Elizabeth Donaldson is the founder of Brick + Mortar, a creative retail and co-working space and cafe, located in Norwood. Described by Elizabeth as “essentially an experiment,” there’s a symbiotic relationship between the different arms of the business. The retail space is where artists can sell their work, the cafe serves the local community and brings customers in, while the co-working option provides the opportunity for collaborative ventures.
Having recently turned 2 years old, Brick + Mortar’s community was built by Elizabeth from nothing. A brand new concept in a brand new space, it was a huge leap of faith for early adopters. But it’s now a vibrant, busy part of the Norwood community, delighting its audience with fresh, interesting and clever locally made products in a design-oriented environment.
In today’s episode of Be The Drop, Elizabeth discusses the importance of good coffee, how commercially viable doesn’t necessarily mean un-creative, and reveals the value of customer service to build brand loyalty…
Brick + Mortar was started as an attempt to run a commercially viable business for the arts sector without relying on funding. The name is representative of the fact that it’s literally providing the bricks and mortar for the local artists; it’s a physical entity, which is facilitating creatives being able to follow their passion.
Whether people are introduced to Brick + Mortar through workshops, co-working, or the cafe, essentially it’s an umbrella concept through which people can get recognition and support for their enterprise.
“I’ve always had this approach to my work of, ‘how hard can it be?’ There’s always going to be a way to do it.”
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Interconnection + feedback loop.
The B+M community is made up of customers, makers/artists, and creative co-workers. These three groups are interconnected and that’s central to how the business works, says Elizabeth. “Everything is incredibly interrelated and that’s how it’s designed to work.” </p
Elizabeth’s approach to her business is very customer-centric. “I was floored by the customer service and attention to detail in Tokyo. It’s really important to create an environment that people want to experience again and again.”
“It’s not about selling things, it’s about engaging people in what we do.”
The interrelation of B+M’s community provides a feedback loop that continuously feeds and nurtures the business. Customers meet the makers, which creates an understanding around who they’re supporting and why. This is valuable for the makers too, who can see how people experience their product. You don’t get that in a normal retail situation.
Storytelling creates personal connection.
Storytelling is essential to the B+M customer journey. A personal connection to the product is created when a customer meets the maker. “Our customer base doesn’t support us by buying at a particular price point; they buy because they see value in what it is, who’s made it, why they made it, the story behind it.”
“A lot of people believe they’re not creative but we all are in different ways; this is my manifestation of being creative.”
Integrating on and offline.
Clearly Elizabeth places a lot of emphasis on real life interpersonal connection. So how does she integrate that with the digital world?
Digital media provides reach, but face-to-face takes that connection deeper, she says. “You have such reach online and can connect so easily and quickly. But you uncover opportunities easier through a relaxed face-to-face conversation. Online, it’s perhaps a more linear conversation.”
Organic, word of mouth referral and recommendations are so integral to the Brick + Mortar vibe, so Elizabeth favours independent media and quality journalism over sponsored social media posts and advertising.
She chooses to nurture her existing relationships by focusing on their monthly newsletter and supplements this with face-to-face networking. “It’s not a dirty word! It’s an enjoyable human experience where you get to meet people and hear their story,” she says.
In fact, Elizabeth’s Be The Drop tip is: Be prepared to engage with everybody; do that in person as well as on social media. Never pre-judge anyone thinking they won’t be the right fit. Everyone has something to offer. Don’t be afraid to get out there and talk to people!
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JOIN ME – HELP REDUCE HOMELESSNESS!
Let’s Be The Drop and create a waterfall together! This year, I’ll be participating in the CEO Sleepout to raise money for Vinnies with hundreds of other CEOs and business owners. Community action like this really embodies the spirit of Be The Drop for me. United, we can make a difference; individually, we’re just single drops, but if we work together, we can create a waterfall. I believe passionately in this philosophy and want to live it wholeheartedly, not just talk about it in my podcast.
So, join me in supporting Vinnies and we can change the lives of hundreds of thousands of homeless Aussies. Homelessness is not a choice, but I’m choosing to experience it for just one uncomfortable winter night to raise money to help those people that desperately need it. You don’t need to join me on the soggy cardboard, but you can support my fundraising efforts >> just follow this link to my fundraising page. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you again for tuning in and listening to the BTD podcast. I can’t wait for the next installment to bring you more inspiring people talking about their strategies for connecting with and building a positive community. And if you want more behind the scenes stuff and bits not included in the show, head over to our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.
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