This week marked the launch of Curio Road, a highly aesthetic flash sale site that should hold a strong appeal for the devotees of Pinterest or Etsy. The site focuses on a curated mix of unique accessories and lifestyle items, from both small designers and more well-known brands. Co-founders Sonali Bloom and Michael Segal intend to help the site’s customer base “live beautifully.” We sat down with Sonali, Curio Road’s Chief Merchandising Officer, to find out how she finds her designers, how the first live week went, and where the site is going next.
The High Low: Curio Road combines the best aspects of Pinterest, a flash sale, and Etsy. How did you decide on that angle? If you had to, which part would you say is most important to the unique product Curio Road provides?
Sonali Bloom: Michael and I both felt strongly that there was a huge need in the market for a shopping platform that would truly resonate with creative people — especially creative women. The ideas behind Curio Road developed very organically from what we perceived as an evolving marketplace that had failed to fill a key gap.
Pinterest is amazing in that it is a never-ending stream of inspiration. The idea of translating that inspiration into a business that can really add value was fascinating to me. Etsy is also a very innovative and unique space in that it connects shoppers and designers to unexpected and hard-to-find products. However, it has its drawbacks: there is such a vast amount of product on Etsy, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for — or, even harder, to find what you don’t even know how to look for.
Our aim is to consistently inspire our members — this is the most important aspect of my work, the value that I am striving to add. The experience of discovery, the rush of creativity — that is the experience I want every Curio Road member to have. We are not a company that will tell our members what is trending and how to keep up with the Joneses; we are a place where our members can go to find the things that are uniquely inspiring on a very personal level. Our mission is to help our members to “Live Beautifully.” To bring fun, wit, love, and adventure into every day – that is our aim.
HL: How do you find the designers with whom you work? What are some basic criteria for products to be featured on Curio Road?
SB: Good question! I find them all over the place — and searching for our designers is one of the most fun parts of my role at Curio Road. The quest to discover unique brands and truly talented artists is ongoing. I do tons of research via Pinterest and Etsy, but I also follow too many blogs, always curious to see what my favorite bloggers are stumbling upon. “Field trips” are also incredibly important — attending trade shows, and walking into every single boutique I see! Michael also has a good eye for brands, and has contributed many to our list.
As for basic criteria, we are always focused on a few key points. Quality is incredibly important. Having been an apparel merchant (at Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters), I need to touch everything to make sure it feels soft, but as stable and sturdy as it needs to be, depending on its purpose. We always want our members to be satisfied with their purchases; we do our due diligence to ensure our quality standards are maintained. We like to work with brands of all sizes — but individual designers must be able to handle the anticipated volume of our sales. We like to keep our product lead times (from order to ship date) short, even for our handmade-to-order products.
HL: Speaking of sales volume, can you tell us what that’s like for the site right now?
SB: Some of the data is confidential, of course, but we met expectations for our first week, and sales have been increasing, which is exciting. Obviously on a unit basis we’re not doing what the major flash sale sites are doing, but the volume is more than we would have expected in some of the more powerful sales.
HL: Will you be expanding with more sales, soon?
SB: We’re definitely going to be expanding. We’ll be opening more shops, with an emphasis on kids and personal care, especially around the holidays. We also have some specialty shops coming up. It’s important to keep the assortment really focused. We like to talk about this idea of the old tootsie roll commercials — you know, asking how many licks it takes to get to the middle. Instead we’re asking, how many clicks does it take to get to something that you love? On other sites, sometimes it takes a long time. Our hope is that with one or two clicks you can find a few things you really like, and a few you really love.
HL: The site has a very art-centric bent. Do you have plans to include more artists/original artwork?
SB: I just love art! I am a photographer myself, and just can’t get enough art into my own home. Yes, there will definitely be more artists and original artwork; it will always have a place on Curio Road. Not everyone has space in his/her life to buy a new art print every few months, but the idea of connecting art lovers with such talented artists is something I am very passionate about. Keep your eyes peeled for more!
HL: There are a lot of new ways to buy art online out there. Do you view that niche as competition?
What we’re doing is a little different, since we’re trying to be a curated space for things people can fit into their lives very easily. I don’t think we’d want to compete — we’d view them as sources of inspiration for something we think is really important. It can really enhance people’s home lives to have art in their living space. Art will always have a space on Curio Road, but won’t become a primary focus.
HL: Can you tell us about your customer base?
SB: Our members are quite varied, and we hope it will stay that way. We find that our mission resonates very well with women of all ages — from college students to professionals to moms to career women. I fall within the profile of our core customer — but so does my mother. Our membership is also not exclusively female. Many of our products are broadly appealing and not necessarily feminine — and many make great gifts.
HL: Where do you see the site going, growing, or changing over the next six months?
SB: I am overwhelmingly optimistic about the potential to expand into so many places. We are very interested in releasing an ever-changing line of Curio Road private label products — so stay tuned on that front. Our blog is launching this week, and I think that it will become a great avenue to communicate more deeply with our members. We are also, of course, planning to expand our assortment on Curio Road, while still maintaining a highly curated approach to delivering stunning product. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
HL: Is there anything else we should know?
SB: One thing that’s so exciting is user engagement. We had a great response to the giveaway celebrating our launch. What’s great is twofold — connecting with our audience, but also connecting with brand partners. So far all the brands we’re featuring are really excited, and they’re contributing to the momentum.