Our Boxing Week Sale is ON. 15% to 50% off the entire online shop! Dec 26th – Dec 31st while quantities last…
A few shots from life these days:
- Choosing trim for the S/S 16 season
- Holiday guests – my lovely friend Tamar (who usually lives at Casa Bonita) is staying with me in my tiny studio apartment over Christmas
- Almost time for my annual NYE sage burning ritual. A friend and I did this last year and 2015 was off the hook for both of us so we’re brining it back. Am looking forward to seeing what 2016 has up it’s sleeve.
- Testing the Yelapita Purse in mesh for the next collection!
- Bringing back our Casa Bonita Cushion from last season in the new collection.
One of the (many) things you will want to consider when you are starting out is your sales channel(s). Speaking from the world of fashion accessories I like to think of my sales opportunities as a triangle – one corner represents direct to customer sales via my online shop (or brick + mortar if you have one), another corner represents selling my goods wholesale to retail clients, and the last is for ‘other’ whether that is gift-shows, pop-ups, collaborations with other artisans or media outlets etc. While it is very normal to have one of these corners more developed than the others (for example S&C is dominantly direct to customer sales with a healthy dose of wholesale accounts and only a smattering of ‘other’) it is important for a company to have representation in all three corners in order to mitigate risk and work from a ‘balanced’ triangle. No one wins when all his or her eggs are in one basket.
For the first 3 years of S&C I sold 100% direct to customer from my own website. This is a terrifying business strategy for the obvious reason that not being able to count on any additional streams of income makes any downturn in direct to customer sales a massive issue. And guess what – this totally happened. When I first started my business the world of ‘makers’ was far less crowded. It took very little effort to be noticed online and with hardly any competitors in the market I was able to produce whatever I felt like and have confidence that I would be able to sell it successfully. But, as is the way with capitalism, more and more people started similar businesses and soon my online voice became one among many. In order to stay relevant I had to increase my marketing budget again and again. I was now spending triple or quadruple in marketing costs to get the same return from my online site as I had in years past and I was, for very good reason, nervous about not having any other sales channels. In 2012 I started to work with retail clients – selling goods in higher volume at wholesale prices. I had always turned away from wholesale because it reduced my profit margin substantially but soon I realized that the more diverse sales opportunities I could create for S&C the more likely I would still be in business as retail trends ebbed and flowed around me.
Knowing what magic sales channel ratio works for your business also helps you allocate your business expenses correctly. There are very different product development, marketing and logistical issues/opportunities for each of these categories and most likely, as a small business, you may lack man hours or cash flow or both to do address all three of these opportunities at 100%. You will want to focus where your skill set shines and translates into the most sales. As you plan your particular special sauce of success here are few things (far from a full list) to consider:
Direct to customer / Online and/or Brick + Mortar
+ So much profit margin! Being both the brand and the retailer means you are getting the most $$ out of your product
+ So much hassle!! Don’t forget that selling your own product means that you now have to deal with all of the struggles of marketing, customer service, shipping and distribution, store or studio rent etc. You are definitely earning that padded profit margin
+ But seriously – shipping is the worst. Shipping a box of wholesale goods to retailers pales in comparison to packaging each individual customer order with love and care, taking it to the post office, managing clients expectations as they wait for their item to arrive, dealing with customer service issues, returns, and then doing it all over again……every week. I have the extra boo-hoo of being based in Canada with the majority of my customers in the US – this adds customs hassles to my list of shipping grievances.
+ Marketing – are you or someone you know great at generating brand content for social media channels? Hopefully yes. Do you love creating events to hold in your retail shop or designing the best store windows? Hopefully yes. Do you love wrapping up individual items with love and care, writing notes to thank people for contributing to your small business? Hopefully yes. What about fashion shoots? Into it? In the absence of a brick and mortar shop, interest in your products will be dictated by how you choose to shoot your work. And the list of daily marketing tasks goes on and on…
+ Designing your product on any schedule you choose. If you control the sales channel and are making money doing so – who is to say when you release an item or collection? You do you.
+ Product feedback. It is awesome to have direct access to your buying public – you learn from them and figure out how to serve them better.
