By guest author Eunice Nyandat
The 1M/1M Incubation Radar series returns in time for the holiday season with Kir DeVries, an online store that offers young women moderately priced, fun, upbeat, and unique gifts for their homes. The company’s mission is to help young women live inspired, healthy, and positive lives. The collection of products are selected for the “good factor”; that is, products that customers can feel good about buying because they come from fair trade sources, possess eco-friendly qualities, and are made from healthy materials while being fresh, new, and colorful.
The Maryland-based company was founded in 2008 by creative director Kristen Becker, who earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental systems and has been interested in environmentally responsible lifestyles since the early 1990s. She later earned a master’s of fine arts from the Maryland Institute of Art and opened and ran a brick-and-mortar children’s boutique while receiving the full series of stockbroker’s licenses and training new stockbrokers for T. Rowe Price. This whetted her appetite for teaching, and she taught college graphic design courses while raising her children. With Kir DeVries, Becker has returned to her passion for entrepreneurial ventures, opening the online store in the spring of 2008 and drawing on background in business, finance, and design while staying true to her strong beliefs about social and environmental awareness.
Kir DeVries’s product lines are a collection of lifestyle goods for everyday living and are selected for their workmanship, eco-friendly qualities, and designs and materials. The main product lines are accessories (desk accessories, tote bags, wallets, stationary, etc.); home & body (natural dish scrubbers and organic skin care products and nail polish); and dining & entertaining (serving trays, teatime accessories, reusable bamboo cutlery, water bottles, mugs, etc.). Products range from $5 to $150. Items are meant to be useful with a twist of fun, such as a bird juicer, tote bags printed with pomegranates, and whiskey stones, cubes of milled soapstone that keep liquor drinks cool without diluting them as ice would.
The target market is young, professional, urban women aged 25 to 45 with contemporary lifestyles. The average income is $60,000, and a large portion of Becker’s audience are not married and do not have children. An additional target audience are people. shopping for gifts for the target group, specifically women in their 40s to early 60s often shopping for younger women.
Becker researched extensively for comparable competitors and says she found nothing out there that distinguished itself as a direct competitor. That being said, there are numerous sites catering to women that offer eco-friendly lifestyle products and gifts or products for the home with an emphasis on design. Nubius Organics, Earth Divas, ModernEcoHomes, gifts.com, and eco-artware.com are just a few such sites. Kir DeVries aims to differentiate itself by staying true to its demographic while promoting responsibly made products and offering an inventory of items that are high quality and readily available but are not mass-produced goods.
Kir DeVries is completely bootstrapped venture with modest fund from credit cards, personal accounts in the early growth stage, and a large chunk drawn from revenues generated by the business. In late 2009, the business fell victim of the credit crunch and had to rely on the good relationship with vendors to ship orders with a promise of future payment. Annual revenues are about $70,000, and Becker expects to reach $200,000 for fiscal year 2010.
There are no plans at this time to seek seed or angel funding; however, Kir DeVries may look into inventory financing when they meet a certain revenue threshold. The goal for late 2011 is to expand the company’s Web presence by adding content and tools for customer interaction while offering a broader inventory. The company will also continue seek out items are unique, and most important, have the capability to connect with customers, while building trust and long-term relationships.
The current growth strategy is to improve interaction with the customer base at a lifestyle level by adding a community aspect to the website in the coming year, thus improving cultural/social engagement and events. In addition, plans to optimizing a mobile presence and usability are
As for an exit, successful growth is the only strategy at this time. Kir DeVries will be open to exit options in the future. The plan would be to maintain a significant percentage of creative control while using and appreciating the valued input of investors and advisors.
Kir DeVries presented at the roundtable on September 9; the recording is here. Sramana and Kristen discussed customer acquisition through search engine optimization, and financing. For customer acquisition, Sramana pointed Kristen toward Entrepreneur Journeys resources and her article From Niche E-Commerce to Web 3.0. She also advised Kristen, who has a blog, to not keep that blog separate from her site as it is now: it’s important to build up SEO leverage on the e-commerce site itself.
This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Incubation Radar 2010