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Voices: A Route Interview Series Feat. Laura Chetrit
From “Blah” to Brand Idea: Bless This Maison Tess.
As an ecommerce enthusiast herself, it didn’t take long for Laura Chetrit to notice that when it came to home goods, shoppers were strong-armed into having to pick between aesthetics and functionality.
Wanting to curate a comfortable and functional home for her own family without having to sacrifice her sense of style, Chetrit took matters into her own hands and founded home linen brand Maison Tess.
Wrapped around the strong ethos “Your home should be a reflection of who you are—no filter needed,” Maison Tess. empowers people to make every room in their home an extension of themselves. This Montreal-based brand is steeped in transparency, good ethics, social responsibility, and a deep-seated drive to deliver high-quality linens that look good as heck.
We were lucky enough to chat with Laura and learn more about her brand, her journey, and her thoughts on the future of ecommerce. Dip in, get inspired, and get out on your own ecommerce adventure.
Q: What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
A: I wish I knew how to properly plan ahead. Five years ago was very much a mood board kind of scenario. We had ideas left, right, and center, and it took a lot of the experience that only comes with time and mistakes to be able to plan efficiently, like planning inventory to make sure that you have the right amounts at specific times of year. Also, in terms of tasks being given to certain employees, when you’re able to plan ahead, you’re also better able to manage your team.
These are things that I wish I knew at the beginning, but at the same time, I don’t think that you can gain this kind of knowledge at first. It takes the fun three or four years at the beginning of a business to be able to look back and say, “I wish I did this or that right.”
Additionally, when you plan ahead, it’s just a plan. I always plan ahead for Black Friday because that’s the busiest time of year, but every other day, I come back to my team and say, “OK, that was the plan, and these are the modifications to the plan,” because certain things happen like changing demand of certain things, a COVID-19 pandemic, or not having enough stock.
Plus, you might be seeing that some products perform better than others, so you’ll take away some of the ones that don’t work as well. So you have a plan—it’s your skeleton—but then the day-to-day comes in and you adapt.
Q: What does the future of ecommerce look like in your mind?
A: For me, it’s going to be a bigger, better, and more powerful machine than it already is. A lot of people throughout the pandemic had no choice but to get on this ecommerce bandwagon and just go with it. Before, it was older generations who would prioritize going out to a store and buying their products in a brick-and-mortar store. With coronavirus, they’ve had no choice but to do it online. As ecommerce retailers, we’ve catered to them and we’ve shown them that it’s just as easy, if not easier, to shop online, get that experience, and have that connection.
A lot of times, people think that they’re not buying from humans online, but it’s us—we’re really here and helping. We are a team of young women (it happens that we’re just women I guess, but maybe one day, we’ll be men and women) trying to help.
I also think that we’re going to be taking on a bigger part of the market in terms of retail. Some brick-and-mortar stores will stay, but they’ll be an extension of an ecommerce experience. People are going to go into stores to experience something, but they’re going to get out of the store after touching and feeling certain fabrics and they’re going to end up shopping online. Whatever they liked is going to be delivered in three to five business days.
I’m excited for that. Of course I would love for our consumers to see my face and see the team space, but they should still know that we understand them and want to help them.
Q: What is your best failure?
A: A few years ago, I was approached by five VC’s who wanted to inject money into our company. It was very challenging because it’s like you’re in an audition and they want to see the talent. They want to see how much you can take. They want to know your story. They want to know your strengths.
I’m a really good salesperson, so I went there with a plan and I was going to get them in on it. At the end of the day, I was proud that after 24 months, I had these big boys who wanted to invest in my company. At that time we were just a team of two people.
Anyway, I told myself that if, after 24 months, people who didn’t really know me or what I was doing in-depth wanted to invest, then I was probably doing something right. So, I rejected them and the offer. In a sense, it was a failure because we didn’t get that money, but we actually got it in other ways. Plus, I don’t need to have 12 guys over me telling me what to do every day, which I think is amazing.
Q: How have you pivoted strategy during the pandemic?
A: We pivoted our strategy in that we needed more volume to cater to the demand that we were having. Even though that was a problem, it was a good problem. We ended up selling inventory that didn’t exist, meaning that we were on a pre-order basis and people were waiting for their stuff from March until July, until we got it into our Montreal warehouse. So, that was really how we pivoted.
We understood that our cruise control inventory, management, and warehouse level scaled up almost 1000% year over year and went up 500% month over month, so we had to scale everything. We grew our team, changed our warehouse, and just had to adapt to the demand that we had for what we were selling.