Main Takeaways:

  • Fitzroy Toys manages to operate as B2B company with a B2C feel.
  • The retail apocalypse is really just the end of boring retail.
  • Big brands are having to get scrappy to keep up with start-ups.

From 4th Grade to Fitzroy:

  • CEO Stefanie Botelho's entrepreneurship journey actually began in toys: she started her first business venture in the 4th grade where she sold finger puppets to her classmates.
  • The first ever version of Fitzroy Toys was created as a project in a coding class when Stefanie was in Harvard Buisness School.
  • Fitzroy Toys (now rebranded as Fitzroy) actually began as a toy recommendation engine (a direct to consumer search engine) where consumers who were one step removed from a child could purchase toys based on recommendations.
  • Fitzroy has a clear mission: to support different by connecting independent retailers to independent brands.
  • Fitzroy is unique in that it operates as a B2B company and in a wholesale space. Unlike most wholesale companies, the UX and UI of the company experience allow consumers to feel like they are shopping on a B2C, retail-based space.
  • Fitzroy is a tech company first, wholesale company second.

How To Scale and Succeed in Business:

  • Keeping customers as a north star is critical, and in Stefanie's (and Fitzroy's) case, by going to the brands after graduation she learned that there was a demand for wholesale in the toy space.
  • Learn from others who have been in the space longer and have deference for their experience.
  • Allow for organic growth: Fitzroy Toys rebranded to Fitzroy as the company moved beyond toys into other home/family-based verticals.
  • Test before you fully implement any strategy: Before fully rebranding, Fitzroy held a soft-rebrand of the company and allowed for user feedback to guide the direction.

Turning Wholesale Purchasing Into an Experience:

  • By looking at all of the best B2C companies, and what they do right in regards to UX and UI, Fitzroy is able to create a B2C feel while remaining a B2B company.
  • Super cool feature alert: Fitzroy has a universal cart so retailers can see what they are purchasing from multiple brands.  
  • The entirety of Fitzroy's site is custom built, and all features are in line with creating a seamless uncomplicated experience for users.
  • All brands on the site are vetted, and everything on the website is behind the login wall, with some items not available anywhere else.
  • Retailers are able to sub-search for specific categories that may be important to their values/branding. They can search for things like organic, eco-friendly or even woman-owned business. This can allow those users to curate products that will be in line with what their customers values as well as their brand's.
  • Also, because Fitzroy deals with both brands and retailers, they are able to provide their users with useful data regarding what their customers may want in terms of specialty purchasing. A lot of these retailers have customers who really care about the transparency behind what they are purchasing.

The Real Retail Apocalypse: The End of Boring Retail:

  • Retail is changing, and companies will have to begin operating on a more user-focused experience.
  • One way Fitzroy is participating in this by working with brands and retailers to stock and purchase ADA-compliant products that are usable for children with learning or physical disabilities.
  • Big brands are having to keep up with start-ups who are always innovating. Macy's (a quintessential "big brand") has acquired two companies Story and Bulletin both of whom are focused on creating unique in-store experiences for customers.
  • Handy, a home services company similar to Uber in its model of on-demand service, is expanding their customer base.
  • Startups like Glossier and Allbirds are dominating the market by focusing on things that consumers really value: comfort, individuality, naturally sourced materials and style.

Stefanie Botelho's Recommendations for Merchants:

  • Double-down on strengths: If you have a physical location, utilize the opportunity for in-store experience, and lean in to whatever your business is already really good at.
  • Play your own game: "Think about that last mile problem and partner with additional tech to offer convenience to users."
  • Think about what "experience" means to you: beyond pop-up shops or trunk shows. And cultivate that experience for your customers.
  • Don't be afraid to have your own unique voice: Interpret your entire brand strategy and focus through that lens.

Guest

Stefaine Botelho - Fitzroy Toys

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