Monday, September 20, 2010

The Shop Local Fast Buy Experiment


Even though our company has been in Oakland for nearly 15 years, we've never really opened our doors to the local community, instead we have been "online".

Lack of room and lack of English language skills amongst our staff were two big reasons for this, but there was also the comfort of the "we are an online business" cocoon. It's a warm, easy place to hide where your best foot forward can be shod in a fuzzy bedroom slipper because no one is looking.
Living in that cocoon has two major unintended pitfalls:
  • When you sell online, you tend to source your inventory and supplies online, which means you tend to not support your local economy;
  • Those online transactions you send out and bring in are all shipped, which impacts the environment both in terms of packaging and freight costs. (In fact, last year my freight and shipping costs were double what I paid to all my employees combined).

Early this year, I made a commitment to change. My first pass was to hire a woman (Ivy) to open a retail shop for us. Unfortunately, that relationship did not work out, but it was a helpful distraction because it gave me a better understanding of what kind of shop we could have at our warehouse.

Mid year, I hired two new employees who speak English as their first language and who are eager to see us open a shop. They pushed me to hire a designer to conceptualize the space (my sister, actually, Amber Westerman). Working with Amber really helped us get a better grasp on what we could do here and how it should lay out for the ease of customer use and the security and safety of all involved.

While Amber's design is still being finalized (and we think it will be awesome!), we wanted to start bringing in those local people and so we decided to host a Fast Buy.

The Fast Buy concept is simple, bring in Pails, Pallets, Bags and Buckets of raw materials that local soap/salt/bath and body folks might need for their upcoming craft shows, invite them down for a one day You Pack You Pour, and start the conversation going.....

.....What do you want? What do you need? Did you know you could get Olive Oil in Oakland from a third-generation company? Did you know you could get massage lotion from a second-generation company out by the airport? Aren't those increased container minimums horrible? I heard we could get them from .....

..... and such talk and so forth. If we know of each other, we can work together to support each other.

Our fingers are crossed, we hope to see Bay Area crafters here October 2, 2010 from 8am to noon! If you know someone who might be interested, please pass the word along!

2 comments:

Jen said...

i've always wanted to source locally and i am SO excited you are putting together this event for us bay area folks. I know this will lead to beautiful things.

Kaila Westerman, TKB Trading, LLC said...

Yea! See you there!