Growing together through social change
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the first year: part 2

passion, personal relationships + technology

Part 2 of 2

interview by: eleanor rigby

Let's talk a little about business selling and how technology has affected 5th Season. You wanted to get your products into stores. How many stores are you in now? What was the best way you were able to make those connections and do so?

A: I'm in roughly 10-12 stores. This is really about who you know, which leads back to making those connections. Talking to the manager/owner in person is always the best way I feel. People are a lot less likely to respond to emails. Calling or meeting with them is more personal, and they can't ignore you or put you off, it gives me an answer right away instead of trying to reach out multiple times. 


What percentage of your sales would you guess are online? And when do you see the most activity there?

A: I would say roughly 10% or less of my sales come from online. And I definitely see an increase around the holidays. 


Which platforms, person-to-person or online, do you think have provided the most repeat customers or largest sales per purchase?

A: Personal sales for sure. 


Do you think the opportunity to express our genuine nature person-to-person could be more financially valuable than online sales? 

A: I think for a smaller business this is true


The online community seems to have no glass ceiling. You can reach the whole world. How do you think the opportunity and space to express our genuine nature online could increase your sales? Or do you find online shoppers are not as interested in engaging and knowing the intentions, stories or creators?

A: I think they are just different markets. If you search “Michigan shirts", you’re going to get a lot of shirts, and the customer will usually go with a cheap product that they like the best. I cannot compete with that. So in order to maximize MY sales, being personable is what helps. 


What role has social media had on your business?

A: I do love Instagram because you can see what people make and how they make it, so I promote that way. I also use Facebook to post what I've been making. My business is one of the reasons I feel like I need to be on social media, which I guess says a lot in it self. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be on it as much. 


What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating 5th Season?

A: The most rewarding thing - that's a tough question. I think it might be finding the one thing I am really good at. I've been wood burning for two years and I have already improved so much.  Iv'e been wanting to enter my wood burnings into contests because I think that would be challenging and fun. 


Do you hope to do this full time one day? 

A: I hope to do this full time one day. I think it is possible if I were to sell my products to larger stores, and find the niche where I fit in. My job benefits are pretty good, so I have to consider those. Right now I am focusing on getting my brand out there. I've come a ways in a couple years, so who knows where I will be in 2 more years. 


Anything else you would say to someone thinking about taking the leap into starting their own business?

A: From what Iv'e seen, starting a business kind of just unfolds. If you're thinking about starting a business, do it for the right reasons. If you are not passionate about it, then at some point it will feel more like work, than something you enjoy. Its important to have goals, but don't plan too much. You need to be flexible. Also, don't try to expand too fast. Make small moves and investments until you feel comfortable making bigger ones, and when you do, think of how it will affect your business in the future. And stay organized and use taxes to your benefit. 


I love how you say small steps for starting out. Sometimes we get so excited and think so big but we need to remember, one step at a time. Thank you so much Tom for sharing so candidly your experience and advice. The detailed journey of your first year has been such valuable information for other emerging businesses that we have met at our Entrepreneurs! Let's Network! events.