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Crafting a Purpose-Driven Ecommerce Brand Opportunity Podcast ep48

Crafting a Purpose-Driven Ecommerce Brand [EP. 48]

Sarah Nuttycombe August 13, 2021

What really goes into building a sustainable brand?

When Martin Johnston decided to take his years of experience working with giants in the retail and ecommerce space and start from scratch, he knew exactly what practices he wanted to replicate. And what ones he didn’t.

Martin is the Co-founder of Crafted Society, a luxury ecommerce brand dedicated to the transparent and sustainable production of handmade artisan goods. He joined this episode of The Opportunity Podcast to share what it takes to follow the road less traveled and craft a purpose-driven brand. He also reveals the story behind the innovative DTC subscription model that’s elevating Crafted Society’s partnerships.

Sit back, grab a coffee, and get ready to learn how you can craft your own purpose driven ecommerce brand in this weeks episode.

Listen to The Opportunity Podcast Episode #48


  • Apple Podcast
  • Google Podcast
  • Spotify Podcast

Topics Discussed in this episode:

  • How Martin’s extensive ecommerce experience shaped his entrepreneurial journey
  • Martin’s advice for those starting a new ecommerce brand
  • How to stay focused on your values
  • Why sustainability and transparency are key pillars to the Crafted Society brand
  • How to elevate the DTC model
  • How Crafted Society is helping to democratize luxury products
  • The key lessons Martin has learned from master makers

Mentions:

 

Martin’s Ecommerce Journey

What really goes into building a sustainable brand?

When Martin Johnston decided to take his years of experience working with giants in the retail and ecommerce space and start from scratch, he knew exactly what practices he wanted to replicate. And what ones he didn’t.

Martin is the Co-founder of Crafted Society, a luxury ecommerce brand dedicated to the transparent and sustainable production of handmade artisan goods. He joined this episode of The Opportunity Podcast to share what it takes to follow the road less traveled and craft a purpose-driven brand.

He also reveals the story behind the innovative DTC subscription model that’s elevating the ecommerce brand’s partnerships.

Hit play to listen to the episode or read on for more.

From industry leader to ecommerce entrepreneur

Six years ago, Martin Johnston and his wife Lisa set out on a mission. Their goal was to build a luxury ecommerce brand that would help inspire, empower, and educate the next generation of artisans. How? Through the power of transparent craftmanship.

A lofty goal for any entrepreneur – but Martin had something up his sleeve. Years of industry experience.

Martin’s entrepreneurial journey started young, founding soccer schools to help subsidize his living while at college. However, after graduating he quickly fell into working with big brands, including Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Crocs, and Toms.

In 2015, Martin found himself at a “career crossroads”. Then he remembered something he’d heard years earlier:

“If you do not go out and build your own dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

Backed by extensive industry experience and an undeniable entrepreneurial drive, Martin decided it was “now or never” and started Crafted Society.

How to apply big brand lessons to a start-up ecommerce brand

Starting your own business will always present some challenges. But Martin felt like he’d been preparing for this for a long time.

His rich career in the ecommerce industry gave him insights into what worked and, arguably more importantly, what didn’t. Martin also knew what practices he wanted to incorporate into his own business and which ones he simply didn’t agree with.

Martin was grateful for the foundational knowledge he’d gained that helped launch his brand, but the transition from working for a well-oiled machine to bootstrapping a company was a huge shift. The biggest challenge Martin had to overcome was his own frustrations.

“When you’re working for yourself, you have to think differently. You’ve got to make smart decisions.”

Reprogramming a corporate mindset doesn’t happen overnight. Martin no longer had limitless pots of cash to play with – this was his own money, and there was risk involved.

Building a brand with purpose

From the very beginning, Martin and his co-founder Lisa had a keen idea about what they wanted their business to be. They wanted to make objects of beauty ­– Italian bags and shoes, hand-made by the master craftspeople already creating luxury products. This became their first major issue.

What initially appeared as a roadblock ultimately became the foundation for the entire ecommerce brand. Martin and Lisa struggled to find the craftspeople behind the luxury goods coming out of Italy as luxury brand suppliers are kept secret.

That’s when Martin and Lisa decided they were going to do things differently.

