Entrepreneur Chrisie Canny of FortuneKeeper talks about launching her product, taking risks and enjoying the profits of a growing wholesale business.
ABI: How does your FortuneKeeper concept work?
CC: FortuneKeeper opens to hold your favorite fortune , saying, mantra or goal. FortuneKeepers come in a key chain, necklace or bracelet in either a beaded or stainless steel style. The item consists of two pieces with a beautiful image on lucite on one piece and a clear piece on the other side.
They are held together with rare earth magnets that you slide to open and insert your favorite fortune (sometimes you have to tuck the paper a little since fortune sizes vary across the country) Each comes packed in a reusable tin with a story card explaining the image (all based on a positive outlook) and starter book of fortunes with 3 fortunes and a blank so that it is ready to give as a gift.
ABI: How did you get started selling your products?
CC: We started selling FortuneKeeper first by starting a Facebook page and asking our friends to like us, then we used Etsy and Payvment Apps to start selling and taking PayPal and credit cards. (tell as many friends that you can about what you are making and selling, wear it always if you can!)
Our next step was to start doing flea markets and street fairs on the weekends. We did that for awhile, then decided to try to get in to the Holiday Market at Columbus Circle which is outdoors, for Christmas 2010. We got the spot two days before it opened. We had nothing. We took measurements, ran to Ikea and set the booth up the next day and opened up the day after that. We froze and worked like crazy. We really did not have stock, so we worked all day at the booth and stayed up all night. Sometimes you just have to take a risk or we would have talked ourselves out of it.
Up to this point we were retail only. In the middle of all that craziness I decided to put in an application to New York’s Newest at the New York International Gift Fair (Jan 2011). We heard back in a few days and got in. Hello Wholesale! We were so not ready but we survived December and had an awesome booth for our first wholesale show.
We had some great orders, some major ones like Borsheim’s and small mom and pop stores from across the US. Never look down at a small order since a first order that was 18 pieces has turned into thousands with UncommonGoods! We even had a custom order from someone that we met a Columbus Circle who bought one piece and called us 9 months later for a 1000 piece custom order! So don’t ever be discouraged or rude or cranky at a booth because you are hot or tired because you never what that person does or who they are. Every customer should be treated with respect!
ABI: Tell us about the retail store that you owned.
CC: I owned a small retail store called Wixx Candles and Gifts in Brooklyn , NY. I carried beautiful candles, mouth blown glass, lamps, ornaments, frames and etc… I had been in retail since I was 15, I started doing windows by the time I was 17 and started assisting in buying when I was 18.
I have always loved going to gift shows and show rooms and finding that new item to fall in love with and see the reaction of your customer when you get it in. I was given the opportunity to open my store when I was 26. I was married and had a three year old. It was a lot of hours, especially at Christmas! Wixx was open for 5 and a half years but due to a changing neighborhood and bigger chain stores carrying cheap candles, I decided to close. I learned a lot by that experience and it prepared me to be on the other side. It taught me what to do and not do as a wholesaler.
ABI: What do you think retailers really want from their vendors?
CC: I think that retailers want many things from a wholesaler! Excellent packaging helps sell your product for both you and them. It was important to me that our product look good if there were 50 on the shelf or just one. I hated when you would get stuck with something and it would sit since it got lost in the store. Retailers want delivery on time, so don’t be late. Retailers want exclusivity, I know this is a hard one. Some companies will sell to everyone, I understand, but customers get hurt when they go out of the way to a show out of town and get all excited to get a company no one else has and then you sell it to their next door neighbor too! Believe me I want every sale, but I remember what this felt like and turns off the retailer. Go out of your way to check that the store is not next door and establish what your rules are going to be on this, one retailer per zip or maybe it is open to all – just let that customer know.
Retailers also want to know how your product works or interesting facts about it. The more interaction or talking they can do about your product, the more sales you will have. So make sure to educate your retailer! With our FortuneKeeper product, not only can we tell them what it does and how it works, but we can say that there is a how-to video and that each image has a story that you can tell your customer about and that it comes with a starter kit that can be personalized! Make it easy for them!
ABI: You’ve been working with a major catalog for about a year. What has your experience been with them?
CC: Working with a major catalog has been great experience. UncommonGoods has been a great way for the US to get familiar with our product. Sometimes the catalog company wants a discount. Instead of getting upset, realize the exposure that you can get. We did the Union Square Holiday Market (2011) and we were treated like rock stars because people loved to meet the artist from the catalog and say “I saw you!”
Another great thing about working with a catalog like UncommonGoods is that they help you. They want both parties to succeed. They helped us with our new bracelet that they will now be selling!