Thursday, March 26, 2009

Retail Therapy

I've always wanted to own a little shop, which is probably why I enjoy doing these Retail Therapy features so much. I think they're perfect for aspiring shop owners like myself, designers & artists interested in wholesaling and of course everyone else just looking for a great new shop. Makool Loves You is an online shop owned by wife & husband team Anisa (creator of Makool, the clothing line) and Graeme, the shop carries Makool as well as a few handpicked items handmade by some of their favorite designers. I'm sure most of you are familiar with with the brand but here's a closer look at what it's like to run a shop...

Reader Special: 15% off all non-sale items with code HANDMADE.
Good through the 5th of April. (Always free shipping! I know, dangerous!)

Quick Facts:
Owners: Anisa Makhoul & Graeme Nelson
# of employees: owners + sewing is contracted out to local sewers
# of hours in a work/week? Between 47 and 60
Did you write a business plan? "Yes, very important. It's not fun, but I would recommend writing it out, at least a little one for anyone starting a new business."
Opening day: April 15th, 2007

>> Think you're ready to run an online shop?

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started the online shop.

The amount of sales, from day one, honestly we didn't think we'd be so successful. We had no good way of keeping track of all the special messages, and I try really hard to make each experience personal, I couldn't sleep at night I was so disorganized.

2. When and why did you start adding different lines to the shop?

It's always been my plan. We started as soon as we had extra cash flow to put towards it. I would like to carry more, does anyone know of any hidden gems?

Reader Special at : 15% off all non-sale items with code HANDMADE.
Good through the 5th of April.

>> click here to continue reading about Makool Loves You

3. Your shop has received a good amount of press coverage since you opened. Do you have any marketing and promotion tips for aspiring and shop owners?

I would say, to learn what PR is, and do as much of it as you can. Also, networking is very important. I've been making little press packs and sending them to magazines with each line, they have worked and gotten us into major magazines like Nylon, and Lucky.

4. How much time do you spend on the following activities?

5% Buying (I actually don't consider buying work, so I spend all my spare time searching for new designs)
10% Marketing & Promo
10% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
10% Customer Service
10% Fulfillment/Shipping
5% Accounting/Billing/Finances (I'm lucky, this is graemes duty, however I do keep on top of finances)
50% sewing, designing, pattern making

5. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Can you illustrate this balance between you and Graeme (husband):

Anise: I'm not computer savvy
Graeme: Super nerdy computer guru

Anise: Gets emotional about her designs and how they are received by the public
Graeme: Has a level head and a "just business" attitude

Anise: Allergic to numbers
Graeme: Loves spreadsheets and is in charge of end-of-month financials.

6. In addition to running an online shop, you also design your own clothing line. What compelled you to go into retail as opposed to sticking to a more wholesale type of business? Any plans to open up a brick & mortar shop?

My line is sewn locally, I think it's more important then using sustainable fabric (although I do that too). This makes my price point rather high, because everyone who comes in contact with that garment was paid a living wage. Double the cost of the garment to include retail and you have a really high priced garment.

Graeme and I have a "lets make our own rules" theory, the face of retail is changing, I'm not sure our society will come out of the current finical situation shopping that same way it used to.

That being said.....We are currently looking at opening a brick and mortar shop here in Portland, although it will probably function as my studio with limited hours.

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Makool Loves You?

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

I seek them out, I follow a ton of blogs from other countries, I'm always on the look out for a blogger from Russia, or Switzerland to post out their home town designer.

8. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out in your mind? And what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?

1. cute, cute, cute and adorable
2. small minimum orders, I'm not in a position to buy $800 worth of your $11 necklaces, and I'm guessing most shops that would like to carry them aren't either
3. I really like importing things from european designers, because we have free shipping it's nice to offer these luxuries to our customer, you know like things they couldn't get or would have to pay a lot in shipping to order.

9. You're one of the few shops that offer free shipping, what was the thought behind that decision? Do you find that this has a huge impact on the # of sales?

I just hate it when you are shopping online and you put things in your cart and your ready to order and you go to the check out and they want like $15 for shipping, sometimes I just walk away. I think it's easier to decide if you'd like to buy when you see the real cost up front.

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?

OOOOH! I'd do a really rad happy dance! Then I'd buy fabric and have it dyed, the beautiful color you've ever seen. Also, I'd order a whole bunch of really cool stuff from designers I've had my eye on.

Thanks Anisa & Graeme!!


surfy birdy said...

that bicycle necklace is wonderful!

modernemotive said...

I LOVE that pick shirt!!!!

modernemotive said...

Or pink rather! :/

Learning Spanish at 41 said...

The blouse is quite feminine and charming--great for spring. :)

knack said...

I love the little bicycle necklace!