Margaux DelCollo From Twee
In this episode of Beyond the Inbox, Margaux DelCollo, the co-founder of TWEE, shares her insights on the brand's marketing strategy, which has helped the brand stand out in a crowded market. TWE creates unique and imaginative sidewalk chalks for children that are designed to stimulate their creativity and imagination, and the brand has grown to include other products, such as veggie paints.
Margaux discusses TWEE's approach to email marketing, emphasizing the importance of multiple touchpoints in building a strong connection with customers. She explains that TWE's email marketing is centered around storytelling, and the brand uses a welcome sequence to introduce new customers to the brand and a series of emails that highlight different aspects of the brand's mission and products. This approach allows TWEE to keep customers engaged with the brand and build a loyal customer base.
The conversation also covers TWEE's expansion into other products, including veggie paints, which are powdered-based vegetable pigment paints. Margaux talks about the challenges of creating new products, including working with a team of makers who don't have children and getting feedback from children to ensure the products are engaging. She explains how TWEE is differentiating itself from other sidewalk chalks by creating extraordinary products that allow children to use their imagination and engage in dual play.
Margaux emphasizes the importance of community building in marketing and how TWEE is creating a community of parents who value the brand's eco-friendly and handmade products. She talks about how TWEE is turning first-time customers into repeat customers by continuing to engage with them through email marketing and introducing new products that are in line with the brand's mission.
The conversation also delves into Margaux's background in PR and marketing, which has helped TWEE to position itself as a high-quality, eco-friendly, and handmade brand that provides unique and imaginative products for children. Margaux's experience in PR and marketing has helped TWEE to maintain a high standard for the brand and its products and to create a strong connection with customers through storytelling and engaged email marketing.
Overall, the conversation provides valuable insights into TWEE's marketing strategy and how they are able to stand out in a crowded market by creating extraordinary products and engaging with their customers through storytelling and email marketing. TWEE's approach to marketing is centered around building a loyal customer base and creating a community of parents who value the brand's eco-friendly and handmade products. Margaux's experience in PR and marketing has helped TWEE to maintain a high standard for the brand and its products and to create a strong connection with customers through storytelling and engaged email marketing.
Read the transcript:
Margo, welcome to the show.
Oh, thank you so much for having me.
My pleasure. Can you start off by telling us about TWE and how you got involved in the company?
So TWE is a maker studio based in Philadelphia, and we make art tools for children. We started as a project in my son's preschool class. It just took off and started growing. And we were in my garage for a little, not a little bit, for a while. And then we went to a small basement studio, and we've gone to a bigger basement studio, and now we are in a real people studio, although we still only have one window. But it really was something that was built from the ground up, and a learn-and-go kind of way.
There's so much I want to dig into about the founder's story. I was reading an article before this interview, and it glossed over something that I really wanted to learn more about, which was, and correct me if I'm wrong here, you met someone that offered you more space, and if I'm not mistaken, his son was initially hesitant, and he could see how crestfallen you were and he actually was willing to, can you tell me more about this? Am I on the right track?
Yeah. So you were a hundred percent on the right track. I always joke that I don't know if the day we showed up is David's worst day or his best day <laugh>. But we, someone at the preschool, said that someone had stopped by and they, you know, left a card. I guess they were touring the preschool, and they rent, you know, art studios, and we should try to give them a call. But the studio was, it was like two blocks from my house. I'm like, we'll never be able to afford a studio in this neighborhood. But let's, let's just go and see it. So I didn't have anything with me. I didn't have a bag or a check. I, I just had what was like literally in my pockets. And we go in, and we meet with David, the man who owns the building, his son.
And David says, oh, you are not who I thought I was or thought you were when I made this appointment. You know, we really only rent people we kind of know we're like friends of friends. And his dad was sitting there, and Steve said, oh, they look honest when just go show 'em what we have. And so we go downstairs, and it's like perfect. It's again in the basement, but it's like everything want, and I'm like, oh, we're never gonna be able to afford it. And the man was, Steven was like, it's going to be $50 more than the person before you. And that is very reminiscent to me of the Chelsea Hotel and its heyday. In New York City, there's this hotel that you can't get in unless someone recommends you. You can't like rent an apartment or a studio, and then your lease doesn't matter what your space is, can't be less money than the person who recommended you.
