From Online to In-Person: Opening Up Your Own Retail Shop
July marks Independent Retailer Month! Here, the WIN Lab has collaborated with four savvy entrepreneurs to get their advice on getting product ready for retail, partnering with retailers, helping those partners sell your products, and opening up your own shop. The following post was created by Emily Lagasse MBA ’15, CEO of , Fedwell Pet Foods and a Babson WIN Lab accelerator alumna.
In 2010, when Lagasse returned from her Peace Corps service in Togo, she brought Fenway, her African dog home with her. Once back in America, Fenway became ill on the traditional American dog food diet. She took classes, learned how to cook for him, and nursed him back to health. She founded Fedwell based on the recipes that healed her dog and keeps him healthy. Now, Lagasse is moving beyond e-commerce and opening up her own storefront in Somerville, MA.
Q. Tell us a bit about your company and initial e-commerce launch.
I launched my first Fedwell dog food product in April 2014 in local stores and online, simultaneously.
Q. What is your biggest tactical advice for e-commerce startups as they launch?
Test everything, measure everything, and adjust often! With e-commerce it’s especially important to understand where your customers are coming from and how much it costs to acquire them.
Q. At what point did you decide to start a retail store?
I’ve been working on the concept and towards the launch of the first Petwell Supply for about a year now. My Fedwell Pet Foods products have been sold in other specialty pet stores and online for four years, and although a healthy diet is a terrific foundation for pets, I found that the concerns of my customers were not being fully addressed. In speaking with my customers over the past several years it became apparent that every pet suffered from specific ailments, from anxiety to kidney disease. While a high-quality diet can help address these issues, I wanted to open a store to further support pet ailments through holistic remedies and services like herbs, flower essences, and acupuncture.
Q. What was the strategy behind your retail location?
Commercial real estate in the area is pretty tight, and even tighter in the areas I was looking at– Somerville and Cambridge. I applied for 4 other spaces before getting the one I’m in now. From a community and cultural standpoint, Somerville/Cambridge feels like the right demographic for me. I also consulted heat maps of dog ownership in the area to find hot spots of dog activity! At the end of the day though, in a competitive real estate market, there were very limited options.
Q. What would you tell other entrepreneurs to do before they open up a storefront?
Anything you can do to test your retail concept ahead of time is helpful. Whether you can run a pop-up store or build momentum through local events, you will be able to collect data that informs a storefront strategy.
Q. Anything else you think other entrepreneurs should know?
I think it’s really important to let your personal creativity and interests shine in the store to stand out and feel genuine. Throughout the process of build-out I have stayed very true to my goals and personal aesthetic, being very mindful not to fall into the trap of doing what every body else is doing. These differences will not only create a better, more unique experience for our customers, but it’s also more fun for me. I get to decorate in my own style (I’m currently building a moss wall!) and get to plan classes and events I would truly want to go to even if it wasn’t my store
Petwell Supply provides alternative products and services to support common ailments for dogs and cats. The Somerville store was opened to serve the company’s customers better and help pets lead healthier and happier lives.