Pillow Talk: Tips for Success from National Small Business Award Winner Eric and Christopher

By Adam Wisniewski

In 2012 when artists Eric Fausnacht and Christopher Kline began making canvas pillows by hand in Doylestown, PA, (about 40 miles outside Philadelphia) their basements housed the design, production and sales departments.

baby-goat_medium-pillowDuring their first six months together, Eric created the pillows’ monochromatic animal designs, while Christopher handled printing duties. After selling 1,000 pillows at regional craft fairs, the pair realized their business could scale nationally, but not from their basements.

As their eponymous company grew in sales and size, it moved production into a 7,000-square-foot facility; added tote bags, wall art and custom printing jobs to its product line; and wholesaled to customers like the L.L. Bean flagship store in Maine, The Plaza Hotel in New York City, Pine Cone Hill and the White House Historical Association. All while still making products by hand in Bucks County, PA.

The duo capped off four years of tremendous growth with the 2016 Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur Award from the national SCORE Foundation, a nonprofit network of business experts who volunteer free time and expertise to mentor small business owners.

Learning to handle that growth was one of the most important lessons Eric and Christopher took from their SCORE mentors.

“We experienced explosive growth as the business took off – 50 percent and 70 percent year-over-year,” says Christopher. “We needed to take control of it because things could have spiraled out of hand, but we learned not to be fixated on the numbers, slow down and reevaluate our positions.”

“Our mentors helped us recognize the point to invest more in equipment and people and management,” says Eric. “Christopher and I were doing everything. At some point, we had to stop doing that.”

Erpaco_chihuahua-toteic and Christopher never envisioned wholesaling would be an evolutionary force for their product line. When they first displayed at shows like The Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market®, some buyers were reluctant to pull the trigger on a large order because they didn’t know if the company could fulfill that type of volume at its current size. But returning in following years and reconnecting allowed those relationships to bear fruit.

“Now our vendors ask us to expand our line,” says Eric, who describes new offerings like aprons, tea towels and other textiles. “And up to 30 percent of our business now is custom jobs. I didn’t foresee that. We are actually being approached to print yardage, and because we manufacture here in Pennsylvania, we may not be cheaper than their overseas manufacturers, but we can do smaller runs with quick turnaround to get them to market faster.”

What advice would the duo give their past selves about attending Market?

“We spend so much time and effort on the product that market often sneaks up on us,” says Christopher. “We need to set aside more time to prepare and really dig into the retail sales cycle.”

On a more practical level, Eric recalls driving his truck down from Pennsylvania stuffed to the brim to stock his first AmericasMart® booth. “I didn’t know about direct shipping or that AmericasMart could store our booth. We should have done that from the start and put extra effort into making our booth presentation more professional and clean.

“We love our products and respond to what our customers love about them,” says Eric. “People like the cleanliness, the simple images and the quality of construction. Cute, but not kitschy. Sophisticated – that is us.”


Congratulate Eric and Christopher in the newly integrated Home Accents, Home Furnishings, Fine Linens & Home Textiles and Rug collections in Building 1, Floor 7. ANTIQUES in Building 1, Floor 2 closes at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 15. Temporaries in Buildings 1, 2 and 3, including Temps for The Atlanta International Area Rug Market® featuring The National Oriental Rug Show sponsored by ORIA are open through 2 p.m. on Monday, January 16.

Designing in Black & White

AmericasMart Atlanta

Top Image: Loloi, Inc. 1. Pigeon & Poodle 2. Currey & Company 3. Aidan Gray 4. Emporium Home by Ashley Childers 5. C.R. Gibson, LLC 6. Dimond Lighting 7. The Howard Elliott Collection 8. J. Douglas, Inc. 9. Barbara Cosgrove Lamps 10. Gold Leaf Design Group, Inc. 11. Waylande Gregory Studios12. Ambella Home Collection, Inc.

Shop product in every color during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market,® January 10 – 17, 2017, and select showrooms open year-round.

A Welcome Wagon

Texas retailer hitches her fortune to AmericasMart
By Poormina Apte

Sangeeta Gupta, the owner of Modelli Creations, was just starting out and Carley Seale, then a rookie retailer, fell in love with the products. Today Modelli is one of the many wholesalers that anchors Seale’s The Gypsy Wagon, which has two locations in Texas: Dallas and Austin. An additional operation, ROAM Fine Goods, makes up the vibrant retail selection in Crested Butte, Colo.

A STEADY RIDE

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The Gypsy Wagon got its start in 2007 in the middle of the Great Recession. But the economy did not faze Seale who was bitten by the retail bug in high school. Seale left her job as vice president of a sales team for a medical devices company and opened the first Gypsy Wagon in Dallas. Since then, the business has grown, employing 31 people across all three locations.

