Welcome to Small Business Saturday, a new feature here on CreativeIncome. We recently got to talk to Claire Russo and Liza Serratore from LuRu Home about their business. These women founded LuRu Home in 2010 and have since become the ultimate authority on Nankeen dyeing. Nankeen dyeing is a traditional Chinese indigo hand-print process dating back 3,000 years. It’s still done by hand, using the original technique and LuRu Home is trying to preserve the technique for future generations by partnering with the remaining artisans who still print it by hand. LuRu Home makes traditional Chinese design relevant to a contemporary way of living. They love the intersection where East meets West and offer other traditional Chinese craft fabrics, both new and vintage. Fabric is sold by the yard, as well as home textile goods (pillows, table linens, bedding, accessories).
We’re still so excited that we were able to chat with Claire and Liza!
Q: Describe your typical work day.
A: We’re open 24-7, literally! One of us is always awake. With Liza in the Pearl of the Orient and me in The Big Apple, we’re known to work wonky hours.
In Shanghai, where she’s lived for 6 years, Liza bops around from trimming market to fabric workshop and back to her office in the Former French Concession, sampling all of the delights of Shanghai’s street food scene along the way. She manages our supply chain, sourcing and design development.
In New York City, where I relocated from Shanghai last year, I handle our sales and marketing, and have customer meetings around the area.
We have a daily call, typically in my evening, Liza’s tomorrow morning. We are Dropbox wizards, WeChat devotees, and avid users of Google Apps for Business. Despite living 7,000 miles and 13 time zones apart, it feels as though we see one another every day.
Q: What inspires you to be an entrepreneur?
A: Every day’s a school day, as they say. We are constantly learning in order to meet the challenges LuRu Home faces as we grow – and this is the most inspiring part for both of us – the opportunity to become an expert in everything related to our business.
Q: What has been the biggest hurdle when you created your business?
A: Learning how to operate in Shanghai. Between language barriers, cultural barriers, and the mysteries of traditional craft and contemporary textile production, there was a huge learning curve.
Q: How did you overcome it?
A: We studied Chinese, 3 hours per day, for a year. It was hard, absolutely, but each day and each class felt like a step in the right direction Today, speaking even a bit of the tongue of our work community removes obstacles, builds trust, and demonstrates our commitment to the talented people with whom we partner.
Q: How much time do you put into your online activities?
A: We have a healthy balance between online work (sales, social media, ecommerce strategy, marketing) and off-line work (meetings, design and development, sourcing, eating Chinese food). We try to keep online busywork to a minimum … checking email can take half the day if one isn’t careful.
Q: What social media channels do you use? How has it helped your business?
A: LuRu Home loves Instagram. It’s helped us connect with everyone from textile designers to buyers to fellow companies.
Q: What do you love most about working on your business?
A: Bringing our love for China home.
Q: What is your top-selling item? Why do you think it is so popular?
A: Right now, our vintage textiles and pillows are striking a chord with our customers. People love the richness and the history of these pieces. Each one tells its own story of China’s rapid cultural changes over the last half-century, and bears the beauty marks of being hand-made and well-loved.
Q: What success tips can you give to someone wanting to start their own online store?
A: It’s about more than ecommerce. Think of your online store and website as a very special means of reaching your customers and teaching them about your skills and your products. It’s pure brand — it’s clean, it’s all yours, and it’s what you make it. Use your website to educate your visitors, and they’ll thank you for it. It will help them connect with your passions, your products and you.
Q: Any tips for following your dreams?
A: The 7 Ps of Life: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performances. That’s the best logistical advice we’ve ever received. It has helped us create a backend structure and strategy for our dreams that makes them possible to achieve.