Friday, October 31, 2014
Seedling: Creating A Brand Which Is Not Online, Or Offline, But Everywhere
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Earlier this week, P.S. XO (formerly Moonfrye), the e-commerce company founded by Soleil Moon Frye and Kara Nortman, announced a merger with toy and crafting brand Seedling (www.seedling.com), which was founded by Phoebe Hayman. The two renamed themselves Seedling, and announced a new funding round from Upfront Ventures. We spoke with Kara Norton and Phoebe Hayman about the newly merged company, and how Pinterest and mobile are a key to the company's business – and how the company doesn't think of it as an e-commerce or retail brand, but a little bit of both.
Can you tell us a bit about the company and the merger?
Phoebe Hayman: We are bringing two companies together with a great heritage. Seedling has been around for seven years now, and we have some great strengths around international distribution and through retail Here in the U.S., we are in Nordstrom's, Macy's, Barnes and Noble, and thousands of other stores around the country. We have around 350 products all aimed at kids of all kinds of ages. We have an impulse activity line, combined with a party line as well, and the products developed by P.S. XO. We are moving towards creating a really exciting space, which is why we have partnered with Moonfrye to provide technology development to our core product line.
Talk about what's different here from a typical retail product company?
Kara Norton: The traditional, big box retailers haven't really figured out how to move their experience online. When you go to stores like Michael's and Party City, you'll see all of the items are sold as individual products. What's unique abour our new, combined company, is we've created a whole solution. Instead of spending an hour at Michael's pulling a punch of components together in a big box, we've made it very easy to buy everything together wherever you are—whether that's in a physical store or online. That's a big piece of it, delivering an innovation solution for parents looking for fantastic gifts and parties, to make them feel great about themselves, and we're delivering that through Pinterest, through mobile, as well as retail. It's an omni-channel approach, and we're taking it to a very big market.
What was behind the merger?
Phoebe Hayman: Seedling has been around for about seven years ago. We've been going through distributors for a few years already. The though to meet with P.S. XO came up through a few different people, and we were really excited to make a connection with them, first on how we could work together on products to help them extend their range. As we walked through that, we found that the two companies were almost perfect halves. We had very strong distribution and were physical product driven, with an amazing retail experience. They had an amazing technology infrastructure, and had developed some great initial products. Putting the two together seemed a very natural process.
Talk about this omni-channel approach, and what that means?
Kara Norton: One of the things that are very unique about what we did initially as P.S. XO, our e-commerce brand, which is now Seedling, is we are trying to not view digital just as a storefront. Instead, it's a place to engage with a consumer, with whatever they are already doing. We're approaching it in a way more organic and authentic way for our brand. Seedling.com is now our home page, even though it's our home page. Instead, we have tentacles out there everywhere, whether that's on Pinterest, Instagram, or our actual homepage. The two most important are Pinterst and mobile. We will often put up our products on Pinterest, and start getting pins the moment that we go live with our product on our website. Pinterest is a place where the discovery starts for much of our product. If you go to Pinteres/psxo, you can see our Halloween board, or a baby shower board, or others, and see there are things that have been repinned one, two, or five thousand times. The second thing, is we have a huge percent of our traffic coming from mobile. Because of that, we've really built our experience for mobile. We're mobile first. Our flagship mobile app is currently still under P.S. XO, but we'll be moving that over to Seedling soon. It's not just something where you come to buy product, it's someplace where you can plan a whole party from your pocket, from creating an invitation to a save the date card, to creating thank you notes from your camera roll. The app only came out two weeks ago, and since then it's been featured by Apple two weeks in a row. If you think about digital discovery and connection to a brand, we've created an app which is not just beating you over the head with buy-buy-buy. Instead, it lets you do things like social bookmarking, creating invitations, and really connecting with people. Lots of people shop retail for products, and the unique thing about this company is it has equal parts retail and digital heritage. If you think about the two together, it allows us to build a powerful range of places to connect with consumers, where they can shop, and which reinforces those other places.
What's the goal behind the new funding?
Phoebe Hayman: Part of this is to be able to create a bettery supply chain for us, to make sure we are keeping up with demand, which is a good challenge. We also want to invest in having the best team. Moiing forward, we want to drive our digital products into new spaces. We don't want to create something that's already there, we truly are creating things that are interesting and unique. Taking on the VC funding really went towards growing the company and opening up the possibility of our brand in wider aspects.