+ So much ease! You only have to make an amazing product – all of the customer service is left to the retailer. Such bliss!
+ 50% (at least) less $$. Sad face. But hopefully you are booking high volume orders where the smaller return per unit is balanced by selling way more product (this is the ideal with wholesale)
+ Brand management – make sure you like the stores that carry you – people will see your stuff in said stores and their brand influences how potential customers think of your brand
+ Sales calendar. Most boutiques (in fashion) still run on a traditional calendar. That means they want to book their seasons 6 months in advance. This means you need to be working on your collections at least a year out. I have never managed to get myself onto the fashion calendar and I have lost out on great wholesale accounts because the buyer had allocated their money 6 months before my collection was ready to view/sell.
+ Factor in the cost of heading to tradeshows, having a showroom, hiring sales reps etc. to your price points
It’s hard to talk specifically about the pros and cons of the ‘other’ corner as this category is so varied. I have found success and failure in various gift shows, pop-ups, collaborations, giveaways, events etc. and I think it is a matter of testing a selection of these options and seeing what gives you the best return.
One last point on my triangle theory – it will shift and change as your company and the market change around you. Your secret sauce recipe from 2011 may not be relevant in 2015. Take some time each year to revisit your sales channel formula so you can better steer your company through the world’s ever-changing retail trends.
A friend is staying with me over the holidays that uses her Yelapa Tote in natural leather as her travel bag. The colour of the leather has taken on a deep, rich shade of tan and the leather finish has gone from a flat dusty finish to a soft, slick sheen. People often ask how the leather will change over time and this is a great example of how two years have contributed to making this bag, in my opinion, more beautiful.
We currently don’t carry leather totes but are planning a small run this Spring.
After 2.5 weeks in Toronto, 2 gift shows and 2 online sales I am finally back home and catching up on the day to day business of S&C.
As a holiday shipping PSA :
Customers in Canada : December 9th was the last day to order items that would be shipped at a regular rate and still make it to you by December 24th. If you are interested in paying a bit more for your shipping you can order your items up until December 14th – please get in touch for shipping rates when you order.
Customers in the US : All orders must be placed by December 14th to reach you before December 24th at regular shipping rates.
International customers : December 1st was the last day to order items that would be shipped at a regular rate and still make it to you by December 24th. If you are interested in paying more for your shipping you can order your items up until December 14th – please get in touch for shipping rates when you order.
Happy December 1st! This is the 6th day of the 11 day One of a Kind Show in Toronto and my life has been a blur of coffee, meeting people, pink neon lights and seeing S&C goods go to happy homes. It is always so great to meet customers in person so if you are in Toronto please stop by and say hi (booth K-59). The show goes until Sunday (Dec 6th) and Thursday eve (Dec 3rd) we are open until 11pm. Our prices are slightly discounted and in Canadian dollars so there are significant savings to be had in making it down to the show.
If you live in Vancouver we will be at Western Front’s Toque Craft Fair this weekend – Friday Dec 4 – 6th. I won’t be there but two lovely ladies – Ngaire and Brianna – will be present in my place. It’s also a chance to see most of the line in person and snatch up some S&C goodies for discounted prices in Canadian currency.
And lastly – thank you so much for the response to my Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. For all of you that don’t live in Toronto or Vancouver I hope you were able to grab something for yourself or someone you love at a discounted price. Items will be shipping out this week.
For one day only everything in the online shop is 40% off – use code CYBER40 to redeem. Enjoy!
It’s on – happy holidays everyone! Use coupon code HAPPYHOLIDAZE15 to get 20% off of everything in the online shop from now until Cyber Monday (Nov 27 – 30th) !!!!
A few shots from around here :
- Display options for gift shows are everywhere in my tiny apartment
- Proofs for new business cards and postcards. I am a strong believer that everything looks more fun when you print on peach paper. This works for business excel sheets too.
- Silk and cotton waiting to be dyed.
- A wall of shibori – a possible effect for my OOAK booth.
- Adopting a ‘Just Do It’ attitude for the holiday season!
