Esselle, an online shop, founded in 2013 by Sherry Lee and Sandy Lu. A shared passion for entertaining and beautiful designs that elevate everyday living led them to see a void in well designed place card holders, and so they designed their own. Esselle’s geometric place card holders and wooden coaster trivet sets are designed with functionality and modern aesthetics in mind. All place card holders and coasters are hand-painted, packaged and shipped from our Northern California studio.
Where are your products made? We design all the products in house and send the sketches over to a few trusted handmade manufacturers in China to produce. The products are then shipped to our studio in California where everything gets hand-painted, packaged and shipped to our customers.
What are the challenges selling online compared to a physical store? Traffic and intent. With a brick & mortar, you can count on a certain % of shoppers that are “walk-ins “. The intent for “walk-in” shoppers are mostly impulse-buyers meaning they didn’t plan on purchasing until they see something they want by chance. With online shops, however, the challenge is two-fold; the efforts to be discovered require constant work (advertisement, SEO, social media) and there are less impulsive buys as most online shoppers tend to know what they are looking for and are comparing prices via different websites.
What are the advantages? Very low-overhead in starting the business and keeping inventory. Flexibility since there are no “shop hours” that needs to be kept.
Who are your customers? Our customers are mostly creative female entrepreneurs. Ranging from wedding planners/designers, photographers, calligraphers, floral designers and shop owners.
Who inspires you: People that are sincere, creative and loving, and use their influence to make a positive impact in this world.
What inspires you: I am mostly inspired by Japanese and Swedish minimalist design. A design that expresses less is more, and simplicity is luxury ethos.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was in graduate school studying web and user experience design.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Time management and organization.
What task do you like to delegate? This is something I am now learning to do! For a long time it seemed like it was a one-woman show. But as the business started to grow this year, I’ve learned how to “let go” and not sweat the little things. My staff currently assists in production, packaging and doing inventory.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Surround and align yourself with good (supportive) people. Some of the best opportunities I had happened solely because of the amazing people I met who were supportive and genuinely wanted to see me succeed.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Know your principle and stick to it because that’s what defines and sets your brand apart from everyone else.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Sheryl Sandberg.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? I would likely be an UI or graphic designer.
What is your perfect day off? Vegging out on my couch with my husband and dogs and binge watching shows on Netflix.
Five favorite shops: Muji, Canvas Home Goods, Yield Design, Ferm Living, Heath Ceramics.
I wish I could… Take vacation days without worrying about the business or check my phone every 5 minutes.
On the Future of Retail
“It might be time for small boutiques to flourish as the #shopsmall #shoplocal movement is making an impact on consumer behavior. But I don’t think it’ll be the same for ecommerce- the big companies will dominate as people who purchase online wants everything “on-demand”- small businesses might not be able to compete and might not have the necessary inventory and budget to offer free shipping and returns like the big box stores can.”