In the ever-evolving landscape of retail, one brand has successfully transitioned from a brick-and-mortar store to a flourishing online business. Maker and Moss, led by founder and CEO Matt Bissinger, has not only adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic but also capitalized on the growing trend of e-commerce. With a passion for design and an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, Bissinger has propelled Maker and Moss to new heights, captivating audiences with their exquisite selection of furniture and decor. This exclusive interview sheds light on Bissinger's journey, from the brand's humble beginnings to its remarkable success in the realm of e-commerce. Discover the story behind Maker and Moss, the values that drive its mission, and the strategies employed to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape.
Chris Choi: Hey, Matt. How's everything?
Matt Bissinger: Going well. How about you?
Chris Choi: Great to hear. Before we delve into the details, could you give us a brief introduction of yourself and share the story behind your brand, Maker and Moss? We'd love to learn about its history, mission, and the values that drive your business.
Matt Bissinger: Well, my background is in design, specifically interior design and art. The impetus to open a store came from years of visiting artists’ studios and seeing some really terrific work which instilled in me a desire to share that work with others. So I started with that and over time I expanded my focus to furniture and interior decor. Fast forward to the pandemic, when we were forced to close our store early on, and I made the decision to prioritize our e-commerce. To be clear, the website was not new but the shift to resourcing it was. I committed to finding the right people to enhance our online content, manage marketing, and invest significantly in digital advertising. Very quickly our website became an important part of our business, especially with the shift towards online shopping accelerated by the pandemic. Customers became more comfortable ordering large items like tables and sofas online. So, it became a natural progression for us.
Chris Choi: Your website looks beautiful, by the way.
Matt Bissinger: Thank you. I wish I could take all the credit. It is a collaborative effort. I am fortunate to have great people to help me achieve the desired look and functionality.
Chris Choi: That's great to hear. Now, I'd like to know when you started Maker and Moss and what challenges you faced as a brand. How did you overcome them?
Matt Bissinger: Challenges are always present, even now. Before Maker and Moss, I had another business, and one lesson I learned from that experience is that the marketing budget is usually the first to be cut in small businesses yet probably one of the most important elements of success..When I launched Maker and Moss, I knew I needed to invest significantly in marketing. If you're not communicating constantly and reaching out to people, they’re not going to find you or be interested in what you offer. Building an audience therefore was a major imperative. Additionally, for a business like ours that deals with shipping large furniture items, logistics is always a challenge. Hopefully we make it look seamless but I don’t suspect most consumers realize the amount of work that goes into getting their furniture into their homes. So much can go sideways.
Chris Choi: I can imagine.
Matt Bissinger: Definitely. Ensuring seamless and cost-effective delivery of dining tables, chairs, and other items from point A to the customer is an art in and of itself. As a small business owner, you have to figure things out on your own. There's no comprehensive guide to running a business and you can’t walk down the street and ask your competitor how they do a thing. So, trial and error becomes the way to navigate challenges successfully. One learns from experience and especially your mistakes.
Chris Choi: That makes sense. It seems like you've made significant progress in overcoming those challenges. Now, in the past couple of years, e-commerce has become more than half of your sales. Can you recall a specific moment or event that made you realize the potential of e-commerce? How did you market your online presence?
Matt Bissinger: Absolutely. The pandemic was a turning point. When San Francisco shut down and all retail businesses were closed for about three months, it forced us to take action. We immediately started building our website and ramped up our advertising efforts. We already had a mailing list, and as we started seeing orders coming in from new and unexpected locations, it was truly exciting. While there wasn't a specific defining moment, over the course of 2020 and 2021, we could see a clear upward trend in e-commerce sales.
I should also mention that there's a gray area between online marketing and our brick-and-mortar store. Many customers who visit our physical store actually discover us online first. It's a symbiotic relationship where our online presence drives customers to our store, and vice versa. It's sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly where the traffic begins or ends.
Chris Choi: That's fascinating to hear. It's impressive to see how Maker and Moss successfully adapted and capitalized on the accelerated shift to online shopping during the pandemic.
By the way, I understand if discussing your annual revenue may not be suitable for this informal conversation. However, it would be interesting to know the level of success Maker and Moss has achieved in terms of generating revenue annually.
