One simple idea is sometimes all it takes to launch a successful business. Come up with something people want or need, or don’t even know they need until you offer it to them, and you’re well on your way. But keeping a successful business going—hiring staff, building a customer base, creating excitement, updating, overhauling, adding new enticements—takes real commitment.
Just ask any one of NICHE magazine’s 2011 Top Retailers. Whether they’ve been in business for more than 30 years, like Top Retailer of the Year Don Muller, of the Don Muller Gallery in Northampton, Mass., or fewer than five, like our New Gallery Top Retailers Fransien Schuller and Terry Brown, of Kala Gallery in Morganton, N.C., every one of them has had to deal with all kinds of business challenges to keep their original ideas going.
They’ll also tell you that real success is a team effort. No gallery owner can just go it alone. Nor would they want to. And that’s what makes small businesses great: everybody on the team has a stake in the company’s success. That’s also why small craft galleries should just forget about trying to mimic big-box retailers and focus on their strengths: personalized service, unique shopping environments, handcrafted products, ongoing customer interactions.
Ask yourself: do you personally know the employee manning the checkout counter at your local Walmart? Does he or she know you? Chances are that neither of you will ever even see each other again, much less care. How very different that is from the craft gallery experience.
This year’s top craft retailers are indeed a very special group of people, and we extend heartfelt congratulations to them all.
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We’re marking a personal milestone of our own at The Rosen Group this year: the Buyers Market of American Craft celebrates its 30th anniversary next month at the winter show in Philadelphia. That, too, started out as a simple idea: dispense with the interminable jurying of artists into annual craft shows and replace it with a venue where, once vetted, artists could reliably show and sell their work every year to gallery retailers.
The idea took flight almost immediately. Better yet, founder Wendy Rosen surrounded herself with staffers who became vested in her idea’s ongoing success. Artists signed on, buyers came with them, and the result was a new kind of craft marketplace that revolutionized everything that came before.
I wasn’t one of the very first Rosen Group employees (I signed on in 1995), but I am fortunate to have been part of the company long enough to experience firsthand the incredible sense of community, camaraderie and connection with buyers and artists the BMAC creates.
It’s a heady experience, and one that makes you want to give everything you’ve got to ensure its continued success.