By Christine Bates | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristin Swati started her e-commerce business www.fawnshoppe.com in Lower Manhattan after leaving a career in finance. The internet-only shopping site offers high quality children’s clothing and toys as well as home goods for all ages. She relocated her creative and fulfillment operations to Main Street in Millerton, NY, in 2016. Main Street Magazine interviewed her over coffee at Irving Farm.
How would you describe Fawn Shoppe?
We like to think of ourselves as a fun place to discover how to live with, play along, and dress someone small.
What gave you the idea?
Shopping for children is filled with nostalgia and the desire to form lasting memories for the future. We wanted to create a curated destination for parents to imagine the beautiful things they want their children sur-rounded by.
What was your background before starting Fawn Shoppe?
I worked on Wall Street prior to starting Fawn Shoppe. I really see this business as a continuation of every-thing I’ve ever done. We are investing capital in the production of pieces that we believe our customers will be excited to buy. We work on a smaller scale now, no pun intended, but the overall strategy is similar in many ways.
How did you learn about the business? Did you write a business plan?
Entrepreneurship is trial by fire. The internet and social media have opened the doors of information – it is now entirely possible to immerse oneself in any sphere and become an authority over time. In the offline world, trade shows were and remain a key place to interact with designers and other industry professionals. Business plans are important road maps, but nothing beats jumping in with both feet and building actual front line experience.
What was the biggest surprise once you got started?
Even the best designed plans become obsolete quickly in many early-stage businesses, particularly in e-com-merce. In the first year, we pivoted on seemingly everything: target audience, product mix, marketing strategy, and internal processes.
Where do your products come from? What is your product mix?
Our products come primarily from European and American small-scale producers. We partner with brands that share our values, like remaining conscious of environmental impact and adhering to standards of ethical labor practices.
Was building an e-commerce website difficult?
We are in a period of rapid technological advancement where even the most daunting tasks are achievable. Our website is an ever-evolving and living-breathing thing. We are committed to giving our customers the best user experience possible, which means change and then more change.
What brought you to building a fulfillment center in the middle of the Village of Millerton?
This collection of towns is such a unique and vibrant community as well as geographically ideal for our business. Our proximity to New York City facilitates buying and gives us access to a wealth of independent contractors, as well as a talented labor pool.
How many employees do you have?
We have four full-time employees and one part-time professional, all of whom are local, in addition to a num-ber of external contractors. Early stage businesses are very much shaped in culture by early employees – we have been fortunate to be able to select and build a great team.
Who are your competitors?Our larger direct competitors are mostly European. In the US, we partner with other retailers and brands to bring awareness to our guiding mission: sustainable production, clean and simple aesthetics, and an appre-ciation of quality over quantity.
Who has inspired you?
Our children inspire me to find prod-ucts that are truly special and better for the planet. In business, I have many mentors, some of whom I know and others I’ve never met. Steve Jobs, for example, gave a presentation to Apple employees on the philosophy of marketing at the launch of the famous “Think Different” campaign – every business owner should watch this.
Do you ever have any spare time?
“Having it all” might be a myth, but I think everyone should seek balance, especially when it comes to children. As a family, we spend lots of time outside, in all weather. I find that children’s play is actually incredibly relaxing. It’s hard not to de-stress and laugh when you’re on hands and knees in the grass.
Do you have advice for young entrepreneurs?
Planning is important, but real life working experience is paramount – the more experience you have, the better you’ll be at navigating the inevi-table ups and downs of entrepreneur-ship. Also, seek as much diversity of experience in the people you surround yourself with as you can. Our em-ployees all approach challenges from different perspectives, drawing from varied backgrounds, and this makes us better in every case.
What do you see in Fawn Shoppe’s future?
We are still in a high growth period, not just for ourselves but also for our brands and our niche in the market. We would like to continue to delight our customers, and over time perhaps change how people think about the types of things they should own. •
To learn more about Kristin and Fawn Shoppe, visit them online at www. fawnshoppe.com.