INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
A Time For Growth: An Interview with Tapestry Girls Founder Kyle Leighton
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kyle Leighton: We are doing great, thanks for asking! My wife Heather and I expect our first child this November, so we’ve been staying indoors, watching Netflix, and fielding Whole Foods deliveries! We’ve been making the most of it. We hope everyone else is staying safe and doing well, too!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tapestry Girls.
Kyle Leighton: I’ve worked in many different areas of business for some time now, and I’m always looking for new challenges and new ways to solve problems. I founded Tapestry Girls when I recognized a gap in the home decor space for tapestries. It seemed to me that a lot of tapestries were coming from India, China, and other parts of Asia, but there wasn’t a US-based company that primarily focused on tapestries. Because tapestries were especially popular among girls and young women, I decided to take the word “tapestry” and “girls” and marry the two. Thus Tapestry Girls was born. In the beginning, it was more of a hobby, a side business. I never expected it to get as big as it has. I’m very grateful to our customers, and the industry, and our vendors and partners, and everyone that has been a part of Tapestry Girls along the way.
How does Tapestry Girls innovate?
Kyle Leighton: Honestly, the customers do the innovating. We pay attention to trends and feedback and try to put out the best styles and variations of products available, and we experiment in doing so. To date, we have over 1,000 products, and we’re continuing to grow, but our customers let us know what works and what doesn’t. We might come out with a product that I think will be really popular and doesn’t do well. Other times, we put out a product that I’m not as excited about, but it’ll end up being one of our best selling products. It really depends on what the customers want, and then we build out the offering based on how those products are received.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Kyle Leighton: Fortunately, for us, the coronavirus hasn’t really slowed down our revenue because we are an online distributor, and we haven’t had to face the challenges of social distancing like a brick and mortar retailer might. For much of the year, it seemed like colleges were going to be in session, and because of that, it hasn’t hindered some of our best selling dorm-style products like our LED Wall Vine Lights or our Homecoming Tapestry. However, there has been slight delays pertaining to imports and our international vendors due to COVID, as well as implementing extra safety measures that are now in place. Our warehousing partner in California has done a great job of maintaining safe and healthy workspaces without interrupting day-to-day operations, which has been a huge help in keeping things moving forward and making sure customers get their orders on time. All in all, we’ve fared pretty well.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kyle Leighton: We did have to make some difficult choices to make pertaining to the procurement relationships we had with some of our international vendors. COVID caused slower manufacturing and shipping times all over the world, and as a result, we were forced to put some of our relationships on hold. However, in doing so, the silver lining for us was that we were forced to start new relationships with new vendors. We put out various RFP’s and had a variety of discussions with several new vendors, and we now have more manufacturing and supply options than ever before.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Tapestry Girls in the future?
Kyle Leighton: I deal with stress and anxiety head-on. I don’t put things off, and I don’t put things on the back burner. There’s always going to be new challenges; there’s always going to be something that has to be done. The way to keep stress and anxiety at a minimum is by getting things off the “to-do list” and continuing to move forward. Oftentimes that means delegating responsibilities and hiring the right people to share in those responsibilities. We’re going to record some pretty staggering revenue numbers this year. Sales are up 445% from the previous year, and this is a pandemic year! For Tapestry Girls to have gotten to the place it has in such a short period is a direct reflection of the type of work that has been put in, and the strategies that we have executed. Like Jeff Bezos always says, “get big fast.” We’re on the “get big fast” track, and I feel very confident in the company’s future.
Who are your competitors? And how long do you plan to stay in the game?
Kyle Leighton: We don’t see ourselves competing with many US-based companies. Some companies in India and China attempt to sell tapestries in the US, but we have a strong, known brand and our customers trust us. The companies selling similar products for dorms like Dormify, or products for bedrooms like Bed Bath & Beyond or Target are focusing on bedding and bath items, etc. While we do offer bedding, the core of our business is tapestries, and that’s what sets us apart. Tapestries have been around since the Hellenistic period, which to the layman is over 1,700 years ago. They are still very popular now because they make great decorations at an affordable price point, giving us staying power. Ultimately, I’d like to position the company for acquisition at a later date, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Your final thoughts?
Kyle Leighton: I want to thank all of our customers for their support and loyalty this year. The health and safety of our customers, colleagues, partners, and vendors are and will continue to be our top priority. We are here for you 24/7 through https://www.tapestrygirls.com or on our mobile app.
We look forward to continuing to support all of your home decor needs and hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable remainder of 2020.
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