Business of Craft Episode 64 Meg Sutton on Bucking the Trends

WELCOME TO EPISODE #64 OF BUSINESS OF CRAFT

My guest today is Meg Sutton, owner of Belle and Union, a specialty paper and home goods retailer in San Antonio Texas. Meg started the business in 2012 after falling in love with letterpress while working in a boutique shop. Her work has been featured in Country Living, Rachael Ray, Southern Weddings, Southern Living, Southern Lady, and Oh So Beautiful Paper. Meg and her husband Josh run the business together with a focus on a brick and mortar model with All American sourced goods, which we’re going to delve into during our show today.

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#1 I wonder if we can start off with just a little bit about your origin story so we can set the stage for our conversation about choosing brick and mortar and Amercian Made for your business model. [1:50]

#2 One of the biggest challenges to having an All Amercian sourced business is finding competitive manufacturers. How did you two go about that process when you were starting Belle and Union? [3:49]

#3 I’m seeing a trend of a shift back to artisan made goods having great value. People want to buy things from people they know or folks with an awesome story… Is that a big part of Belle and Union? [6:26]

#4 Which comes first, your design or product idea, or the manufacturer? [9:37]

#5 Are there places or trade shows you can go to that specialize in American made goods? [11:02]

#6 What would you say are the biggest challenges to offering and selling American Made goods? [12:56]

#7 I understand you started the biz with an e-commerce model and then decided to open the physical location. With so many local shop owners in the craft space struggling, that must have given you pause… why did that seem like the best approach for you? [16:00]

#8 I think there are a lot of misperceptions about having a brick and mortar location that might be changing. What do you find to be the most common things you hear about that?[20:02]

#9 So, let’s talk a bit more about the practical side of brick and mortar locations. What are some of the hard lessons you’ve learned about choosing a space? How do you know how much space you’ll need, or where it should be located? [25:35]

#10 What about a rental agreement or buying a place? Do you recommend people go with shorter leases to make sure their biz ideas are viable first or maybe longer to lock in rental savings? [29:39]

#11 I understand after your first trip to the National Stationery show, you chose a wholesale first model. How did you determine that was the best path for you? [34:00]

#12 For some craft entrepreneurs, they never get to the place where they can ALSO sell direct to consumer. So, I’m curious, how did you decide that it was time to also introduce retail and then, the bigger question, was there fallout with your wholesale customers who felt you crossed over to being a competitor? [36:23]

#13 It seems like Amazon and retailers like them are continuing to push the boundaries. What do you see for the future of competitive advantage? What becomes the thing that Amazon cannot offer your customer? [38:36]

#14 I always ask an off topic question of my guests, and I know you consider Texas home and your brand is so purely Texan. What are your most favorite Texas traditions? [42:53]