The stores’ vibe is “very wanderlust and free-spirited,” with just hints of the South. Not having a “lick of retail experience” Seale wanted to create a store that stocked reasonably priced goods for everyone, not realizing how difficult that would be to implement. The name The Gypsy Wagon has given her room to grow and Seale, whose husband Johnny, is operations chief, says every product is selected to incite an emotional response. Starting with home decor and gifts, the stores have added apparel and footwear under the guidance of three full-time buyers including Seale.

Selling a variety of home, gift and apparel items from Paddywax candles to Flying Bird Botanical teas and dresses from Show Me Your Mumu, The Gypsy Wagon has a dedicated customer base and devoted fans on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

ATLANTA, HOTLANTA
An AmericasMart fan, Seale is particularly partial to Handmade and HIGH DESIGN
and believes AmericasMart has the most to offer in one stop. “I shop Atlanta, New York and Dallas but if I had to pick one it would be Atlanta because it has everything—the southern feel, the latest products. It has the most to offer in one location,” Seale says.

Seale’s competitive streak means that she’s always an early bird at Cash and Carry. “If there’s something that’s one of a kind I want to be the one to get it,” she says. Seale doesn’t have a set strategy for shopping at AmericasMart and appreciates the sense of discovery that comes from just taking it all in. “I like it to be a little unstructured because that’s when your mind is open to seeing new things,” Seale says.

That’s how Seale discovers great product finds including Modelli at AmericasMart years ago. “Sangeeta keeps bringing awesome stuff, and it’s neat that you can cultivate that kind of relationship,” Seale says of Modelli’s owner.

“That’s why you have to keep going too, because you don’t know who will be there
for the first time,” Seale advises, “You really don’t want to miss anything.”


Join us for The Atlanta Fall Immediate Delivery Show® – A Cash & Carry Event, November 1 – 3, 2016 at AmericasMart. From jewelry to furniture, and everything in between, restock your inventory instantly with products your customers need for the holidays and beyond.

Carley Seale is the owner of The Gypsy Wagon which has locations in Dallas and Austin, Texas. Husband, Johnny Seale is operations chief. For more information, visit www.the-gypsy-wagon.com. Seale has a third store, ROAM Fine Goods in Crested Butte, Colo.

Images: Scott Light Photography

Alfresco Summers

Teach customers how to create the perfect outdoor table
by Steve McKenzie

Warm weather, long days and starry nights lead us outside, spending time with friends and family, making memories over an alfresco lunch, dinner, drinks and picnics. A little prep ahead of time ensures you are ready to go at a moment’s notice, equipped with the proper entertaining items, creating less stress for you and putting your guests at ease.

Creating the atmosphere
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to present an impressive outdoor table setting, full of style and design. From melamine dishware that look just like old-world European hand-painted pottery to synthetic crystal and polycarbonate glassware that look and feel like hand blown glass and crystal. Your guests will be delighted with your thoughtful alfresco setting, and you’ll keep your cool in the summer heat.

This season two major color palettes have emerged for outdoor entertaining. The first is the combination of pink and orange. This combination, used in conjunction with greenery or citrus green accents, shouts summer is here. The other big trend is all things blue and white, again. Yes, it is true that traditional blue and white was never really out, but it is so hot this summer. When you set a table with these palettes it tells your guests they are about to enjoy a special experience.

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Selecting the products
Let’s take a closer look at the materials: who provides them and how to care for them. The unbreakable melamine china of
Le Cadeaux comes in more than 11 patterns and 13 solids. It is dishwasher safe and practically indestructible. Your guests will not know it is melamine until they pick it up. They have two fabulous new patterns Tangerine—a beautiful turquoise, light blue and citrus pattern evocative of a Moroccan tile; the second, Havana—in blue and white, celebrates the new open relations with Cuba, bringing a bit of the island to your home.

The crystal and glass looking items of Mario Luca Giusti, made from a synthetic acrylic, feel in weight and design like their crystal counter parts. They come in a wide variety of styles from highball glasses to wine stems and even pitchers. You can set your table and not worry about glass breaking poolside or on the terrace, yet as you look at the table it sparkles and feels like crystal. On the more traditional side of glassware is the acrylic of Baci Milano, also distributed by Le Cadeaux. In its crystal turquoise and blush, it is reminiscent of the delicate pressed glass of a fine crystal house.

Le Jacquard Francais introduced some of their beautiful jacquard cotton weave patterns with an acrylic coating on one side. It is a hardy material, perfect for family meals, that wipes clean with a damp cloth. Occasionally, you can machine wash it, knowing it will withstand years of use. The best part is you do not compromise the beautiful French styling for practical function.

