Three sisters created a handmade business featuring their delightful designs. ABI spoke with MaryBeth Withey, one of the team from A Few Good Bananas.
ABI: What is your business model and how has it evolved?
MBW: A Few Good Bananas is a second career for us, which grew out of a hobby that we all shared. We make a number of women’s accessories using primarily reclaimed materials. We are not afraid to experiment and incorporate all sorts of fibers and textures into our designs.
Our business model has evolved over the years as we figured out what works. It is important to us that we stay passionate about our work, maintain our creative freedom and have fun. Our goal is not to become a huge manufacturing company with tons of employees. We don’t want to go on Shark Tank and we don’t care about becoming millionaires. We simply want to continue working together, expressing ourselves through our fiber art and making a reasonable living.
In the beginning, we tried high-end retail art and craft shows. Not only were they a lot of work and expensive to do, but also results were inconsistent. Retail shows also meant hours out of the studio, the very place where we most want to be! We also tried some custom work and that didn’t work for us either.
What has worked for us is sticking to simple designs, combining beautiful colors with interesting textures and adding our own creative embellishments. We have developed this signature style and moved primarily to wholesale.
ABI: How do you get interaction and customer feedback?
MBW: We think it is important to give our customer’s personal attention and work on building relationships with our current wholesale customers. Each account has its own nuances. so at the end of the season we call our customers to get feedback on what worked and/or what didn’t work for them. While we always welcome new accounts, we place customer retention before building a bigger customer base. Now that our work can be found in so many places customers are finding us and we are growing organically.
On the retail side, we belong to an artist cooperative run by working members. In the coop we get a lot of opportunities to interact with customers and other artists. We also have items on consignment in a few select galleries in New York State. We stay in close contact with the managers and regularly get feedback from them.
We also stay in touch with our entire customer base through social media, including Facebook, Twitter and our website.
ABI: Could you talk about the importance of touch when selling your designs?
MBW: People frequently comment on the way we combine colors and textures. We use so many different types of fibers and textures (silk, cashmere, wool, denim, mohair, ribbons, buttons, vintage finds) in so many different ways (felting, applique, linings) that nothing replaces the experience of seeing and touching our creations.
Photography is two-dimensional and our work is three-dimensional, so there is no way to capture the essence of our work in pictures. Once we get our work into a customer’s hands, it is almost a sure sale. Some of our wholesale accounts are the result of gallery owners seeing our work in person on a customer and contacting us through our website.