What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
Currently our biggest concerns relate to our supply chain, as we want to ensure all of our partners operate in safe working environments. We produce overseas and have already experienced some delays, leading to us being sold out of our product for over six weeks. We anticipate further port delays, varying inventory quarantine periods, and shortages of raw materials for the foreseeable future. This poses a challenge to meet current demand but also requires the business to outlay additional funds to purchase more inventory than normal, which poses its own financial risks, especially for a small and new brand like Caraway. Additionally, many partnerships in the works have been put on pause, and we’ve had to amend the launch strategy of our linens collection, which ultimately debuted the first week in April.
All things considered, we are fortunately in one of the few categories that consumers continue to buy from, especially with consumers spending more time at home and in the kitchen now more than ever. This has been a great time to connect more with our community and provide them with the education they need to cook at home.
As we just launched in early 2020, there are many benefits to being a newer, nimbler brand with a small team and low overhead costs. I am proud to say that we have retained all of our employees during this time in addition to making a number of new hires we’ve onboarded virtually.
We’ve come up with creative solutions to producing content such as having our photographers and talent shoot in their own personal kitchens, shipping orders from our fulfillment centers, and even launching our linens collection to great fanfare.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
First and foremost, we value the safety and health of every single individual within our supply chain that handles our product up until the moment it’s unpackaged by the end consumer. From attaching our steel pan handles all the way to the last mile of bringing the packaged set to a customer’s front steps, we make sure all of our shipping and manufacturing partners adhere to social distancing guidelines set forth and operate within environments they feel safe in.
To that end, our customers have been incredibly understanding of how this may impact shipping times, as they respect the transparency. Most are purchasing within the mindset that their new cookware is an investment towards their home that they intend on treasuring, so a few extra weeks is insignificant compared to the end value. We of course have a very small minority of potential customers who will not want to wait, but they are able to make that decision for themselves knowing we’ve given them everything they need to know for when their order would arrive.
Working entirely remote has not been too much of a hindrance for our team, as we are still innately a digitally native brand and can operate our business at the same level. We’ve come up with creative solutions to producing content such as having our photographers and talent shoot in their own personal kitchens, shipping orders from our fulfillment centers, and even launching our linens collection to great fanfare. Since March 2020, with consumers cooking more than ever, we’ve seen a 274% increase in sales and a 184% increase in website traffic.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
We feel that the impacts of COVID-19 will ultimately be positive for the kitchen category, as it’s an opportunity for many to get back into the kitchen and learn to cook with what they have. As a brand, we stand for making cooking easier for people using safe materials. For consumers, I believe they will better attach themselves to brands who have a mission around safe living, and ones that not only provide great products, but also education on how to improve their lives at home.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
As a new brand, we’re very open to testing a bunch of different ideas and throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Not every idea will become a sustainable initiative, but we see a lot of value in learning from early missteps and seeing what resonates in the market. Mostly everyone cooks, so there’s ample opportunity for us from a partnership and content collaboration perspective to reach new and unfamiliar heights for a cookware brand. When it comes to working with Instagram content creators in particular, we’ve seen great performance and audience reception from those that are experts in the design and organization worlds—legends like Rebecca Minkoff and Jason Wu, all the way to DIY creators such as @peonyandhoney are huge fans of our brand—compared to the typical foodie/recipe developer creator. At the end of the day, we have the confidence in our brand and mission to test until we find the best avenues that work.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I’ve been doing my best to keep my schedule relatively the same. The only difference is I am working from my apartment. I find that I get a lot more work done at home but need to go for a walk or exercise mid-day, otherwise I burn out easily. It’s been fun to be working from home with my fiancé as well, as we help each other with work, and I get to learn more about her day-to-day job.
Killing Eve, Ozark, The Sinner, The Outsider are all great ones I recently watched! Also re-watching my favorite show of all time, Psych.
Listening to podcasts like How I Built This and Criminal.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
Zoom calls with friends and family have become the norm, including happy hours, playing games, and watching movies together. I am currently sheltered with my fiancé in our 500-square-foot apartment. We are getting married in the fall, so it has been fun to finalize our registry, wedding plans, etc. We find ourselves cooking more, re-doing our living room, and working out together.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
It’s hard to decompress from work when you are at home but doing my best to work out or go for long walks midafternoons each day. I’ve actually been more active at home and spending time doing home workouts and running the stairs in my building. Since I use my living room as my workspace, it’s been nice to decompress and get into bed earlier to take some time off work.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I had trips planned to New Orleans, France, and Cape Cod, which I unfortunately had to cancel, but excited to get to those destinations post COVID-19!