When I started this business waaaay back when, I made a conscious decision this was going to be a digital business only, to take advantage of the growing popularity of online shopping, to give people a choice in the world of quality children's products and toys, to celebrate a group of insanely talented artisans who - at the time - were virtually unknown in the U.S. market. The internet was/is the future, and I could live anywhere in the world doing it - brilliant! After all, the industry "claimed" retail as we know it was dead, and who wanted to be tied down to a brick + mortar storefront day after day, week after week anyway...
Never, ever, say never...
I officially launched my business (aka: website) at the Hampton Classic Horse Show out on Long Island. One of the signature products I was offering (and still offer today) are beautiful, hand-carved rocking horses from the U.K., and horse shows were widely known as unique shopping venues. My strategy was (-get this-) to show people the products on my website - in person - allow them to touch & feel the quality, see it with their own eyes, and then hopefully drive them to my website to shop for additional products with the understanding that everything I sold was of the same quality.
When the first day of that show arrived, I was a mess. While I knew deep down I had a great idea I thought people would love and appreciate, at the end of the day, I'm not sure there is anything quite as humbling as putting yourself out there and - in the words of one of my heroes, Seth Godin, saying to the world (or in my case, the Hamptons), "here, I made this for you" ...and then waiting for the response, whatever that might be. Would it be crickets? Would they get it? Would they understand what I was trying to do? Would it resonate with anyone?
To add to my anxiety, thanks to some tough weather luck, and the remnants of a hurricane passing through, we saw pouring rain six (6) of the eight (8) days of the show (it was not comforting to witness the shows' giant tractors stuck in knee-deep mud). Thankfully (whew!), the answer was yes, they "got it" (pictured below, one of my many collaborations - in this case - Landrover at the Hampton Classic Horse Show).
However, like so many first time business owners, I was of the naive mindset, "if you build it, they will come." Yeah, not so much... instead I was experiencing a much different mindset, "out of sight, out of mind." Over the next several years, I would trudge my way up and down the east coast horse and charity show circuit with my "online" products in tow, allowing people to see them with their own eyes, to touch & feel, and to create connections with the products (and me for that matter). That persistence paid off, and I was able to dial back the shows as the website hit its stride.
Never, ever, say never...
A funny thing happened though. I missed my customers. And in looking back on those early years, those shows (and the resulting human interaction) were the key to my growth. I had established connections and relationships with my customers. I knew them by name and they knew me. I knew what they purchased in the past, and what they might like in the future. They trusted me to keep them in mind when I came across some wonderful new thing they might like. They knew they could reach out to me and I'd go the extra mile. All of these things: big things, little things - things you can't mimic online...
The shift began. I created a holiday pop-up shop... And then another... And then extended that holiday pop-up... and morphed into a permanent pop-up shop. All the while, focusing an increasing amount of time and effort into the physical and less and less on the digital. And any small business retailer will tell you: as a small business, you can focus on and excel at brick + mortar OR online, but not both - one will always suffer, as there is only so much of you to go around. So, as the physical location took off, unfortunately the online presence took a hit - until I finally had to pull the outdated, neglected dinosaur of a website down.
Fast forward a couple of years.
A new e-commerce website has always been "on the list" (albeit a mile-long list) to build for our dear customers around the globe who can't reach our physical location. It's been a true labor of love over this past year, and much longer if you take into consideration the mere intention to get a new site up and running. We've had numerous starts & stops & hurdles & pauses - there was zig after zag, nothing ever seemed to flow in a straight line (nothing worth doing I suppose?). But, no matter - it's finally here. And I'm not gonna lie, I'm kinda proud of it (more about who built this site, and why they are so fantastic soon)!
SO! While the online experience will never (hmm, maybe I shouldn't say that) replicate the in-person experience, we've tried really hard to give you a website that encourages the act of giving - to yourself, to each other, and to your loved ones; a website that emphasizes interaction; that nudges you to rediscover the wonder of it all; a website designed to gift and share stories and hopefully build connections... We really hope you enjoy your time here.
While we only have a smidgeon of the products in the shop represented here on the site at the moment, we're adding new products every single week, so please check-in with us frequently. In the meantime, we'd love to know what you think - I hope you'll take a moment to provide us with your feedback (constructive and kind, please - as this is another one of those "here, I made this for you" moments...).
All my gratitude,