An Inside Look at Satsuma Designs

Seattle-based Satsuma Designs loves babies! Every design, business decision, daily detail and inspiration comes from their mission to create cozy, all natural and useful products for little ones. Satsuma Designs’ products are made from all natural fibers that treat baby and the environment with a soft touch. They use an assortment of natural materials that include bamboo, organic cotton and more. Recently, The Giggle Guide® caught up with owner Jennifer Porter to learn more about this bestselling brand.

When was your brand born, and what was the initial inspiration?

Satsuma Designs was born in 2008 for two reasons. We discovered sustainable bamboo jersey – the softest, silkiest, most beautiful knit hand available – and saw an opportunity to launch with this great new eco-friendly material. We started with blankets, hats and booties and have continued in accessories with a bit of apparel and will be launching a complete organic layette in Spring 2016.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

Distribution. It’s still a challenge, but we’re working every day to share our products and message that Satsuma Designs makes things that help make caring for kids as easy as child’s play.

What is one thing you would have done differently?

Only one thing? Not possible! The first thing would have been to grow more quickly. In the midst of having my own kiddos, I grew this business. I would never trade my time parenting, which still takes up a large portion of each day, but I would have found ways to outsource more. I was just remembering that 4 hour work week book and chuckling, but the idea is sound. Outsource what you can to people you TRUST and have shown you they can perform and when it’s not working, be polite and move on. That’s another thing, don’t be afraid to move on, but do it nicely. As my husband says, ‘there is no reason to be rude in business.’ He’s right. So wise, that one.

What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

  1. Sharing. I’m 100% convinced that sharing information, resources, and opportunities with peers in our community helps everyone, including the party with information. I’ve only been burned once by sharing information and that’s a pretty great record. Sharing can also have a positive viral effect in our social media/word of mouth world that strengthens relationships and keeps brands top of mind.
  2. Satisfaction obsessed! We are sensitive to the needs of our customers first and this is the driver for all decisions.
  3. Communication. I love the phone! I would much rather pick up the phone and talk than spend 10 minutes emailing. I think we’ve lost some of that connectivity in spite of always being wired. I say pick up the phone, don’t schedule it, just do it and see how far this method of connecting will take you. Far!

Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business.

I get inspired in lots of ways – through kids, nature, color and trade trends, my incredible sales team. I take that information and turn it into a plan for a seasonal roll out that includes sourcing raw materials, finding partners for added features, communicating with my production team and then working on packaging and a marketing plan that will sell through to fund the next season! I feel like I’m working on 2-3 seasons and roll outs at any time and thank the heavens for Excel.

Do “green” or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions, and if so, how?

Definitely! As a designer and manufacturer of baby products, the origin of our products is paramount. We work to offer organic and sustainable materials in all of our products. We believe that families favor products and brands that are transparent in their offering and support an American-made collection.

What is one new trend you’re seeing in the marketplace?

I love the trend of moving away from typical layette/baby motifs – chicks, bunnies, puppies – into more geometric and global prints – underwater, space, nature.

How does your business make use of the Internet?

Web traffic for consumer sales has been Pinterest. Our trade efforts have been mixed, but we appreciate platforms like The Giggle Guide that offer timely and actionable content to our industry.

What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

Consumer web presence. We’re undergoing a site update and are excited for a coming relaunch in May. We’re active on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

Rising costs. We want to be a competitively priced brand not so much because of competitors, but we really believe that a baby product needs to be a value to families who are making daily cost/benefit decisions. We want to be the brand the serves families first and that means being fairly priced. It just takes more effort on the production side to make sure our prices are reasonable over time.

What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

Concerted effort to reach out to like-minded retail partners. This is the bright spot in our business and a total joy to spend part of each day having conversations and brainstorming fun and converting marketing ideas with our retail partners and prospects.

If you had one piece of advice for someone entering the children’s market, what would it be?

Hang on! Kidding. Just work hard, find the right resources. Time and again, I relearn that you get what you pay for. You’d think I would know by now, but it’s just the truth in business. Always ask for references and do your homework, brush your teeth and say a prayer.

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