- And I’ve arrived in Toronto. My beautiful friend Tamar who was my window display designer at Aritzia is helping me pull together a booth in Toronto. Her cabin in the woods an hour out of the city is one of my favourite places on earth.
Just before we pitch headfirst into the full blown chaos of the holiday season I thought I take a moment to write another ‘Introducing’ post about one of my favourite items of this season – our La Playa Tote. Now it may seem odd to launch a mesh bag in the winter and name it after beach season (whoops) but when we were developing this guy back in June I fell in love with it so hard I just couldn’t resist. Let me tell you all the ways I love this bag which I am now using as my personal day bag even as the temperatures drop and warm sand/surf are nowhere in my future.
Obviously the material I selected – a super thick, rubberized mesh – is not a normal choice for my line. I had originally seen this grade of mesh used for scuba equipment and immediately was attracted to the playfulness of having a see-through bag that was still durable and well constructed. I’m pretty sure the scuba equipment manufacturers were not going with ‘playful’ when they chose a material that allows them to submerge goods into water and to then have said water drain out again after they hoist everything back to the surface but playful is how I saw it. I also really loved the idea of mixing technical fabrics with the natural fabrics I normally use for S&C – for me there is tension where these things meet and I am planning on playing with that tension even more in our Spring/Summer 16 season so stay tuned! I even find that tension in my own wardrobe with my La Playa Tote being a nice contrast to all of the natural fabrics I usually wear.
The shape of this bag pleases me so much (I am basically just self hi-fiving all over this post). The curve at the bottom of the bag looks happy to me and the size is just right for holding daily essentials. I am someone that loves the IDEA of a small purse but seems to, in actuality, often need something a bit bigger. I’m always bringing along a book, umbrella, snack etc. so I find that tote bags still remain my go-to day bags. That being said I was starting to feel like my existing tote bags were leaning towards the large side of things so I designed the size of the La Playa to be a little more streamlined, a little smaller than our Oaxaca and San Miguel Totes.
And lastly – because I nixed the interior pocket on this guy to keep it looking sleek – the addition of the hand marbled Tonala Key Chain on each bag allows you to hook your keys or wallet to the interior side so you never lose them at the bottom of the bag.
So there you have it. I originally created this bag in a fit of excitement and self-congratulations (the factory peeps can attest to that) and I continue along that train of thought now reviewing the end product. I hope you give this guy a chance! Even as the temperatures drop and days at ‘la playa’ seem a distant memory.
There is no doubt that ‘entrepreneur’ has become one of the most covetable job titles in popular culture these days. Shaking off the difficult boss, running a self directed project, the potential of making more money than any 9-5 position could offer – all of these things sound amazing. What is seldom talked about is how often and how much running a small business can suck. The insane hours, the poverty level income (at least at the start), the consistent and terrifying leaps of faith you take as your business finds it’s place in the market, the isolation of working on your own to accomplish your goals. Starting a business is no small endeavor and, not only that, running a business often has nothing to do with the product or service that called you into action in the first place.
One of my favourite questions I have been asked (although by that time I was 3 years deep into S&C so my ship had already sailed) was, ‘Where are you happiest in your business – the creative work or the business work?’ The implication being that if you are deeply passionate about the ‘it’ of your business – you get lost in the craft of cooking, brewing a perfect cup of coffee, designing the most ergonomic chair, or any other product or service that rocks your world and you are currently thinking about developing a business around – you may want to think twice about forging out into the lonely world of entrepreneurship alone. Contrary to popular belief, creative genius alone does not a successful business make. In order to have success in business you need to have passion about BUSINESS. You need to get jazzed about writing business plans, pitching ideas to potential investors/partners, delving into market research, developing systems that allow your company to grow and flourish, promoting the work, closing deals – all those business buzz words – you need to LOVE them. This is a huge generalization, but most creative types are not also skilled with excel spreadsheets or firm handshakes.
