get a sense of what is being offered. Be creative and have fun with it, this is how you're representing your products to the world.
2) Provide details, don't make us wonder what something is made of, or how big it is, the basics should all be there. If you have your own site, give us the link, if you've been featured online or in press, let us know. We want to get an idea of who you are and what you do, and the easier that process is, the better.
3) Think carefully about your margins and pricing, and let us know if you're not sure about it. It can be hard to put a pricetag on your work, but if it seems way too high or too low, we'll wonder why. Research the marketplace and your audience.
4) Get your products out there, great products get attention, and in this online world it's easier than ever for people to highlight the things they like.
5) Know the store you're submitting to, and show them things that would be a good match.

5. Can you tell us about your Affiliate Program and is it something that you find brings a good amount of business and is something that others should consider setting up?

Affiliate programs are a wonderful way to bring in business, but you do need to actively nurture it and market it to people. We are in the process of re-vamping our system to utilize it better.

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?

Nothing complex, though I'm sure we should be more organized about it. We both research and cull lists of what we like, and then meet to discuss and make final decisions.

1) Start out with smaller orders. This allows you to see how things do and then re-order accordingly.
2) Keep your shop's aesthetic, focus, and customers in mind. You created it for a reason, so follow your instincts.
3) Keep in mind how the new items will fit in together, and try to have a diverse selection.

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

Well we've definitely seen where our strengths lie, and been able to divide responsibility pretty well in light of them. Ryan's past as a web monkey (as he likes to call it) and filmmaker make him a whiz with photoshop and product photography, and gives him a creative take on graphic design issues.

I'm a talker and love chatting with new people, so take care of customer service, communicating with designers and vendors, and pr and marketing.

Our tastes can be very different, so it's useful that we see potential products from different angles.

8. 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?

Purchase more great products for the holidays!


Thanks Audrey & Ryan!!


Jennifer Ladd said...

Thanks for the great advice about what an artist can do to stand out! Very interesting!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

I adore this shop, they have such a fun selection and have been coveting the silver bow ring from them for awhile! They sound like an awesome team of three!
Thanks for this fun interview!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this series. It introduces so many fabulous shops, and it's inspiring as an artist (and former business gal) to see people successfully doing great things.