As with all of us, Willo is feeling the economy a bit, but she is optimistic. “I think what’s good about all of this is it’s made people think a lot more before they buy,” she says. “Although buyers may look to find a good deal, I think value in terms of quality is a rising factor now more than ever.” Willo is converting her entire baby line to 100% organic this year, a move that she feels is an important step. Since the economy has made the spending of each dollar more precious, every purchase is more carefully considered. Furthermore, not only are shoppers paying more attention to price and quality, communities are trying to encourage shoppers to buy local. As shown by a study done by AMIBA, a dollar spent at a locally-owned independent business results in a higher percentage of that dollar circulating within the local community. Thus, buying local more directly stimulates the very community in which you live.
Perhaps a symptom of this “buy local” resurgence, craft fairs are now a common sight on weekends amongst the urban set. Willo personally sells her wares at fairs like Renegade, Bazaar Bizzare and Indie Mart, who saw their latest event quadruple in size. Though these events do tend to occur in urban areas like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, Willo has been able to further expand her “local” sphere through her online presence. She notes that many of her purchases come from friends, or friends-of-friends. Thanks to social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, this community is increasingly more visible. That said, a key thing to note is that Willo’s Twitter feed is not about marketing WilloToons products, it’s about genuine conversation. By doing so, Willo has built a strong, genuine “local” community whose members are geographically spread all over the world. So, when Willo’s community makes one of these considered purchases, they naturally think of supporting one of their own.
Willo recently returned from South by Southwest in Austin, where she led a talk titled “Snappy Strategies for Selling Your Arts & Crafts Online.” The talk was a huge hit and generated a large amount of discussion from the attendees. “In the end, the big message was community, community, community,” explains Willo. I asked Willo for one last piece of advice for other small business owners, and she shared this: “Ask for support. We’ve all heard the old adage ‘two heads are better than one,’ and I truly believe that for those who are just starting, it’s key they develop a support network.” This is great advice that, once again, reminds us that through these tough times, we’re all in this together.