In the spotlight: Owned By
05 June 2018
1. What’s the story behind Owned By?
My boyfriend is a shoemaker, so he is always working with leather. Once we were on holiday and we came up with the idea of creating a bag. Then we decided to create a notebook… And since I had always dreamed of being self-employed, I thought, “Maybe this is it!”. My boyfriend was hooked straight away. Leather combined with custom texts – that would be our thing. At first, I wasn’t too sure about setting up a company, but I asked my neighbor Pamela, who lives across the street and owns the online store En Las Nubes whether she’d be willing to feature one of our notebooks. She did and we got so many reactions. I received a lot of requests from other online stores so I thought, “It’s now or never!”. I registered at the Chamber of Commerce and decided I would see how it went. That was two years ago. Meanwhile, Owned By has not stopped growing.
2. How did you come up with the name?
Because it’s really something yours; every product is personal. It’s just for the person who orders it or who receives it as a gift. It automatically becomes Owned By. It seemed like an obvious choice, but now it turns out some people find it hard to pronounce, hahaha.
3. How do you combine Owned By with your other job?
It’s becoming harder by the day. When I’m not running my online store, I work as Visual Merchandiser for Tommy Hilfigerand Calvin Klein, 40 hours a week. As a result, I work on Owned By mostly at night and during weekends. I make every product myself and I don’t have any stock. Everything is made upon order, so it takes a lot of careful planning. That’s why I have a 7-day delivery term. But I have to say, having a job on the side gives me a sense of security and I love combining the two.
"Now that I have my own online store, I’ve met more people than ever before! Everyone is very connected and committed. I love it!"
4. Your products are sold in several concept stores. Do you aim to set up a physical store in the future, to complement your online store?
Maybe, but we’re talking about the very remote future. And I think it wouldn’t be a real store, but rather a workshop where I would create my products and people would stop by. I love contacts with people, but I know retail is a tricky sector. Just look at all the stores that go bankrupt.
5. What’s the best reaction you’ve ever received from a customer?
I just received someone’s fifth order – that’s quite a compliment in itself, the best even. Then there are people who once received an Owned Bygift and place an order to surprise someone else with. It’s also very nice to hear why people decide to place a specific order. I recently created a farewell gift for a corporate team, because the team members would change. I created four notebooks, one for each team member, featuring their strengths on the cover.
6. How do you boost the customer experience?
I always wrap my products, regardless of whether they’re gifts or personal purchases. If they’re gifts I add a small card saying ‘Enjoy giving this gift’. I also like it when I order something online and it’s wrapped nicely in tissue paper and it comes with a card. You’ve spent money on it and nice wrapping adds that extra special touch. At one point I realized I was spending too much on it, though, so now I’ve become more careful.
7. What are your sources of inspiration?
Mainly Instagram and Pinterest, where I see a lot of new leather techniques, for example. I would say those are my two main sources of inspiration. Then there’s my customers, of course, who come up with ideas themselves. Recently, someone ordered a handkerchief sleeve. I had never heard of anything like that, but it inspired me to create something new!
8. What do you like the most about having your own online store?
Contacts with customers – it’s all very personal. Most people who place an order also leave a comment. And of course I love making people happy! The fun thing about online merchants is that we’re all small business owners who want to help one another. Now that I have my own online store, I’ve met more people than ever before! Everyone is very connected and committed. I love it!
9. How do you process new orders?
First, I print the invoices. Usually I receive special requests for specific dates, which I hang in my office chronologically. Then I set to work. Some products need an entire night of pressing while for others, I can immediately move on to the stamping stage. Sleeves with thick relief letters are pressed, just like we used to dry leaves at school. Stamping means that the letters are really embossed into the leather. I do this with leather stamps. Before I stamp a notebook, I do a test run on a small piece of leather to see whether the text is nicely centered. Then I make the actual version. It’s a very time-consuming process. Some people find my products too expensive, but when they hear how much time I invest in each product, they understand.
10. Do you have any tips for other budding (online) merchants?
Make sure your online store is organized well, so that people can easily find what they’re looking for. And make sure you link matching products, because this gives you a chance to boost your turnover. I linked a travel notebook to a leatherpassport sleeve, for example. This tickles people’s curiosity and encourages them to have a look at the rest of your range.