I love businesses that not only try to "get it right" but do things so well that they create customer evangelists. I've written about Cliptomania before, but after a recent experience with them, I felt it only appropriate to revisit this small and growing company.
We recently interviewed Candy Santo, one of the owners of Cliptomania and would like to share our interview with you. For the uninitiated, Cliptomania is the place on the Internet to find ear rings for us girls who do not have pierced ears. They not only have a stellar selection for all ranges of budgets, but an equally interesting selection in terms of colors, gemstones, and fashion needs.
Consumer Maven: Can you tell me more about when and how you got started? What was your inspiration for starting your business???
Candy Santo: The idea for Cliptomania arose from my husband's attempt to find me nice earrings for our 30th anniversary in 1998. We were living in the New York metropolitan area and not only could he not find anything, but they laughed at him at Macy's. He thought that maybe this was a need that an Internet store could fill. Our oldest was already out on his own and our daughter was in college and he thought a small Internet business would be a good counter to the empty nesting.
After a year of study and planning, we opened our online store on Thanksgiving Day 1999. Looking back, we were so naive that it is a miracle that we are still in business! Had we tried it just 2 years later when online selling had taken off and start-ups were much more difficult and expensive, we're pretty sure it wouldn't have worked. It helped that neither of us quit our day jobs and business was light enough then that our daughter could help while continuing her studies. One of our best assets, however, was my several decades of non-profit management which provided a good knowledge base for growing our little business.
Candy Santo: Where we are now with a customer base of approximately 20,000 is something we never imagined and on most days more than half our customers are first timers so it looks like there's more growth ahead. In addition to the 3 owner/operators (Christy & I are now full-timers & then some) Cliptomania - an LLC - employs 2 full-time and 5 part-timers.
Our primary goal is to be the Kleenex of clip earrings.
Secondary goals are:
... to provide a range of styles that makes it possible for a customer to find at least 2 pair of earrings they want to buy whenever they come into our store;
... to image and describe the earrings in such a way that the customer gets what they expected (that this goal is being attained is demonstrated by the fact that less than 5% of what we sell is returned to us.)
... to provide outstanding customer service, giving customers the feeling they are shopping in a good local jewelry store
We couldn't meet these goals - particularly the range of products offered - if we were making them ourselves. So at any given time I'm dealing with at least 40 manufacturers, importers and designers. I have a core group that have been key parts of our success as they have been willing and able to provide products that meet the unique needs of an Internet store.
Thank you Candy, and thanks for a great shopping experience!!
The Consumer Maven isn't the only fan here! Check out the Tamale Chica Chronicles for another customer evangelistic perspective.