Before you dive headfirst into your own venture I would recommend looking deep inside of yourself and honestly asking where your passion lies. I still do this on a regular basis. I am someone that is decently interested in business but my true love is, and always has been, the creative. Almost all of my disappointments with S&C over the past 6 years have come from only having one eye on the business road while the rest of my attention was spent watching the gorgeous ‘creative vision’ sunset out the side window. As someone that took FIVE YEARS to start looking at the balance of skills it takes to run a successful business more closely I would highly recommend setting yourself up properly from the very beginning. Luckily, for everyone out there with talent and drive I have a very simple recommendation for you:
Simple but effective.
Broken down into steps it would look something like this:
1) Dream what your business will become. Think as big as you can. Think 1 year out, 5 years out, 10 years out. Really get into this. What are you selling? How much money do you want in your life? What size of company do you want your business to grow into? Where do you want to live? How many hours a week do you want to work?
2) Look at what you have to offer this company. Where is your passion? What are you better at than anyone else? Be honest. Look at what your weaknesses are. What work do you avoid and put off until tomorrow? Be honest.
3) Find someone who is strong where you are weak to partner with. While you’re at it find a few people to partner with. If you have a great product but no idea how to set up your business framework – there are tons of people out there with business degrees and a passion for start-ups. If business is your thing but you’re stuck without a ‘big idea’ – there are tons of people out there with great vision but no idea how to translate it into reality. If crunching numbers is your passion but the corporate world seems staid and predictable there are tons of people out there with dicey books that need keeping and vastly varying year ends to be organized (seriously though – good small business focused accountants and bookkeepers – where are you? There is a hole in this market that is crying out to be filled). You get the point.
If partnership doesn’t feel like the right avenue for you (I don’t have one) then I highly recommend bringing on consultants. One of my biggest regrets is not building an effective community of people to help me run S&C from the very beginning. I thought I could do it all. Guys – I could not. Not only will your partners or consultants balance out your skill set and give your business a much better chance of success but your process will be all the more enjoyable along the way.
One of the best books I have read on this topic is ‘The E Myth Revisited’ by Michael E. Gerber. It is a cheesy read but it gets straight to the point and I finished it feeling clearer around how I wanted to think about my small business in relation to my skill set.
On a side note : I wanted to say thank you for all the positive feedback about this series! I started to reply to each comment question individually but for some reason the internet ate my responses and all trace of my answers seem to be missing. Maybe one day they will reappear? I have no idea. On top of that – answering each question individually was taking a ton of time so I think how I’ll move forward is to (happily) read all your comments and then work to answer the most asked questions in this blog series.
To make a short story longer – thank you for your comments / I read every one of them / I will use them to guide my content for this series moving forward / the internet remains a mystery.
Recently my SD card cracked in half and a years worth of my pictures were lost. Outside of this blog I didn’t have anything backed up (stupid, I know) and this morning I started to go through my archives to see what images I managed to save on my computer in their original size. I have everything backed up properly until about halfway through 2014 and then – nothing. Sad face.
But I DID end up stumbling into memories from years past so I thought I’d do throwback ‘Around Here’ post to celebrate the images I still have access to:
- Remember when Debbie Carlos and I first launched this marble poster?! It originally came in both black on white and black on pink. This is one of my favourite collaborations I have ever done…
- Nesting dolls found in a shop in the small town of Grand Forks from one of my favourite family vacations.
- Dye tests foreves.
- A snap from the butterfly conservatory in Seattle. There were about 3 butterflies in the entire place but the plants were gorgeous and the hot tropical conditions were an amazing respite from the rainy Pacific Northwest winter weather that day.
- Marbled leather panels drying and waiting to be sewn into clutches for our Of A Kind collab.
- Our first shoot in our Vancouver studio with the talented Aiya Feldman modelling and Hana Pesut shooting.
- Natural dye course at Maiwa.
- The first week of the Vancouver studio. RIP.
‘Oh, me? I have my own accessories line. It’s nothing. I started it by accident.’
It’s no secret that Scout & Catalogue began six years ago on the rooftop patio of my small Mexican home. I was taking a break from my life in Canada and had immersed myself in a new culture, language and climate. I began writing this blog to keep friends and family up to date with my life and at the same time started to experiment with textile dyeing and sewing as a personal project. Online shopping was just taking off in 2009 and more and more people began reading my blog and requesting my goods – Scout & Catalogue the brand was born.