From day one, their mission was to challenge convention within the luxury industry. They were going to do this in two ways. Firstly, by being completely transparent about every single part of their process. Secondly, their brand would be sustainable.

Sustainability is the exception, not the rule, in the luxury industry, but Martin and Lisa decided it would be one of the key pillars they would build their brand on. Martin wanted Crafted Society to be ethical, socially responsible, and committed to sustainability unlike any other brand in the industry.

“If you’re going to run your own show, you’ve not just got to dream big, but you’ve got to think big – even while your brand is still small.”

The one thing new ecommerce brands need to embrace

If you’re just getting started, Martin says there’s one fundamental your brand must possess: an authentic, compelling story.

“The brands that do the best job and travel the world across multiple currencies, and languages, are the ones that stay true to their ethos and original, authentic story.”

Martin says it himself – the world doesn’t need another fashion brand or another luxury brand. But what it does need is brands that are focused on solving societal issues through their business model. For Martin, that means tackling the threat to traditional craftmanship by promoting their master-makers.

That’s what gets Martin out of bed on a cold winter’s day. For him, money is never going to be a driving factor for success. It’s all about fueling your passion with a higher purpose. Using your business as a “force for good” is what’s going to keep that fire in your belly.

How to scale a start-up ecommerce brand

So, once you’ve started your ecommerce brand, what’s your plan of action? Most likely, you’ll want to grow the business. But Martin cautions that these things don’t happen overnight.

His advice is to get as familiar as you can with the industry that you’re going into first. This can help you avoid any pitfalls and get a clear understanding of what you need to move forward.

Then take stock of your mindset. There’s no way of knowing how long your business could take to grow, so Martin suggests pacing yourself.

“Nobody has a golden wand that’s going to tell you exactly how long it’s going to be before your business grows. So use smart money and think about every decision.”

How to stick to your values in a world of shortcuts

It’s this long-term and mission-driven approach which has helped Martin shape his ecommerce brand into the business it is today. It’s not always easy to stay on the road less traveled, but when you’re leading with a higher purpose, it can keep you on the straight and narrow.

Martin says that understanding artists’ challenges helped them to define their brand’s values and from there, it was a no-brainer. Sustainability, transparency, and promoting the craftspeople behind the luxury products would always be at the forefront of the brand.

While transparency may be a real challenge for some, Martin notes that it’s actually helped them promote their sustainability. Transparency has, by default, forced Martin to seek out more sustainable and ethical ways of producing luxury goods.

Putting openness and honesty at the brand’s core completely goes against the grain of the traditionally secretive luxury industry. But Martin is proud to own a business that openly shares each and every part of their process ­– he’ll even tell you what factories he uses.

Elevating the DTC ecommerce model

Putting the artisans first has helped guide many of Martin’s business choices, including the most transformational one so far. With their Amsterdam store closed during the pandemic, Martin and Lisa sat down to work out, not how to sell more, but what they could do to help their purpose.

Then came the “aha” moment.

They decided to elevate their DTC model by launching a subscription service and membership club which would bring prices down, generate more orders, and help them work towards their ultimate goal of democratizing luxury. After validating the idea and testing it thoroughly, it’s already off to a roaring success.

“That small proof of concept shows us that this is now kind of innovating within the DTC space.”

Martin believes that people should be paid for their expertise, not just their time. Couple that with the traditional DTC brand mark-up between 2.8-3.5% and you’ve got a product that could be three, four, five, or even ten times the cost of one that comes out of China or Eastern Europe.

However, offering a subscription and membership model means that the cost can come down significantly. Now, people can afford made in Italy, handcrafted leather sneakers for less than the price of a big brand one that’s made in China.

But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Martin’s always keeping one eye on the future and thinking about the next best move for the business. His next key goal is to only create products with recycled or upcycled raw materials.

He says it’s a big challenge, but it’s doable.

Well, a challenge hasn’t stopped him yet.

To learn more about innovating the DTC model with subscriptions, building a sustainable ecommerce brand, and hear Martin’s entrepreneurial insights, scroll to the top of this page and hit play on the podcast player. Or listen to The Opportunity Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Could selling your online business be your next best business move? Find out how much your online business is worth now with our easy-to-use valuation tool. Then discover how we can help you get more out of your sale.

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