1. Deanna thanks for taking time to talk with us this morning. Can you share your story about how Simple Peace came to be?
I feel that going green does not have to involve compromising quality or style. While on a mission to reduce my paper/plastic bag suburban shopping lifestyle, I started using paper bags exclusively. Then I went to reusing paper bags that were kept in the back of my car. Still dissatisfied with my ecological impact, I bought every reusable canvas, fabric, polypropylene recycled product, and wasn't yet satisfied. They were too flimsy. The more I learned about the environmental impacts of grocery shopping, the more I became obsessed with not only buying organic, local foods, but also with finding a fabric to make a bag to bring it home. I wanted fabric that was organic or sustainable and beautiful.
2. What were some of the major barriers to getting your business up and running and how did you overcome them?
Finding American made products that were reasonably priced for labor and materials. was a huge stumbling block for me in the beginning. It wasn't just that I wanted organic materials, finding anything textile related is almost impossible in the US. Materials and fabric that was grown/ milled and put together in the US is almost nonexistent anymore. It was crazy to think that everything was overseas. Finally I availed and it keeps evolving into better clean grown cotton and giving American and now Morrocoan people jobs etc. I had to stop looking for a large source and started working with small producers using recycled materials. Perseverance and connecting with like minded folks that are interested in keeping things local (as in the US) is what really worked.
3. Before interviews I always do searches for the company and the founder to see what interesting things come up. In your case I see you were a finalist for Martha Stewart's American Made Awards. Can you tell us about how that has changed you and your business?
Even though I started in 2007 I didn't really take it that seriously because it was just for me and I only made my own bags. Then everyone liked them and said I should make them and everyone wanted to buy them and so I just did it for friends/family. Then the Martha Steward thing just came out of the blue and since I was recognized it gave me that kind of "you've made it" feeling because she is the guru of finding unique things. Rightly or wrongly people put a lot of credit in what she says or thinks is cool, so its really helped to grow my business that I wouldn't have gotten from a lot of other avenues.
4. The other day we were talking and you had just scored a large order from one of your wholesalers that wiped a lot of inventory out. How do you handle swings in inventory demand?
by pulling my hair out.......so now I get on the phone with UltraCart Support and have them help me make it look like I have products that aren't there. So then I call UC and get my items on pre-order since I have to run it like that and now everything is on pre-order instead of out of stock. That order almost took out everything. To add to that issue, People Magazine ran a random interview with Ina Garten and she mentioned my bag and so that has compounded the demand. Things like that you can't count on or prepare for, you just enjoy. However it brings with it the challenge of ordering a lot more than what I typically do. I just made an order for 300% of what I normally order. So now I have to sell that too!
5. Do you know how she even found your bags?
No, I don't advertise except on small local stuff like Green Magazine. Since I have green certifications I get listed, so its not like buying ads, they're just finding me. The Martha Stewart thing was the same it came out of the blue and it was like baptism under fire.
I started with these made in the USA bags with clean and green and recycled bags and then my friend in the Peace Corps asked me to sponsor a project in Morocco. I didn't want to do it but my friend was persistent about Free Trade and giving people fair wages for village people that aren't making any money. So he made me feel sad and bad for the workers and so I sponsored the fair trade project in Morocco and that is the part of the business that has really taken off and its made ethically and its just good all the way around.
6. You recently had UltraCart Pro Services create a website / ecommerce platform for www.simplepeace.com. Can you give us some feedback on that experience?
I love my website! Its clean its good its easy to update and it was just great!
7. You wear a lot of hats everyday - business owner, Wife, Mother, Eco-Activist, and more, how do you manage all the demands on your time?
I don't manage, I'm scattered and I could be holding it together a lot better. I could be better at all of those things. The thing that I completely ROCK at is being a mom and everything else is average. I love my kids.
8. What are your plans for Simple Peace as you close out 2013 and look forward to 2014?
I'm growing like crazy which is really cool. I think I might start actually advertising and growing the business on purpose like you're supposed to do when you have a business like hire people and have a real professional nature so I don't have to do everything anymore.
9. Finally, what advice would you give a new UltraCart user when they're just starting out?
I don't know I'm not very good at it. I guess to Be Patient.
That it is a really fabulous system when you get in and figure it out.