Sunday, March 1, 2009

Member & Future INCrowdteam Market Host Sakura Urban Gets Press

Did you know that the INCrowdteam is on the verge of opening its first storefront? Yeah! It's very exciting. One of our team's members, Sakura Urban, has a lovely store at 425 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Want to stop by and see for yourself? Get directions, stop in, and surprise Theresa, the owner.

But back to the point...normally we don't publicize individual stores on the team blog, but there's a tie-in: Sakura Urban is planning to provide us with the use of her basement for a team-wide consignment shop, The INCrowdteam Market. It's not just a basement, either: it's finished in lovely glossy shades of brick red with some raw brick walls. It has recessed lighting, some pendant fixtures over artistically-crafted shelving units, and best of all: it has a small stage area.

What does this mean for our readers? We'll keep you posted on the progress as we make a basement into a fully-functioning INCrowdteam store with a physical address and hours. Members will rent space by the month for their work, and the array of items will change from month to month.

The cream to this tale? For those of you familiar with the Mass Ave area, you might have guessed. For those who don't, I have three words for you - IDADA First Fridays. What does that mean? An open house on the first Friday of each month. Noshes & nibblies. Lots of foot traffic. Using the stage in Sakura Urban's basement for live music. Socializing and celebrating art! Direct sales to the greater Indianapolis public!!

Since this promises to be an important project with long-lasting ramifications for the INCrowdteam, I am reprinting pertinent portions of this article about Sakura Urban from her own blog post. Theresa herself will be posting future clues to the hows & whens of The INCrowdteam Market soon. Enjoy!

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Artisans craft national niche
Firm use[s] Internet, trade shows to get wares into boutiques
by Gabrielle Poshadlo, gposhadlo@ibj.com
Indianapolis Business Journal (IN)

Local fashionistas know Sakura Urban as a cute little Massachusetts Ave boutique, though it's slightly less little since its move last month to a space nearly twice the original size. The exposed brick walls and vintage hardware are an appropriate backdrop for Sakura's slightly deconstructed-looking leather handbags that move so quickly shoppers rarely see the same one twice.

The store is doing well for itself, admits owner Theresa Goodwin. But by her choice, that's about all it's doing. Goodwin prefers to reinvest the shop's profit into more merchandise and earn her living in a different way.

The Sakura Urban storefront is meant to maintain a local presence for Goodwin's much larger wholesale business - a national market where her handmade leather bags are making a killing. She's not the only local artist raking in out-of-state wholesale dollars. [Goodwin was] able to get the word out for the fledgling business via the Internet and by connecting with boutiques and other buyers through trade shows. It's a strategy that's boosting many businesses with a narrow focus, said Bela Florenthal, assistant professor of marketing at Butler University.

"It's only because we have the Internet that it's easier for very specialized businesses to succeed since they are able to keep their inventory and investment to a minimum," she said.

Sewing a new career
Goodwin, 25, had never touched a sewing machine before she bought one on a whim two years ago. She was the catering manager at the Union Station Crowne Plaza, a hospitality career she began unintentionally while earning a degree in visual communications from Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI.

"I needed to create something," she said. "So I just sat down and started sewing."

Goodwin began working with a cotton Japanese print that caught her eye. That's where the name Sakura Urban came from, which translates roughly to urban cherry blossom.

Goodwin loved her design, a boxy messenger bag with a thick strap and frayed edges. Little did she know a lot of other people would love it, too. She put the bags on Etsy.com, a site where artists worldwide can post their wares and make them to order. Since Goodwin's goal was to make custom bags, allowing clients to choose their fabrics, she figured the online community was a good place to test the market.

Seven months later, bolts of fabric had outgrown Goodwin's downtown condo, which she shares with her husband, Joel. So she opened her store and a studio space in the Stutz Building.

Goodwin hadn't planned on taking wholesale orders, at least not yet. But retailers almost immediately started using her Etsy boutique to request her cloth bags and another version in leather. That's when Goodwin invested in leatherworking equipment and dove in. She quit her day job.

Sakura Urban's products range from leather flower rings ($12 retail) to large leather totes ($250). She now sells to more than 20 chic little retail shops across the country. The average first order is $350, she said, which includes smaller items like wristlets, coin purses and leather jewelry.

A $1,000 order shows true interest and includes a little bit of everything in Goodwin's repertoire: leather messenger bags, totes, pouches, wristlets and so on.

Goodwin agree[s] that online networking is a great way to spread the word about their products, but they say trade shows also are essential.

That's no surprise to Florenthal, the Butler professor.

"Especially with art, consumers won't buy the product unless they can confirm the quality for themselves and establish credibility face to face," she said. "Trade shows are an excellent way to do that."

Building buzz
Goodwin is getting more attention. This month, she'll be attending her third trade show, where she will debut her new line featuring hobo bags in pleated leather. That's in addition to her "poppy" line, which she developed last year. The poppy wristlet, a small bag adorned with three-dimensional leather flowers planted in a neat row, has earned her editor recognition on Etsy and stirred plenty of interest on the home front.

Goodwin recently received a $10,000 grant to make handbags out of the RCA Dome roof-a fund-raiser for the Indy Parks Foundation.

She doesn't expect to make a profit from the project, since the grant only will cover her costs, such as new equipment she purchased to sew the tough roof material. The bags will be sold exclusively at Sakura Urban, with the first wave hitting shelves on Jan. 22.

Goodwin says the dome bags are keeping her so busy that it's tough for her to keep up with orders for her Sakura line. But she says being part of this green project is worth it for a good cause and she'll get plenty of exposure for her business, even if none of that green comes her way.

Goodwin says the next step for her business is to hire a PR person and perhaps open another retail location.

But Florenthal said [Sakura Urban] may not look all that different in five years-unless [she] opt[s] to bring in more artistic firepower.

"There are only so many hours in a day and many artists aren't comfortable letting anyone else create the product," she said.

"On the other hand, if the owners are willing to restrict themselves to the design element and let someone else handle the construction, then there's no limit as to where they can go."

3 comments:

  1. What a phenomenal success story!

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  2. I know! VERY exciting stuff. It's wonderful to watch or learn about some whose talent & drive combine to exceed most and create success for themselves; it's even more amazing when they prove themselves to be as generous and motivated about helping others as Theresa obviously is. I feel very lucky to know her.

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  3. Wow! I didn't read this til now, but how exciting... I already love Mass Ave. This gives me a reason to love it even more.

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