Becky Moore and Eszter Rabin of Sidai Designs sit down with AOW to share their insight on overcoming key challenges to build and manage a successful artisan brand.
I have been watching your business grow over the past eight years and am continuously impressed with everything you've been able to accomplish. Looking back now, what do you think has led to your continued growth and success?
I believe a couple of different reasons made it all possible. One is building an incredibly devoted and talented team and the other is the ability to continuously come up with new designs as well as refinements to our existing collections.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for Sidai and how have you overcome these challenges?
Our biggest challenge was finding the financing for the growth of the company. We were reluctant to take investment or a loan, so we invested personal money, which allowed us to move to the next level. The second biggest challenge was gaining the trust of the artisans, making them understand that we weren't just here for the short term. Once they understood that we are not abandoning them, they were a lot more willing to put in the time and effort needed to grow the company.
How do you navigate where to spend your marketing dollars?
Our marketing budget is so tiny that there isn’t much to decide on. We produce some printed collateral material around international trade shows and have some assistance with sales in Tanzania, but we don’t pay for any advertising. We do pay for professional photography, which we believe is important for brand development.
I realize you attend Artisan Resource @ NY NOW and Maison & Objet. What are your thoughts on trade shows and do you find them to be key when growing your business? Do you think you will continue to attend these two shows or explore other sales avenues?
Yes, I think these shows are very beneficial to us in giving us a platform to capture a large audience and build an international customer base. We will continue our participation in both of these shows. We do try one additional show each season, some are more successful than others, but it’s really helpful to see trends and understand the markets.
What percentage of your sales is online versus wholesale? Many seem to be veering away from wholesale (due to the slim profit margin) and striving to create a strong direct to consumer online model. What are your thoughts on this?
Our online sales are a small percentage of our wholesale business. As we produce our goods in Tanzania, we face several challenges in growing our online platform, such as fulfillment, inventory housing, shipping, export/import. It’s definitely something that we would love to grow, but at the moment it is not our priority. In addition providing a continuous stream of workload to our ever-growing number of artisans, wholesale is an essential part of the business. It would be nearly impossible to find the online sales figures to match the quantity of work needed to sustain our artisans at a livable wage.
What are your tips for success for others looking to start an online or wholesale business working with artisans?
I think the most important part is understanding your market. Who is your customer, what do they want, how much they are willing to pay for it. Logistics are hugely important. If, for example, shipping your product is more expensive then your product itself, you may need to reevaluate your model. I would also recommend getting a finance person to look at your numbers early on to see if you're building a sustainable model from the beginning.
Any other tips you would like to share?
You can try to do everything yourself, but the reality is that it’s impossible to know everything. So my advice would be to hire the right people for the right positions. But choose your team wisely.
For more info, please visit: www.sidaidesigns.com