Strength in Numbers
Over the past several years, American retail on the whole has faced a plethora of hurdles — but many in the industry have also come up with interesting and successful solutions. Just ask Katy Sensenig Schilthuis, the Boss Lady of stationery range Fresh Out of Ink, who not only decided to incorporate retail into her business — she brought 10 local makers into the mix as well!
It all started when Schilthuis, saw a space for rent in the funky Bishop Arts District in March 2018. That sparked an idea. “Working for yourself can be isolating,” she observed. “Why not form a community of women that can not only fill a retail shop with their handmade wares, but also support one another along the way? I began reaching out to the female maker community around Dallas in April, and Mosaic Makers Collective’s doors opened on May 1!”
A CALCULATED BLEND
The collective’s wares juxtapose various categories for a traditional gift shop mix. Paper goods come from four local paper designers: Fresh Out of Ink, Kat French Design, Onderkast Studio and Color Box Letterpress. The remaining makers, Creteation, Noshii, Lena Vera, Mod + Jo, Lucky Franklin, Cristina Ayala and Keeka Collection, offer jewelry, ceramics, home décor and clothing.
The makers’ wares not only fill the cozy 300-square-foot space, the makers also staff it. Since they are all women, an all-female, artisan vibe has been intentionally woven right into Mosaic Makers Collective’s brand. “I wanted to embrace the incredible talent the women around Dallas have to design and handcraft, and celebrate it to its fullest potential,” Schilthuis described. “I looked for makers who produced high-quality goods with a modern/boho vibe. I wanted the shop to offer variety, but feel cohesive in color and style.”
The blend of product was also carefully considered to make the venue a “a one-stop-gift-shop, where people could buy a birthday or Christmas gift on the spot, card and all,” Schilthuis continued. “I wanted a comfortable balance between paper and gift items — a full card wall, paper goodies, and jewelry, tees and home décor. I found (that) a little less paper and a little more gift allowed the customer to shop for a variety of recipients.”
While most wares hit the $20 to $60 retail sweet spot, there’s something for every budget. Local Dallas postcards from Onderkast Studio start at $2.50, while handwoven rugs and throws from Keeka Collection are around $280.
EVENTS & PROMOTIONS
The team takes an equally creative approach to in-store events. “I want our events reflect to our maker’s skills and creativity, and to celebrate local women,” Schilthuis noted. “From workshops to snail mail and trivia nights, a member of the collective always hosts the event — and gives fun insight into their craft and passion.”
On October 21, a Spooktacular Trivia night, at $15 a ticket, encouraged teams to arrive in costume to enjoy drinks, pizza and snacks and compete for a prize pack, all the while enjoying 10 percent off purchases.
In early November, “Totes Brilliant Embroidery with Noshii” was a beginner workshop with Noshhen Iqbal of Noshii. For $65, attendees received supplies including a tote, embroidery floss and loop, scissors and needle, plus wine and sweets in addition to the 10 percent off storewide discount.
The pricing of each event is determined through discussion with the maker/host and research into charges for similar events. And, the response is growing, with attendance at the second event over double of the first. “It’s all about spreading the word throughout the community,” she explained. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
As the “go-to for the maker community” as a whole, Instagram has been the collective’s social media outlet of choice, Schilthuis described. “(It’s) a great tool to promote our product, vision and events. (Individual) posts (focus on) our product, maker stories, our vision and mission and upcoming events. Those that celebrate our mission, and the women who’ve come together to see it through, get (the best) response.”
The collective also takes advantage of each maker’s feed. “I ask each maker to promote their brand to their followers as a part of Mosaic, both to drive traffic and increase purchases across the shop,” she remarked. “We also did a ‘Maker Monday Takeover’ spotlight when we opened, where each maker took over our feed for the day.”
The makers find it a pleasure to promote the collective. “I always mention the store when talking to potential customers or participating in interviews, “ pointed out Katharine Harlow of the Keeka Collection. “Anytime I (do), I always let people know that it’s a great way to shop small from local women-owned businesses. There is always a great response. I also try to incorporate the store into social media posts at least two to three times a week so local customers know that they can visit my pieces in the store, and well as shop gifts from local business at the same time!”
LESSONS LEARNED & LOOKING AHEAD
The makers report that the collective has helped their individual brands. Kat French of Kat French Design views her range more objectively now. “I’ve been better able to see buying cycles through different seasons. It’s been great to see which products really move and when, which has helped me during my design process to be more focused on the shopper mindset. Being able to see how my products sit on a shelf or on a card wall has been incredibly helpful in (my) packaging and overall design. I want the products to pop and clearly communicate what is special about them, which was easy to overlook in my studio.”
Sharing information also helps each individual brand grow, underscored Rhonda Warren of Color Box Letterpress. “I love seeing how the other makers handle marketing, photography, and what retail and wholesale shows they attend.”
Jordan Flynn of Mod + Jo feels her range and overall perspective is now more polished. “I’ve elevated my branding and packaging. Learning how to tag and barcode products not just for the co-op but also for all other wholesale accounts has really helped.”
Finally, Schilthuis has gained a new respect for the retailer. “There is such a huge amount of hard work and grit that goes into running a brick and mortar! Every day involves decisions and tasks, both big and small — both ones you’ve thought through, and others that totally surprise you. Also, managing 11 different creative minds has been a challenge and a great learning experience! Balancing those ideas and finding a happy medium that’s best for the shop happens almost daily.”
Schilthuis has no desire to stop anytime soon. “My passion for Mosaic stemmed from a desire for community and an aspiration to support both women and makers around my hometown. I want its mission and values — community, support, girl power, and creativity — to continue for years to come. I’d love one day to expand to a bigger space, and be able to support and share more women than I can now.”