Monday, August 20, 2012

Mission: Small Business

Only In Rhode

As some of you may remember, Only In Rhode Island participated in the Mission: Small Business grant award program earlier this year. Businesses all over the country submitted applications and also had to receive at least 250 votes on Facebook to qualify by the deadline of June 30th. Thousands of companies entered for the chance to win a grant of $250,000. Thanks to our amazing facebook friends, we got the votes we needed (if you were one of them - thank you, you rock!!). The results will be announced September 15, 2012, so please keep your fingers crossed!!!

I happened to re-read our application the other day and thought I would share some of what we included. This particular section asked us to describe in 500 words or less what types of challenges our business faces and how we deal with them. This is our answer:

In ou"In our ten years in business we have faced incredible challenges that would not be believable had we not experienced them first-hand. Each of these challenges has strengthened our business in its own way. Our overall approach is to face every challenge head-on and figure out what to do with it. For instance, we faced the economic downturn in 2008, by responding swiftly and effectively based on how our customers were reacting. We focused on value, simplicity, and consumability, which translates into selling a lot of clam chowder and soap for two years! As a result, our sales never fell below previous levels and we were able to maintain growth in sales overall.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as we expand is with quality control and consistency. We frequently take a chance on new or inexperienced suppliers, who may not have an understanding of the demands that go along with consistently increasing production volume. We make every effort to provide guidance and clear communication, as well as potential resources to assist with their growth and development. In some cases, particularly with artists and artisans, they may never have sold to a retail store before and may not even understand how such a relationship works. We don't believe that a lack of marketing or business savvy should prohibit a talented artisan from reaching consumers that can appreciate his work. As a place to start, we currently offer "Potential Vendor Guidelines" on our website to simplify the process of submitting their work/products for consideration in our stores.

As we expand, the need to source from inexperienced vendors will increase. To address this, we are currently writing a book on how to market and sell locally made products. We believe this will be beneficial on many levels, as the producer will not only be better prepared to approach and sell to our company, but may also improve his chances of selling to other businesses. This will allow him to gain valuable knowledge and experience that will benefit our business should we eventually establish a business relationship. Of course, we believe this will also expand awareness and demand for locally-made products, which is our long-term goal."  
So, So with all that being said, we are always looking for fantastic new Rhode Island products and work very hard to respond to all the product submissions we receive. The ingenuity in this State never ceases to amaze me as there seems to be an endless stream of creativity in developing new products. If you are an artist, artisan, or independent business in Rhode Island (or you know someone who is - which you totally do, because this is Rhode Island), please visit our Potential Vendor Guidelines page for information on working with us.