So you could just be getting this tiny little studio, but the person has like a three-bedroom, but you'll still pay more. So it was very reminiscent of that. And I was like, okay, $50 more. And he's like, do you think you can swing like $500 a month? I was like, mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, yeah, I think I can. And, then I was, like, flustered. And I'm like, I don't have any money on me. I didn't think this was gonna work. Like, I don't wanna lose this. And he said, do you have a dollar <laugh>? He said, yes, I have a dollar. And he Steven's like, I'm gonna take that dollar. There is your deposit, you know, come back in a couple of days, and you can sign the leave. And that has just, that was, that was really a turning point for, for TWEE.
And you know, they, our building Steven David have been so incredibly supportive because we very quickly outgrew that one basement. And when we took over the hallway, they turned an eye, and it was very, very lovely. And then, when we took over that hallway to such an extent, Steven had one of the studios he was using as storage for his own personal things. And he was like, how about we share it? But, this has just been one of those things that I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of and to be here. And in the end, it's like this huge building. There are 80 artist studios, so you know, everyone from like violin makers to woodworkers who just, you know, watercolorists. So it's been a, it's been a real, just, I don't, I mean it's kind of corny, but like blessing <laugh>.
It's an incredible story. It's something that really stood out to me when I was researching you for this episode. And I'm curious, listening to you tell that story and seeing you go back to that place, what do you think it was that made them buy into you in the brands?
I think we're, and I've always said this, we're tiny but mighty. And I think we're scrappy. And you know, I think Steven has, you know, he, he has like a hundred patents. He's an inventor at heart, or he is an inventor, period. And he's a maker. And I think he, he maybe saw that in, in TWE and what we were planning on doing and what we wanted to do. And and it's one of those situations where you make room at the table for someone else. And he has certainly, you know, made room for us.
It's interesting hearing how you describe TWE because, for someone like myself, when I think of Sidewalk Talk, I have this stereotypical image in my mind's eye. But when I see the products and the ingenuity that goes into making these products, I see something completely different. And it completely shatters that illusion for me. And maybe it's me speaking as a father, but I think about my son, he's almost five, and how much he loves pink donuts. And I think of combining something that he loves with something creative. I think there's so much to be said about that. And I felt like I'm almost answering the question for you before I ask you this, but how is Tweed differentiating itself from other sidewalk chalks? Talk to me about your market positioning for TWEE.
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. I like to say that we are not utilitarian sidewalk chalk. Intrinsically chalk is chalk. There is, we don't write better. We are, colors aren't bolder. But what we do well is we take something that was very ordinary and we made it extraordinary. And in doing so, we have allowed children to use their imagination. Like, like with our macaroons, they look so real, and you think you could eat them, you shouldn't eat them <laugh>, but you think you can. And we like to say you take a macaroon, you draw your tea party, and then you put them on the plate. You know, this idea of dual play, that it's for pretend play, that it's an art tool, I think it's very cool for kids to be able to see something that is multi-dimensional like that. It doesn't read simply.
I was reading or listening to another interview that you did, and I know you had a lot of struggles during the pandemic, as did a lot of businesses. I think it's amazing how you were able to thrive during that period. You talked about some of your customers and how some customers would buy the products to send to loved ones that maybe they couldn't see. What kind of buying habits are you seeing now compared to during the pandemic?
I am seeing much more restrained buying, especially as of late. I think what happened in the pandemic is that no one or the initial stages are that no one knew how long it was going to last. So there were these almost like immediate needs to send love. And I saw that the in the messages from our customers to the recipients of our product. But, I think even though we are still very much affected by it right now, I think people have gotten back to a much more typical buying pattern. But I do see that there's still that beautiful message that's written by our customers. I, I, I think people are, are maybe now more than ever, more likely and more willing to let someone know that they're thinking about them. And, and I think that's, that's lovely.
On the subject of the customers, can you walk me through the typical customer life cycle? Is someone seeing an ADSD and then landing on the website and making a FaceTime purchase? Are they hearing about the brand and then joining your email list and being on your email list for a while? What does that journey look like?
I'd like to always go back to the typical like a person needs seven interactions with a product to even start to like bring it into theirs their sense of being. And especially something as niche as TWEE, it does take multiple interactions before it becomes something that they, I don't wanna say, buy in, but see the value in. And then once we have that initial buy, our repeat customers are a huge number which I love, I love because that means that we're doing our job really well. So I think our first customer, honestly, comes through Instagram, you know, have a very robust feed. We do a lot of great partnerships. We get, we, you know, we, we catch them there because we are very visual and, and that's part of it.