To add the last bit of excitement to your table, Sabre from France has amazing flatware, every color of the rainbow. Accent your table beautifully with their nylon-handled stainless as well as amazing serving pieces in Acrylic with fun patterns in any color you need. All are non-breakable, colorfast and dishwasher safe. With all the new products in the outdoor living market, the only remaining decision is to choose your date, invite your guests and then relax and enjoy.

For more information: Mario Luca Giusti – mariolucagiusti.com or Rosse & Associates, Inc.; Le Jacquard Français – le-jacquard-francais.com or Rosse & Associates, Inc.; Sabre – sabre.fr or Rosse & Associates, Inc.; and Le Cadeaux – lecadeaux.com or Tango.


Steve McKenzie and his wife Jill own a home décor and lifestyle store, steve mckenzie’s, located in Atlanta’s Westside design district. At this location they operate their interior design business and offer a collection of home furnishings, accessories and tabletop as well as a line of textiles derived from his paintings. They parlayed his designs into a line of upholstery, rugs through Verde Home and a line of women’s scarves.

Join us September 19 – 23, 2016 for Fall Design Week featuring Atlanta Gourmet & Gift. Shop in a relaxed environment, spend one-on-one time with your favorite showrooms, and hear speakers like Steve McKenzie, who is participating in a panel entitled Naturally Inspired: How Art, Design and Nature Collide at Serenbe — and the 2016 Serenbe Showhouse. After the panel we will be giving away five complimentary tickets to the Serenbe Showhouse as well as fresh goodies from Serenbe Farms.

Images courtesy of: Mario Luca Giusti, Le Jacquard Francais, Sabre and Le Cadeaux

The Global Lens – Materials and Surface Design

By Patti Carpenter, AmericasMart Global Trend Ambassador

Patti CarpenterProducts draw me in. Each exerts a power and pull over me. This innate power is one of the ways I determine the quality of the things I am regarding. I enjoy touching and engaging with all manner of products. I often have to restrain myself, even in galleries and museums from reaching out to touch that powerful energy. Perhaps this strong instinct comes from my years in product development, so with this caveat, let’s now focus on the concepts and trends influencing the categories of materials, print, pattern and surface design.

As members of the global community we grasp the importance of our collective impact as we focus on our connectedness to the earth and to each other. This focus means that round forms and circular inspirations bubble to the fore and figure prominently for the season, showing themselves as dots, circles and perforations. We honor the ability and artistry applied to the fragile quality of fine porcelain. We see ourselves reflected in the high shine and polished surfaces of metals mirroring carefree times gone by, and maybe even, dare I say it, those decadent disco days!

Exaggerations in texture, in conjunction with interesting and intricate tactile compositions, create new constructions and fabrications. These new materials embody our desire to interface and beckon us to engage with products in a more intimate way. The artisans’ hands or the creative use of technology inspires me, and I want to reach out and touch or be touched by supple, structured surfaces.

Here are some teasing touches calling for my caress this season.

Materials: Whether touched by the hands of master craftspeople or forged by technology, the newest textiles and substrates encourage a new kind of product interaction.

  • Textures – Structured, substantial surfaces engage us to touch, as they are tactile and  tangibleTactile Textures
  • Metallics – Gold, Silver and newest Copper or Rose Gold, mine these metals, retro and reflective, and cast them in major rolesGolden MomentsSilver ShinesCoper Tones
  • Porcelain – Fine, fragile and white by design, the delicacy and artistry spark new interest in this age-old mediumPrecious Porcelain

Print/Pattern/Surface Design: Surface design exploration creates a contemporary visual
conversation and offers up engaging new intricacies and aesthetics

  • Small Graphic Geos and Repeats – small-scale prints and jacquards are big on styleTip The Scale
  • Perforations, Circles and Dots – the circle is the shape of the season, punched, printed or woven Circle Back
  • Organic Edging – whether created by the hand of the artist, skilled technical craftsmanship, or the whim of nature, each is uniqueOrganic Rims

Till the next time, let’s continue the creative conversation and let me know what’s touching you.


 

See these trends and more at the Atlanta Spring Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market®, March 2-4, 2016.

 

Lighting Up

Why hanging light fixtures offer a sales lift

Ro-Sham Beaux2            Low Country Originals             Emporium Home Tulip Pendant

Sales of hanging light fixtures are looking up. Unique designs and applications coupled with a growing interest among designers and homeowners have given the category seemingly boundless potential for the coming year. “I believe more people than ever understand how important lighting is in a room,” says Ashley Childers, founder and creative director of Emporium Home, the Arkansas-based maker of home decor and jewelry. “Hanging lighting is a focal point that can change the look of an entire room and provide anew perspective.”

