The renaissance of independent retailers and brands has provided rich options for stores and producers looking to connect and do business with each other. Here are the stories of some who came together via Ankorstore, an online platform designed as a B2B marketplace.
‘Opens a whole new world’
Sophie McEwan started her online retail business Quince & Cook in 2014. But she and husband Neil kept the dream of turning it into a physical store alive. Finally, after years of savings and a six-month delay caused by Covid, they opened the doors of their first store in October 2020 in Perth, Scotland. “We’ve been working hard ever since, but it’s been going really well. Our local community has been incredibly supportive, reaching out and keeping us,” says Sophie.
Keeping an ever-changing selection of interesting products is something Sophie is proud of, but the lack of in-person fairs during the Covid-19 pandemic has made discovering new manufacturers that much more difficult. That’s where Ankorstore came in. “It’s almost like an online fair. There is a wide variety and you can buy in small quantities too, which gives me the flexibility to keep trying different brands.” And if you’re not happy with something, just send it back, she adds. “You don’t get stuck or stuck with actions that don’t live up to expectations.” She now orders about 50% of her store’s inventory at Ankorstore.
As with any new business, cash flow has been difficult to manage, mainly because many of the shares in independent brands Quince & Cook have to be paid for upfront. Working with Ankorstore is different as they offer payment terms of 60 days. “There is a brand called Miniml that we have in stock at the refill store. We’ve been buying from them for years, but they don’t offer credit. Now they’ve signed up with Ankorstore, which is fantastic because it means we don’t have to pay upfront for orders.” The platform also facilitated the discovery of smaller brands that would not be able to participate in fairs and independent manufacturers in Europe and North America. “This opens up a whole new world, so you can mix and match to create something truly unique and curated.”
‘I didn’t expect them to be so useful’
After a long career as a special needs teacher, Caroline Bee was walking along a Cornish beach when she decided to do something about the litter that was washing up on the beach. Along with some volunteering experience at a nearby beekeeping center and a previous degree in art and design, she was inspired to create a variety of reusable beeswax food packaging to sell at local markets. Retro Bee was born. “We officially launched in 2019 and that year was amazing. The wraps were very well received and we booked as many festivals and fairs as we could,” says Bee. “Then Covid arrived.”
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She went on to make cotton face masks to help her during the pandemic, started stocking other people’s products in her stalls (like bamboo straws and plastic-free lunch boxes), and looked to expand the company’s commercial channels to not rely so heavily on selling. direct to the customer. One of the brands she buys shares from Ankorstore recommended. “I’m not on the internet much, so it proved to be a really good way to sell,” says Bee. “I didn’t expect them to be so helpful. I have my own brand manager and we meet every two weeks to see how I can maintain my sales. She has been amazing.”
She’s still doing the occasional fair, but will use the Ankorstore to ship orders. One thing that surprised her the most about becoming an entrepreneur is where the interest comes from. Bee Retro beeswax wraps are now stocked in locations as varied as a zoo and an airport. “You just need to find your fit,” she adds. “And it’s not always the fit you think it’s going to be when you start out.”
‘They align with my values’
Katy Davies has always wanted to start her own business. But it wasn’t until she was released from her work in international development during the pandemic that she had the time or momentum to do anything about it. “I sat in the garden during that glorious summer, I thought it was now or never really,” she says. “I treated it a bit like a sabbatical from work. I spent the entire summer researching and figuring out what kind of brand it would be. I wanted it to be something meaningful.”
She founded Ecojiko in late 2020. The plastic-free online store sells products like a zero-waste kitchen starter kit and customizable pot washers and dish brushes. “My partner is a tech genius and built a laser engraver. It really got us noticed.” When Davies was diagnosed with breast cancer last October, she launched a series of pot washers called “boob scrubbers” to provide a visual reminder for women to check in regularly and raise money for CancerCare. “I kept him hidden for a while,” she says of her diagnosis. “But pot washers have been very popular and it’s comforting to share stories with other brands and stockists.”
When making plans to expand the business, she considered partnering with an e-commerce giant, but chose not to because it “didn’t align with my values,” she says. She was then approached by Ankorstore and was impressed by their support of small independent brands. “They are really proactive and gave me a lot of advice on how to increase sales, how to showcase the brand, do promotions, create packages, etc. The dashboard is also very good and makes it easy to control orders and organize shipping. ” Their account manager also provided assistance in navigating the new export rules after Brexit, and Ecojiko now has stockists in France and Scandinavia. “We have around 180 stockists worldwide. And also built our network with other brands. It’s in full swing.”
To learn more or register with Ankorstore, visit ankorstore.com