Many of my favorite bloggers also run online shops, something that to me sounds like a lot of fun (and hard work!). I was curious about what that would be like, so today, I’m sharing an interview that I did with the lovely Rachel of elephantine. In addition to sharing gorgeous original photography and writing on her blog, Rachel also runs Mignon Kitchen Co. and elephantine jewelry. The thing I love most about her kitchen shop is that the items are so unique; they’re useful, charming things that I haven’t seen elsewhere. In addition to curating the products, Rachel also does all of the photography for the site-making it a real reflection of her personal aesthetic. Some of my favorite kitchen items have come from Mignon Kitchen Co., so I was psyched to get a little peek into the logistics of running this charming shop.
Rachel: I wouldn’t ever claim that I’m an expert in the kitchen, but I do love spending time there. And when you have passion for something, it’s hard not to share it in some way – for me, that ended up being a curated shop of kitchen goods. It’s been such a fun, hard, and rewarding project.
Rachel: I’ve tried to create a friendly, sweet aesthetic. I hope I’ve managed to communicate that through the products, photography and design.
Rachel: First of all, I always choose products that I would personally use. In ways, my shop is a reflection of me, and I want to make sure it stays that way. As for the companies I work with, they’re a mix of independent artisans, small businesses, and larger manufacturers – I particularly love to work with independent makers, but a mix of sources is necessary for some types of items I carry.
Rachel: I actually started my blog first, and even now that I have two small businesses I try not to promote them too much on my blog. Of course, I mention when I have a new product available. But my blog is more of a personal journal – I share links to favorite things, write short stories, and post a lot of my photography (flowers, food, my favorite places in Seattle, and so on). It’s a mix of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Overall, though, having a blog with a significant enough readership definitely helps out my businesses – it sends traffic to my other sites, and it also creates a personal connection.
Rachel: There are two ways I typically source products. One is that I already know exactly what I want, and I search around for a company that makes it. The other way is just by chance; often, I’ll see a beautiful item in a roundup on a blog, and then do a bit of research to find out if it’s available wholesale.
Rachel: The gray chevron napkins are very popular, especially for baby showers and weddings. The fondue au chocolat is popular as well, because it’s so unique. I personally love the berry colander, and the heart measuring spoons.
Me: Any unexpected moments or difficulties that you hadn’t anticipated about running your own online shop?
Rachel: Yes – it seems so obvious to me now, but when I was first starting out, I didn’t consider how much storage room I’d need! When you buy products wholesale, you generally have to purchase a case of them, and for some items that takes up a lot of room. I also have to store several different sizes of shipping boxes, as well as bubble wrap, packaging tape, and so on. It tremendously helps to be organized… and it turns into a huge headache when things get unorganized.
Rachel: I’ve been featured in a few printed magazines with large readerships, and that’s been really exciting.
Me: Your shop offers a lot of great baking items. What are your favorite things to bake?
Rachel: One of my favorite things to bake are soufflés, because you have to enjoy them right away before they collapse – that immediacy makes it a special treat. (I’ll actually be adding ramekins to my shop soon.) For a while I was also trying to bake layer cakes, and that was pretty enjoyable, even though my frosting skills could have used some improvement.
Rachel: I guess the simple answer is that I work a lot and I’m pretty efficient at getting things done. But I used to blog four or five times a week, and I’ve had to cut back to three times a week, because I just don’t have the creative energy to generate that much content. And I’m often working on my novel at ten or eleven o’clock at night, when I should probably be sleeping instead. But I just get so much satisfaction out of all of those things, and that makes it completely worth it.
All images by, and used courtesy of, Rachel Ball.