Matt Bissinger: Yeah, I don't know if I'd want to publish that, but I can share that when we shifted online we at least doubled our revenue over when we were only bricks and mortar.
Chris Choi: Oh, that's impressive.
Matt Bissinger: Well, it's important to note that the pandemic fueled our industry. So there were market forces at work above and beyond anything we did. While we had to be prepared to capture the business, it was also due to the fact that people were stuck at home for two years and were focused on home and self improvement. Any company engaged in selling products that enhanced home life saw a lift in sales - from yoga mats to sofas to new entertainment systems. However, this year we've seen a slight slowdown as consumer spending patterns have shifted toward more experiential spending – travel, concerts, eating out and so forth.
Chris Choi: I understand. It's fascinating how the pandemic affected various industries differently.
Matt Bissinger: Absolutely.
Chris Choi: Let's shift gears a bit and talk about your team. How many members do you have, and what factors do you consider when hiring someone? How do you ensure an efficient team?
Matt Bissinger: We have a relatively small team. There's one person who manages our entire online operations, and I have three salespeople. We also have one operations person who handles order fulfillment and logistics. Additionally, we work with contractors and agencies for advertising and other specific needs.
When it comes to hiring, I prioritize finding individuals with a passion for design and some relevant experience. I have found that passion for interior design is crucial. I've tried hiring people with different backgrounds, but if they don't have that innate design sensibility it rarely works out. Fit with the team is also essential because, even if someone has the necessary skills, if they don't mesh well with the rest of the team, it won't work.
Chris Choi: That's valuable insight, and it's clear that your passion for design shines through your website.
Matt Bissinger: Thank you. It's essential to have passion and expertise in any industry. You wouldn’t hire an accountant to decorate your home anymore than you’d want to hire me to manage your books. Not my wheelhouse. Fit with the team and a passion for the work are vital.
Chris Choi: Absolutely. Now, moving on, what do you enjoy most about running your own business, Maker and Moss? What keeps you motivated?
Matt Bissinger: What I enjoy the most is probably the same thing I find challenging. The constant need to problem-solve keeps things fresh and interesting. As a business owner, you need to be creative and nimble. Just when everything seems to be going smoothly, something happens that requires you to adapt and find solutions. It's a never-ending cycle, but it keeps me engaged. I also have a genuine passion for design, which keeps me motivated. I enjoy helping clients realize their goals and I especially enjoy working with the people on my team. Building a team you genuinely like working with and trust is crucial when you consider how much time you spend together.
Chris Choi: That makes a lot of sense. It's evident that your problem-solving mindset and passion drive your success. Now, the final question: What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Matt Bissinger: I have plenty of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Firstly, write a business plan so you know where you’re going, but be prepared to throw it out the first day you open your doors. Stay flexible. Things rarely go exactly as planned, and you need to be adaptable to seize new opportunities and make necessary adjustments. Embrace the challenges and view them as opportunities to grow and improve. Stay open to feedback from customers and let their needs guide your decisions. Listen to them, and they will provide valuable insights.
Second, staff for where you want to go, not where you’re at. While you don’t want to over-extend your business, look at your goals and make sure you are staffed properly to get there. Otherwise when the opportunities come around you’ll lose out. Corollary to that, know your strengths and weaknesses and hire accordingly. It’s tempting to save money but you can’t do it all yourself, at least not well.
Lastly, surround yourself with a team that shares your passion and values. Hiring individuals who align with your vision and work well together is vital for success. Cultivate a positive and collaborative work environment that encourages innovation and supports each team member's growth.
Chris Choi: Those are excellent pieces of advice, Matt. Being flexible, focusing on problem-solving, and building a cohesive team are essential for any entrepreneur. Thank you for sharing your valuable insights and experiences.
Matt Bissinger: You're welcome, Chris. It was a pleasure discussing these topics with you. If there's anything else you need, feel free to reach out.
Chris Choi: I appreciate that, Matt. Take care, and best of luck with Maker and Moss.
Matt Bissinger: Thank you. Goodbye!
Chris Choi: Goodbye!
In conclusion, Maker and Moss stand as a testament to the resilience and success that can be achieved through adaptation, customer-centricity, problem-solving, passion, and a strong team. As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, the brand's story serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the world of design and online retail.