Abe, thank you for speaking with us and sharing your unique perspective on the makers! How did you get started with this distributorship idea for your business – what was the aha moment for you?
I worked in the custom and collectible knife world for many years and met so many extraordinary artists and makers. A number of them were making unique culinary tools, often as side projects to their core businesses, and so many of those wares hadn’t been introduced to the larger culinary market…so, Eatingtools was born!
What were some of the unique practical challenges that you had to overcome early on, and how did you get the business moving from ground zero?
The big challenge was to curate a unique, primarily exclusive, and complementary collection of high-end items from artists around the world. There are so many beautiful handcrafted wares out there, and zeroing in on those that would fit nicely with the Eatingtools brand took a lot of time and effort, speaking with makers, discussing designs and materials, and in the end, putting together a collection with broad appeal yet one with a product mix not seen anywhere else. It’s a slow process, but to have the honor to work with such talented people is not something that happens quickly.
It’s almost always a struggle to survive financially when you’re an entrepreneur, and possibly even more so if you’re a distributor for many niche craftmakers. What were the unique financial challenges for you, and how have you overcome them?
Having a background in marketing and e-commerce was a big advantage. I had great designers and web developers and other resources that believed in what I was doing and helped make it possible. Early on I would stock a few items at a time, allowing Eatingtools to grow slowly and organically, which has benefits beyond the slow but steady cash outlays needed to stock the shop. And of course, the biggest money-savings come from my own blood, sweat, and tears! I do all of my own photography, copywriting, customer service, order fulfillment, etc. It keeps me in tune with every aspect of the business and allows me to invest in my artists and products instead which is what really matters.
How did you succeed in growing your business – after all, it certainly was not easy, given your eating tools niche?
Allowing the business to grow organically by taking it slow at the beginning, talking to customers one-on-one, developing deep relationships with my makers, seeing what categories were the most popular, and really letting the brand take on a life of its own, was the key for me. Being online-only it was easy to keep my ‘day job’ while Eatingtools grew, and to have that financial relief so that I could put my own money into the business was no small piece of the puzzle.
Would you consider expanding your business beyond Brooklyn – why or why not? What are your future goals for Eatingtools?
We already ship to customers all over the world, and an enormous amount of website traffic comes from people outside of the United States, let alone Brooklyn. But to launch in Brooklyn, and develop a local community of support, is invaluable, no matter how global the brand may become. I’ve personally delivered knives to chefs in Manhattan for example, and that’s a special feeling. It’s an honor to be a NYC business. Where we go from here is the big question!
What are the specificities of being a distributor for craft makers that a reader of ours may not be aware of?
I see myself as more of a gallery curator, an artist’s representative if you will, rather than a ‘distributor.’ I work extremely closely with my craftspeople to help bring products to life, and the story behind these makers, their processes, their materials, their backgrounds, are what I try to make Eatingtools all about. So I suppose it’s the storytelling, through word and image, which is the least distributor-like, and the backbone of Eatingtools.
Can one just get up and become a distributor? Are there any specific skills or knowledge that one needs to possess in order to be successful in this?
To buy products and re-sell them is easy. To know my products inside and out, to represent my vendors accurately and deeply, and to know and understand the customers who purchase handmade wares with the same enthusiasm that I have for the products, is the hard part. I have to live and breathe this niche every day, and it’s worth it every minute!
Abe, what would you like to add to what we’ve shared with our readers?
As I’ve said above in so many words, the passion I have for the tools, the artists who create them, and the customers who cherish them, is really what makes Eatingtools what it is. I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do and for Eatingtools to have become what it is today, and I owe it to everyone I’ve worked with over the years for believing in me. So, thank you, everyone!