Ann Rogers, owner and principal designer of the lighting firm Ro Sham Beaux in Ro-Sham BeauxCharleston, S.C., says she notices more designers using hanging fixtures as the featured element in their room designs than ever before. “Designers call us all the time eager to get their orders because they built the room around lighting and have everything else done,” she says.

Savannah-based designer Libby Boyden emphasized lighting so much in her designs that she partnered with lighting designer Becky Brackett to launch the Savannah-based lighting company Lowcountry Originals. “I think there’s a demand for lighting in general because our homes are more detailed and lighting is one of the most important components of a completed space,” says Boyden. “Lighting fixtures are details that can make or break a room.”

Innovative Construction The development of hanging fixtures as focal points is possible only because a handful of small businesses are pushing the envelope of design. If there is one overriding trend in this niche, it’s a natural and decidedly low-tech look, which Rogers says is rooted in designers’ and consumers’ desire for familiarity and comfort. “There are a lot of things happening in our world that are driving change,” Rogers says. “The old, traditional light bulb is going away. I think people are subconsciously trying to do things that are more interesting and beautiful to mask the CFL bulbs being used now.”

Emporium Home incorporates natural minerals into its fixture designs, a painstaking process because no two mineral slices used are the same. “All the mechanics that hold Emporium Home Agate-Burst-Chandelier-Brass1the mineral slices in place are adjustable so we can accommodate the different sizes and thicknesses,” says Childers. It’s a look that can’t be mass produced. Nor can the bohemian designs of Rogers’ pieces. “We’re the only ones who do hemp wraps on our frames for beaded lights,” she says. “It’s  time consuming and almost impossible to replicate.” The result – fixtures that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. That’s why Boyden says it’s so important for retailers to have these fixtures in stock so the customers can see them in person. An image online won’t do them justice. “We have some art galleries who are buying our pieces because each one is a handcrafted piece of art, and they display it that way,” she says.

Showing Off  Fabulous product won’t sell if it’s not displayed to full advantage – especially when it should hang. Rogers suggests cross merchandise hanging fixtures with other decor and furniture pieces in vignette settings to let customers see firsthand how they can incorporate the pieces into their homes. “We’ve been in a couple lighting stores where it’s a jumble of lights everywhere, and our pieces don’t do as well there because they get lost,” she says. Childers, Rogers and Boyden all agree that keeping the fixtures lit in a vignette display helps, and they work with retailers and designer showrooms to ensure they have all the plugs and cords necessary to properly install them. “I understand from retailer’s perspective it can be a big hurdle to jump,” says Childers. “But when I walk into a showroom, it makes such a huge difference when you have hanging lighting displayed fully lit. It completes the space.”

LowCountry Originals shell drum pendantThe vendors encourage dealers and designers to get creative with the kinds of vignettes they create to showcase hanging fixtures and think beyond traditional placement. These pieces can go anywhere in the home now. “We do a lot of lot of foyers and tons of bathrooms,” says Rogers. “One of our biggest clients is a catalog that sells most of our fixtures for bedrooms. It’s really all about how the fixtures are displayed in stores. Retailers have to help consumers visualize the potential.”

It’s not just traditional interior designers who are incorporating hanging fixtures. One of the biggest trends in homes right now is using fixtures outside in covered porches and verandas. Landscape lighting professionals love to be able to offer another element to customers. “Because there’s so much more beautiful lighting out there, you can find the right piece at AmericasMart for virtually anywhere,” says Boyden. “There really are no limits.”

All these exhibitors are part of AmericasMart Atlanta. Emporium Home can be reached at 501-376-4663 or at emporiumhome.com; Lowcountry Originals can be reached at 843-815-8080 or at lowcountryoriginals.net; Ro Sham Beaux is at 843-789-3478 or 843-789-3614 or ro-sham-beaux.com.

 

Gift & Home: On the Map

SouthernLinkAs the world becomes smaller and Google Earth can show you almost any place instantly, people are increasingly more interested in locations. Not just where am I, but where do I want to go? Maps and charts have the unique ability to both be a comforting reminder of home as well as a spark to dream of faraway lands.

 

Cavallini karma living Linon

Exhibitors at The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market® in July 2014 showcase myriad ways to incorporate cartography into home décor as well as gifts and even fashion. Whether you want to create a display of hometown pride or inspire travel or simply create an eclectic display, there’s a wealth of product available across categories.

Antique, unique, whimsical or abstract, there’s an interpretation to suit any retailer. Help your customers travel while staying put or bring a touch of home to a faraway place.

Cat Studio Galleon International chART