Thursday, February 19, 2009

Retail Therapy: Wholly Craft

Quick Facts:
+ Wholly Craft (Columbus, OH)
+ Olivera Bratich, Owner
+ Currently no employees
+ Olivera works anywhere from 40hrs & up, depending on the week
+ Partially wrote a biz plan
+ Doors opened on September 30, 2005

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

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first opened the shop - something that neither biz how-to books, small biz workshops or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

The permanent goal of the enterprise took me by surprise. I was very used to event planning, so getting everything together for the opening seemed routine. After a successful grand opening party, it was such a strange feeling to walk in and unlock the door the next morning. That’s the moment it really sunk in that this was my new life work.

>> click here to continue reading about Wholly Craft

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

“Wholly Craft” really came from friends and my partner. I wanted to do something fun that had “craft” in the name and what started as kind of joke turned into the best option (as many things in life seem to do). The only other name I pitched to folks was “Selvedge.” I really liked how that was a technical term but also had audible connotations of “salvage” and “edge.” Ultimately, it was determined by myself and my small focus group of friends that the name was too serious for the feeling and aesthetic that I was aiming for in the shop.

3. Were there any stand out books, resources or tools that were really helpful during the planning phase or even up until now?

I checked out several books on general small business planning from the library and took a class from the Women’s Small Business Center (a division of the SBA) to learn the nitty gritty of financial planning and documentation. Both resources were really helpful. There wasn’t a particular book that stood out, but I gleaned a good amount of information from the lot of them. So, that was an important lesson—you can find useful information in what initially seems like an unlikely source. Nowadays, I really learn from the community of like-minded small business owners in Columbus. If you plan on opening a brick and mortar shop, you can learn a lot from other folks already operating in your city.

Olivera is currently working on getting her business online. In the meantime, she's put together a small selection of her favorites to give us a sense of what's available at the shop...

1. Skirt by AmyD
2. Ohio Loves Me Tshirt by Mr Pickles
3. Rings by Lusterbunny
4. Dress by 3 Articles Clothing
5. Hairpins by Sweet Stella Designs
6. Hair Scarves by Umbrella Girl Productions
7. Monster Magnets by Fishcakes
8. Recycled Tshirt Tote by Rebelle

4. Can you tell us a little about your background and what compelled you to get into retail and start an online business?

My background is somewhat unlikely—I spent the majority of my pre-shop life in school, eventually earning a M.A. in Women’s Studies. I was always involved in social justice work and feminist event planning, but after finishing my degree I found myself managing a bar. By basically running a business for someone else (who was kind of a misogynist), I learned that I had the capacity to do the work for myself. The idea of craft came about because I had several friends who were making goods but had no outlet to sell them in Columbus. I thought if I could run a business, there’s nothing I’d rather do than help artists and crafters make a living from their creativity and assist in making their vision accessible to folks. And, at the same time, I could fulfill my lifelong dream of sticking it to the (corporate) man.

To be totally honest, I’m still a bit of online-phobic myself. I just love interacting with our customers (and crafters, when possible) in person and Columbus is a great city for that. Making that leap to online sales is one my goals for this year, but we’ll see what happens.

5. 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?

I don’t really have a formula, but I do think you have to strike a balance between what you personally like as a shop owner/buyer and what people in your community (i.e. your consumers) would appreciate. I have very specific tastes but I also want to make sure that almost anyone walking through the door will find something they adore in the shop. My second tip would be to use good judgment when it comes to quantity. Order several items to really make the newness pop out at customer, but hover somewhere around the minimum order the first time around to make sure that your customer base is actually going to connect to the work. My third tip is simple—there’s no way around risk. Purchasing is always a risk and you have to accept that. Sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t. But, you’ll get better with time.

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Wholly Craft?

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

We actively seek out designers at craft fairs and online. The search functions on Etsy have really been a blessing when looking to add a particular type of product, though I still usually just browse the recent listings for anything new and exciting.

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

95% of our works are still sold on consignment, so that’s the first hurdle. A lot of crafters aren’t willing to work on consignment anymore, and understandably so after all the horror stories I’ve heard about consignment shops over the years. I work really hard to promote work we believe in and make sure everyone gets paid in a timely fashion. The nice thing about consignment is that it gives us a chance to build a relationship with our vendors. I’m happy to provide feedback on what’s working here and why and I think some of that can be helpful to folks in planning their product lines.

Overall, we try to choose merchandise that fits our overall aesthetic and that is different from anything else we carry. I think the most important thing an artist can do is to make sure their perspective comes through in any of their products. You can make one type of item or one hundred items, but your personal aesthetic has to shine through in order to make it stand out from anything else on the market.

8. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Olivera ends up spending most of her time:

Buying: 10%
Marketing & Promo: 15%
Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display): 30%
Customer Service: 15%
Fulfillment/Shipping: 10%
Accounting/Billing/Finances: 10%
Vendor/Community Relations: 10%

9. They say that "A business that doesn't grow eventually dies..." How has your shop evolved since you first opened your doors back in 2005?

We expanded our space in 2007, by moving next door into a storefront that was three times our original size. That was a huge step, but absolutely worth it. Now I feel like we have the space to feature all the work we love and still have room to hold classes, workshops, and special events.

10. 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?

I’d first spend $3000 on an inventory system that would eliminate so many hours of work and the necessity to handwrite each receipt. The rest I’d put toward part-time help throughout the year. Thanks, Oprah!

11. We all have days when we throw up our hands and say "I can't do this anymore!" - what 3 things do you say to yourself or do in order to snap out of it and persevere?

I remind myself that this work is really meaningful, culturally and economically to a lot of folks. Then I tell myself that one day I’ll actually earn a salary. Finally, I walk over to the amazing selection of plush we carry and remember that I really do love this store.

12. You've been in business since 2005 - was there a year where you felt some kind of sigh of relief and felt confident that you weren't going to be part of a statistic? They say that in the restaurant business, you shouldn't expect to see any profit until your second year - is it the same for retail in your experience? What should aspiring store owners be prepared to expect?

Be prepared for slow growth, especially right now. We hit a growth spurt after we moved into the new space and I thought things were on a great track. Then things slowed down along with everything else in the economy, but we’re still chugging along. Retail is definitely shaky, but work on just building your base and value your regular customers.

Wholly Craft
3169 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 447-3445
Open 1-8pm Weekdays, 12-7 Saturdays, 12-5pm Sundays.
Closed on Tuesdays.


Melissa de la Fuente said...

What a doll! And the shop looks super fun!
Thanks ladies! :)

Beth H said...

wish i was in Columbus! super-cool shop.

Bette's Bags said...

I can't get past the shop name...."WHOLLY CRAFT". Love it! I'll never forget it.