The Caliber Collection is a beautiful line of fine jewelry we carry, created using reclaimed guns from gun buy back programs in Detroit, San Francisco, Hartford & Newark. The guns are melted down and created into beautiful bracelets. Founded by Jessica Mindich, in Greenwich, CT, the sale of the pieces benefit
amnesty programs in those cities.
Over the past 12 months, I have been working hard to launch my new retail store The Perfect Provenance (www.theperfectprovenance.com). Provenance, as you can imagine, matters to me. It has been challenging, exciting and slightly terrifying. When you embark upon a new business venture you never know if it will work or if people will respond positively. About 10 days ago, I launched our concept with a pop up store in Greenwich, CT called The Perfect Pop Up. Thus far, we have had some great feedback, and a steady amount of sales and support. Despite the positive feedback, it is daunting to try and start a new retail business today. I am lucky to be able to do this because I am launching this business later in life, and because of years of working with so many talented people in the luxury business.
Amour Vert, is an eco friendly clothing company, based in San Francisco
that I am proud to share with our clients.
However, if I was younger and wanted to open this business, I just don't think any of this would be possible. The amount of resources you need, and the amount of resources available, just don't match up. When I was starting out in my career, I worked for the business revolutionary, Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop. As field marketing manager, I coordinated her U.S speaking engagements, where she would tell enraptured audiences about her struggle to get a business loan as a woman in England in the 70's. She couldn't get a loan without her husband Gordon co-signing for it. Sadly, 40 years later, not much has changed. Banks, still reeling from the excesses of the last twenty years, make it very difficult to get loans to fuel a new idea. I'm going to get emails about how this is not true, but let me tell you, it is 100 percent true. Almost all banks want 2.5 times the resources to guarantee the loan.
Compounding the challenges of starting a new business is the competition to be BIG. It is incredibly hard for a small retailer to compete with large retailers, especially in the luxury business. For real estate, designers, suppliers and merchandise, there is an overwhelming expectation that you need to be instantly successful to partner, but the biggest challenge by far, is volume. Many companies today have become so focused on volume, that they are killing creativity, because creativity, is no match for volume.
Creating or sourcing unique, eco-friendly, made in the USA products, nice idea right? Buckle up. Minimum orders for a new company is so excessive, that a single store can hardly get past the first phone call. People and politicians say they want Made in the USA products, but creating and selling them at a price Americans will buy, is quite another story. This is not something that can be legislated, it is understanding that quality and value have a price. Not a fancy price, but a real cost of goods price. My organic tee shirt made in California or hand poured candles in recycled glass containers made in Mississippi, will never be the same price as a $10 tee shirt from China.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday was promoted to help offset the 'Black Friday' madness of discounting by large retailers. Created by American Express to support locally owned businesses, it is a day that non chain store retailers and restaurants, are brought into the spotlight and promoted. One of the best aspects of owning a local business, is feeling like you are contributing to life in your community, Small businesses are often the sponsors of local causes, sports teams and community centers. Certainly, big companies employ many people, and give back to communities, but small businesses uniquely give a community energy, personality and culture. There needs to be a balance . There are examples of responsible chains but we need more of them balanced with local concepts.
Joy of Light is a Connecticut based small business that makes designer matches. A perfect complement to candles or a hostess gift
I believe, we are at a tipping point in American towns, many are in danger of becoming one never-ending strip mall. It is time to take back our artisan culture, and stop promoting discounting like its in the Constitution. I am thrilled to introduce the creativity of small brands and designers to my community because the stories behind these products, are compelling. I encourage you to shop small but also smartly today, and everyday you can, you will be glad you did. Demand for better quality food led to changes in the food industry, both at chain fast food stores and in processed food, while there is much work to still be done, the same can happen in retailing. Large retailers and small retailers alike, can support artisan goods, we as a nation, just need to ask for it.
Our Smile Collection 100 percent organic tees are created in Sonoma, California by Farm Fresh Clothing Co. with a design by my son Luke Lori. The Smile Collection benefits Operation Smile. Our community has been incredibly supportive and this has been one of our most popular items at our new store.