This is a follow up story for Temples and Markets. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I am the founder of the online-curated store for ethical and unique gifts Temples and Markets. I also run the retail group the Pop Up Collective in Australia, and last year launched another store.
Temples and Markets showcase artisan-made jewelry, bags, accessories, and home decor unique to the region of South-East Asia. All products in-store have a story and I tell the story behind them thus giving a face to the often cold world of E-commerce, and showcasing the people who make them.
The store features bags and jewelry crafted from recycled and/or sustainable materials; for example, bags made from washable paper and jewelry crafted from recycled bullet casings.
Although my businesses are E-commerce stores I try to have a pop-up gift and fashion shop every November/December in Sydney. I feel having bricks and mortar presence adds so much to the business - not just helping with exposure but also the pop up in-store sales makeup approximately ⅓ of my annual revenue.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Obviously, 2020 was a tough year for retail. Even though Temples and Markets is an online store, my products in store would generally be classed as “want to have” and not “need to have.” Consequently for the middle part of the year, specifically because Australia locked down for a few months, trade was very slow. I used this time to create a new online store for women’s fashion.
I had brought in the fashion designs for the bricks and mortar pop-ups I’d done in the previous 2 years. It was time to upload these pieces to an online store, primarily because I wasn’t sure when I’d be doing another pop-up.
Towards the end of the year, things took a positive turn business wise. Many Australians are used to traveling overseas during summer. Covid meant that we weren’t able to travel and therefore had more discretionary spending. I was offered the opportunity to pop up in a shopping mall and the location was excellent. For the first few weeks revenue was the highest it had been since Temples and Markets began.
Sadly though, another outbreak of Covid took hold in parts of Sydney and although the city didn’t go into total lockdown, customers and their spending reduced significantly overnight. Despite this, the month of December was a lot more successful than I had envisaged overall. Total sales including fashion and gifts from both stores were just over $25000AUD. Without the Sydney pre-Xmas Covid outbreak though, I estimate it would have been at least doubled that.
SEO - using an SEO agency I have made sure more frequent blogging content is added to the site.
Product Range - after 5 years of Temples and Markets I’m now confident I know who my customer is and what they are most interested in.
As a result, I have decided to condense the product range in store and decrease the number of vendors I buy from.
I am taking the store more upmarket - a new range by a French Vietnamese brand E-MOI has been particularly successful. E-MOI bags are handcrafted designer women’s bags crafted from recycled can pull rings. They are priced high-end e.g $275 but I have already placed two top-up orders. The success of the E-MOI collection has shown that my customer will buy higher-priced items if they are unique, ethical but exquisite.
I have created a fairly sizable clearance collection for ranges I won’t be continuing with.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I think Covid has taught us all a big lesson - we can’t take anything for granted. We may think our business is ready to scale and then a worldwide pandemic comes along to throw all of our plans out the window. At times I was ready to close the store during 2020. Fortunately, though I keep ongoing. I could never have predicted how sales would improve as much as they did in November/December.
On a personal front, I have been heavily involved in what one would probably term “political activism” during the last year. Aside from my businesses, this is really where my passion lays - wanting to affect positive change in the world. I created a project called “Reclaim the News” and have formed a small volunteer team, and we are creating content that is targeted at disengaged voters in Australia. Think of us as a smaller Australian version of America’s Lincoln Project who inspired us.
I would never have predicted a year ago that I would be making video podcasts and hard-hitting videos criticizing the Australian government but this is what a lot of my spare time is spent doing.
I am now very active on Twitter as a result of my politics and have made some “Talking Head” videos talking about small business and shopping ethically merging my business and interests. This has given me increased exposure to the business too.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I will be introducing new ranges for Temples and Markets in the next couple of months, specifically a new collection of colorful Buddha figurines normally only available in Vietnam.
Your business will evolve and success rarely comes overnight. Be patient. Be resilient and be open to change.
Marketing spend will be used for FB ads to promote the fashion store.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Not business-related but Michelle Obama’s Becoming prompted me to create my “Reclaim the News” project.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Find your niche. Too many businesses are popping up selling the same as so many others - natural skincare, candles, ethical swimwear. These are saturated markets. Be different. Be daring. Your business needs to reflect you and vice versa. Consumers love the personal effect.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Please don’t launch your business and think that’s the hard part done. That’s the easy part. Your business will evolve and success rarely comes overnight. Be patient. Be resilient and be open to change.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Temples and Markets has provided an update on their business!
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Temples and Markets to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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