In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Ina Kane, president of Kalmar Home. Kalmar Home sells gourmet and home accessories made from Acacia woodenware, is based in New York, and has been in business for two years. Shop wooden accessories here.
Abound: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Ina: Deciding what business to start was easy for us, it was a notion that we had played around with for years. Having the guts to actually take that first step was most definitely the hardest decision for us.
Kalmar Home is an offshoot from Kalmar Designs – the teakwood homegoods manufacturer that was owned by my husband’s parents and so he “grew up in the business.”
Unfortunately, when Kalmar Designs hit a milestone 30th year, other issues came into play and the company closed its doors. Bruce always had a soft spot in his heart for the beautiful wood products and so, while sitting in traffic one day, we decided that it was time to officially reinvent the Kalmar name.
Abound: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
Ina: Our first prototype was indeed a challenge! We had ideas about what the products should look like, however, we needed to find the right wood, source it correctly, and find a manufacturer overseas. Communication issues aside, we managed to get several samples made up in a variety of woods.
We narrowed our decision down to the gorgeous Acacia wood, known for its durability and sustainability. We fell in love with the look of the wood, it has beautiful, pronounced grains that truly individualize each item.
Abound: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
Ina: All of the product designs come out of our New York office and are relayed to our manufacturing facility in Thailand, the native environment for Acacia wood. With regard to logistics, there is a considerable amount of time from concept to finished product, a process that can take upwards of 6-9 months.
Abound: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
Ina: As any small business owner will attest to, there is absolutely no normal day-to-day. We wear many hats and need to be flexible and proactive. There is much to be said about running a family business, it is a constant and there is no downtime. You really have to love what you’re doing and let your passion guide you.
Abound: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
Ina: Our initial investment was self-funded. A terrifying concept, but we were confident that we were making the right decision!
Abound: Where was the first place you sold your product?
Ina: Our initial orders were from local retailers and once the reorders began, we felt comfortable expanding into additional markets including eCommerce.
Abound: Where do you sell your product now?
Ina: eCommerce accounts for a significant source of orders for us, however, we are a product line that moves extremely well in the brick and mortar environment. Customers love to physically see and feel our beautiful pieces and appreciate the quality inherent in each product.
Abound: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
Ina: No limits! We would love to find Kalmar Home in some of the larger retail stores and other niche environments like bridal registries.
Abound: Do you have a favorite product? If so, which one?
Ina: My absolute favorite item is our very large salad bowl. We have it in three different designs, and I always have one on my own table. It is obviously great for salad, but works just as well for fruit, chips, holiday decorations, or lots of Halloween candy!
Abound: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
Ina: Our marketing is currently all done in-house. Postings are fairly regular on Facebook and Instagram and I love knowing that we are generating a steady stream of new followers. Building the audience and keeping things fresh is a challenge. No, not so much a challenge, more of an adventure!
Abound: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
Ina: Bringing any new product line to market is a challenge. We spent an awful lot of time evaluating the existing market and trying to find a way to distinguish our brand from some of the more recognized names out there. We believe our quality and classic designs will help us to create the name recognition that we need.
Abound: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
Ina: It is the little achievements and victories that keep us moving forward. The 5 star review from a happy customer or a retailer who is excited about our new products.
The process from concept to finished product can be daunting, but when you see the item on a store shelf, all of the hard work is forgotten and you can’t help but to smile!
Abound: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
Ina: Don’t rush! It is a long process and you can’t skip any steps along the way. Know your market and be 110% confident in your product. Be open to constructive criticism and sometimes even swallow that pride. But mostly, be passionate about what you are doing. It is not just a job, it is a commitment.