From geometrically inspired jewelry to lifestyle accessories, Son of a Sailor’s unique products all share beautiful design and thoughtfulness. This awesome approach extends to their talented team, all the brainchild of married owners Jessica and William. They even credit their success to mindfulness working with the right people. Son of a Sailor shares their small business experiences and advice for entrepreneurs.
Name: Jessica and William
City: Austin, Texas
Store Owner Since: 2011
Opened on Storenvy: 2014
What is your favorite weekend activity? Our favorite weekend activity is being able to relax! An unexciting answer, but we stay so busy that it’s nice to have time to kick back at home. You’ll probably find us hanging out with our dogs, Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood, or having some friends over and projecting a movie in our backyard.
What has been the most rewarding experience that has come from running an independent business?
I get to wake up and do what I love with someone I love (my husband Billy!) every day. Just as rewarding as that is, knowing that we’ve worked hard to create a sustainable business with good values. We take pride in having created a great team of people that will help us grow Son of a Sailor holistically.
It’s also been incredibly rewarding to know that we’ve made our collections with an accessible price range, and still with meaningful, quality design. We get to be part of this amazing community of people who want not only form with function, but to know the story behind the pieces they purchase. They may be makers themselves, or they may simply appreciate good design, but they value knowing the history of the materials used and the faces behind the product.
We’ve been fortunate to experience healthy growth, but our main priority has been retaining what we find most fulfilling about running a business: the team we work with and being able to tell you the story behind each piece we make.
Is there anything you have done as an independent business that really impacted your success?
I think these two things have guided our growth:
We’ve grown mindfully. Whether it’s how we hire or how we expand our stockist list, it’s imperative to us that we do with thoughtfulness. As a small business, quick spurts of growth can be overwhelming and it’s easy to jump at opportunities offered without carefully considering them first. It’s important to make sure that, for example, if we choose a new stockist, that the retailer fits who we are and what Son of a Sailor is about.
We’ve worked to cultivate relationships. We’ve worked hard to cultivate good relationships with our stockists, our customers, the businesses we source materials from, our next door neighbors – whoever we cross paths with! We had an issue come up where a potential retailer wanted to stock our products in close proximity to where another retailer of ours was located.
Ultimately we worked out a compromise, but we would have stood by our original stockist. Even if an enticing account comes along, not caring for already established relationships will hurt a business’s reputation in the long run.
What area of running a business do you think is easily overlooked and should really be focused on?
Particularly during periods of growth, it’s easy to let time for yourself and for brainstorming/designing fall by the wayside. Sometimes, even when it feels impossible to disconnect for a minute, it’s important to step back and give yourself some breathing room. Carve out time to seek new inspiration, whether it’s taking a day trip or flipping through your favorite magazines.
Creative rights can be really hard for a small business and it’s probably a new topic for many. What was it like dealing with that? What did you learn from that experience?
It’s a weird feeling – you’re simultaneously angered but a little flattered that other companies are wanting to imitate you! Creative rights is an issue that many small businesses have to deal with at some point. If you’re creating something that people like, something that’s capturing a trend, there will be other businesses that want to take advantage of that.
Sometimes unintentional copying happens because maybe we both like a similar geometric design, but there are other times when it’s clear a design has been unfairly taken. As a small business, it’s important to not feel powerless and stand up for yourself. Recently we had a design conflict with a major retailer where we felt a bracelet on their site mirrored ours a little too closely for comfort.
After posting about it on social media, many friends and colleagues spoke out in our defense, which was humbling to see. One friend in particular, our friend Robert, persisted in contacting the retailer until they responded. They apologized and removed the bracelet from their site. We’re greatly appreciative that they acknowledged our concern and respected us as a small business. More and more large retailers are being supportive of smaller, independent businesses, and it’s exciting to see that support and focus on the person behind the product become part of their branding strategy.
What advice would you offer other small business owners?
+ Grow holistically and sustainably. Support the people you work with and take time to cultivate good relationships with customers, stockists and people you source your materials from.
+ Don’t get too comfortable! Even if a particular design is very successful, know that you have to keep creating and coming up with new ideas. Having an eye for recognizing what people want before they need it is invaluable.
+ Sometimes you just have to order the breakfast tacos.