This is a follow up story for The Green Collective. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hello, I’m Emma and I own The Green Collective.
I sell high-quality eco products that have a distinctive difference. It might be color, or collating with different artists to give the products a strong design edge. The most popular product is the SPRUCE cloth. A 100% plant-based eco cloth that has now reached over 75 different available designs. The other textile products also move well with the reach of these spread over them all quite equally.
Customers have been using the same products for a long time which builds brand loyalty to come and trust me with any new lines I launch. They also buy as gifts and I would guess that close to ⅓ of my website sales are bought to be gifted. I might be slightly biased, but the designs are really fabulous and people have been known to frame them! Yes, frame a dishcloth - next level huh!
The last year has been odd. Covid closed stores in NZ for a few weeks, and although I had some online sales through ‘essential stores’ that stocked kitchen and home items the sales really stalled. We were incredibly lucky here in NZ and things opened up relatively quickly compared to the rest of the world. As things opened up stores were more confident in purchasing stock again but often at smaller volumes so they didn’t carry too much in such an uncertain time. I pulled through that last financial year about on par with the previous year. I was happy with that when many others decided to close around me.
My biggest advantages are that I still work from a home office and I don't have any employees. I contract some work out to local sewers and craftspersons, however, most do the remainder myself. Not having the overheads of a physical lease or employment contracts made the journey through 2020 pretty smooth
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
In the last year, I haven't increased the range of products but the designs in each line have expanded. This was a conscious decision to play it safe, with so much room to explore the products I had. It was fun and made sense to me.
Just ask someone you really admire and you might be surprised at the answer. Be brave!
I have ideas I have been sitting on for years and maybe soon I’ll have the confidence to launch them. I am not sure what is holding me back. I trust my gut and I think it has to do with not being 100% happy with where the product is at so I am still tweaking, fiddling, and perfecting.
I have been aiming to be more consistent with my customer and stockist emails. Providing more tips and ‘how to's' to educate and offer more of a service. I still use Mailchimp at the moment and Canva to add some interesting images. Honestly, I still only send one email a month to each group. Nothing compared to other brands.
I have been doing less paid advertising as I didn’t see any significant results through the use of individual discount codes. Being able to track this has certainly been useful.
Some of my best traction has been through groups that do live educational talks. I am a Gold sponsor at one in particular so one or two of my products gets handed as a freebie giveaway to each attendee. Amazing to get your product into people’s hands who are there to learn about living with less waste. My perfect customer base.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I played the last year pretty safe. I have a young family and another job so unlike some businesses who took full advantage of the lockdown period to rebrand / pivot / do an internal review etc I was in survival mode playing multiple roles to get through.
There have been some amazing Small Business groups started in the last year, and a timely push to support local, buy local, and less fast fashion. Great timing for my business so I was able to join many of these groups who offered free signups and marketing channels to get your brand exposure. Each of these opportunities takes time to set up, load images, and fill in the necessary paperwork to get up and running. Some offered a sales channel so it was time-consuming linking payment pathways, loading up stock, and tracking inventory across more networks than ever before. A bit more to manage BUT I did each one and think it has played a part in still being around now. My brand is more familiar to more faces than before with a lot of new introductions. For that, I am grateful for those changes and the time it took!
I am a jack of all trades but master of none. Always willing to have a go. Yup, many times someone else would be better and faster but it’s still really hard to part with $500-$1000 here and there to outsource. I ask lots of questions and amaze myself with what I know now and understand because I was stubborn enough to do it myself. Typical Capricorn (from what I know, but am mostly told by others haha)
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I AM, yes I AM going to launch some of the new products I have been working on. Quite excited about these. Watch this space. Going to dabble with Amazon and see how I get on and expand further into Australia. I have a few stockists and send orders worldwide but would love to grow this area.
I have also been doing more Custom orders for other businesses, charities, and foundations. It is a lot of fun, plus I get to talk to exciting people during the day as they plan and design.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Podcasts I listen to as I work. It’s been a while since I read a business book as I have delved into some really random but fascinating nonfiction reading.
Feel Better, Live More. Insights, research-based tricks into keeping your brain, and body happy.
Conversations - fascinating interviews.
Ologies - who knew there were so many. Plus she has a potty mouth and I love her interview style.
Business is Boring - a fascinating insight into NZ businesses. Fab interviewer and you hear all the stories.
Under the skin - Love Russell. Even if I don’t always agree, he has such an interesting perspective.
The Happiness Lab
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Now more than ever people are keen to collab and co-create. Just ask someone you really admire and you might be surprised at the answer. Be brave!
Look at your daily tasks. Write them in order of the things you love at the top. See if you can outsource anything from the bottom of the list to free up a little more time for you to spend on the top of the list activities.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Always collaborating with different artists for designs on the SPRUCE and tea towels. I do get emails each week and sometimes I am overwhelmed by the number of people contacting me. Apologies If I haven’t replied. Sometimes the overall feel of a new collection doesn’t match the designs I see coming through but I save all contact details to review for when it might.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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