But the Scout & Catalogue of today is no accident.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my compulsion to answer the, ‘What do you do?’ question in this way. While the birth of my brand came about organically the fact that I am still in business six years later is not by simple luck. Scout & Catalogue is still around today because I work very hard to keep it that way. Shrugging off my brand as ‘just an arts and crafts project’ is a disservice to myself and the company I have built.
Before I started S&C I used to be a Creative Director in the fashion industry. One of my passions in this role was working out how the intuitive and slippery creative spark could succeed in the more rigid and controlled world of business. Bringing creativity and business together is no easy task but, for all the inevitable tensions, I find connecting them very satisfying. I think this is why I like running a small creative business – in my role as Owner and Creative Director I am responsible for both creative and business strategies and perfecting the right balance between craft and commerce is a constantly moving target.
This blog has always been about giving you a behind the scenes look at the creative side of S&C and I thought it might be time to share some of the business aspects of running the brand as well. I had zero experience with what it took to run a business before starting Scout & Catalogue and every day I learn new things (side note : ‘learning new things’ in my experience almost always means ‘I made a mistake that cost me/the business a lot of money but now I know to never do that again’) about what it takes to keep this ship afloat. In regular installments I’d like to explore what it takes to run a small company, things I wish I had known before I started this whole thing, setting yourself up to succeed (spoiler : I almost always take the hardest path possible) and much more. If there are any business topics you are hoping to hear my thoughts on please let me know in the comments section!
Working on booth design over the next week as we get ready to show in Toronto at OOAK (booth K59 / Nov 26 – Dec 6) and in Vancouver at Toque (Dec 4 – 6). If you’re in either of those cities make sure to come visit us – we’d love to meet you and > bonus < we’ll be selling our goods in Canadian dollars so the savings will be substantial!
A new week – a new ‘Introducing’ post! Let’s get to know the Amigo Square Zip, shall we?
Over the years I have done my fair share of travelling. I’m someone that, if at all possible, will try to bring the least amount of things with me. Carry on? Preferred. Laundry day while away? Fine. Room to buy a few things on the trip? Yes, please. The last time I went to Portland I bought a one piece down-filled snowsuit and managed to fit it in my San Miguel tote and onto the plane without checking ANYTHING. It was seriously one of my highest packing accomplishments.
So when thinking about the Amigo Square Zip I had double duty in mind. I wanted to create a no fuss travel pouch that could fit all essentials – makeup, passports, jewelry, books, cameras etc. Basically whatever is smallish and you want to bring with you will fit in this oversized organizer. But I also wanted it to work as a clutch for when you need a purse on your trip that is smaller than your day bag or something to make your evening ensemble really shine. Every Amigo Square Zip comes with our signature leather wristlet that clips onto the zipper and takes this baby from a bag organizer to evening wear in no time. Bonus points for the mesh options which allow you to see all your items without having to unzip. Your airport security staff will rejoice!
Available in hand dyed Indigo Tie Dye, Light Indigo and Midnight Canvas as well as Neon Lime and Black Mesh – I use this piece everyday (even when I’m not travelling) to keep my day bag organized. I hope you guys find it just as useful…
Last Friday I walked up the road to the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. I hadn’t been since I was a kid but I wanted to shoot some plant life for the online store and a geodesic dome filled with tropical flora and fauna seemed like the perfect place to do it. Little known fact – there is a parrot at the Bloedel Conservatory that can meow like a cat which is pretty much worth the cost of admission right there…
(image sources on pinterest page)
A few shots from life these days:
1/2) I am temporarily without a studio and I’ve been using a friends apartment with great light and an even more amazing view to shoot my product in for the online shop.
3) Cacti in the corners of this apartment.
4) Life piles. Still unpacking from my recent trip to Toronto to see a good friend get married.
5/6) Work piles. Product waiting to be shot.
7) For some reason I find this shot very amusing. Like this cactus just at some point decided it was over growing up and took a sharp right turn to horizontal-ville…