Small Business Spotlight: Smathers & Branson
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Who: Peter Smathers Carter and Austin Branson
What: Small business that specializes in affordable and attractive needlepoint belts and other accessories.
When: September 2004
Where: Brunswick, Maine
How: Peter Smathers Carter and Austin Branson were seniors at Bowdoin College when the idea for Smathers & Branson came to them.
Smathers and Branson received handcrafted, needlepoint belts as gifts from their then girlfriends, which the founders say require about $250 of materials and over 30 hours of stitching to make.
Smathers and Branson received compliments on their belts from students on campus, and a business plan was born.
“We recognized that there was a gap in the marketplace: no one was mass marketing hand-stitched needlepoint belts and we thought it was the perfect product to build a brand around,” Smathers said.
Smathers & Branson officially became an LLC in September, 2004 and has been in business for over 10 years.
Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenges that we faced was finding and training our skilled artisans to stitch our products. All of the stitching is done through a cottage industry that has grown over 2000% since we started working with our first village in late 2004. It took a lot of patience and persistence, but creating a scalable production source was key to getting the company off the ground and scaling our business,” says Smathers.
One moment in time: Smathers & Branson is looking towards expanding their product line beyond belts and accessories.
“Over the next few years, you'll see more innovative products from Smathers & Branson, new collaborations with larger, mainstream brands, the launch of a mail order catalog, and also a few pop up stores along the way. It should be an exciting time for us as a company,” says Smathers.
Best business advice: “Listen very carefully because opportunity sometimes knocks very softly. And the harder you work, the luckier you get,” they said.