We don't have a storefront, so everything we put out, whether it's email addresses or sorry emails or TikTok or Instagram, it, it has to give the feeling of who the brand is and, and that, and that's what gets you. And then we <laugh> we slowly lead you to our website, where we get the opportunity to show you all of the things we do. And, and then I think that's where we get, and you know, when they see the breadth of it, the email address. And then from there, it's a telling of a story of who we are because everyone lands on your site for different reasons. Some of us want a birthday party or are interested in women-owned businesses, but that's just one little section of who we are. And then it's our job, to show them everything.
You talked about having those multiple touchpoints, and I completely agree with that. Do you feel like that is easier to do with email marketing? Because I'm on your email list and I noticed how consistent your emails are, and I feel like when I read each email, you are marketing to me in a different way, and I'm slowly learning about the brand, and I'm learning about your products. And I wanted to ask, what do you think about email marketing? Are you planning campaigns as and when they come to mind? Or what does that whole process look like?
I wish I could say that we storyboarded out at the beginning of the year to take us through until the end, but I have to say it really <laugh>, this is, okay, this is a good idea, let's get this going. So we, we are, we are very nimble, as I've said before. I think a lot of it is how can we tell our story best, and then we, we kind of use that as our campaign. So we start with like a welcome sequence. So we tell you all the important things about TWEE through multiple emails because also, a long, long time ago, I I have a double master's degree in museum studies. And there was a class about, you know, when you go into the museum and, and there's the little description on the piece of art that someone will only read 50 words and then they just, and that was again, a long time ago, so it's probably even less than 50 at this point.
So we really tried to make one message for every email. So like, the first one is welcome. The second is to let us tell you about how we're a women-owned business. Let us tell you how we're eco-friendly. Let us tell you about our most popular designs. And, and it's, they're not, they're not selling emails. They're, you know, they're not used to promote a sale. They're used to bring these people who have maybe only experienced us one or two different ways into the world that we are. Because then you see how special we are and then you buy the product.
I'm smiling, listening to you talking about how much of a sign someone reads because I can completely relate to that. And oftentimes, my son is pulling me away before I even get a chance to read the sign. And it is interesting, relates to email as well. And it's interesting that you bring up your experience cause I had this in my notes as well. I know you have this fascinating background in PR and promoted the New York City Fashion Week for seven years, and there's a lot we could go into there. My question is, how have those experiences and the museum as well informed the type of marketing that you're doing today for TWEE?
It's, it's really interesting. It's a very diverse background. And I never thought I would have a job that would bring all of the things that I am good at into one spectrum, and he really does that. You know, fashion Week taught me how to like hold your brand a, at a high standard to not muddy the water or dilute it. It's the, and that it's okay to not be for everyone. It's okay to just be for a small group of people and to really value what you are putting out in terms of designs or products and awe. In terms of marketing too, we've really positioned ourselves not as a toy but as almost a fashion brand. So I like to say like, we don't have any press from Parent magazine, although I would love it.
But we have been in Vogue twice, and we have been in Vanity Fair twice. So I, I think that really, it, it's really helped make me feel okay with our trajectory. You know, seeing these huge American labels and, and these brands and how how they've done things was, was an amazing opportunity that I didn't even know I was getting for TWEE. And then in terms of museums, really the idea of your mission statement, and you stick to your mission statement. So if you're an art museum, you don't maybe do a program about bugs unless you can pull it into something, some art that's in the, in the museum, but really like staying true to that. And, I think TWEE really staying true to the mission of creating these beautiful tools that make art for children has really helped. If that was kind of rambling, I'm gonna admit it. <Laugh>,
There's lots of pull from that because I'm sitting here listening to you saying this. I'm thinking, yeah. Now that you say that, it makes sense because when you are thinking about introducing new products, I'm assuming you are thinking about, okay, where does this product fit into the current ecosystem that we have? And I know mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, or think I've read that you mentioned that you're getting feedback from customers as well if you have an idea for a design. Is that something that you factor in when you're thinking about introducing new products?
We do. It's really it's, it's very interesting. So we have a, a wonderful team of makers and there's probably counting our managers maybe seven or seven or eight people in the, in the development making department. And they're all, you know, the mid to late twenties they don't have children. And we, we work on a design, and we work on a design as adults. And this is something you would do at a museum too. You would, you would work on an exhibit, work on an exhibit, and then you would mock one up, and you would bring it downstairs to the galleries, and you would kind of debut it and then take feedback, go upstairs and change it around. And so you, I very quickly learned that you could be doing in your head the most amazing exhibit. And then, personally, I went downstairs, and this one child was like, well, that is stupid <laugh>.
Well, that is humbling. So <laugh>, we work on a design, and then, you know, the real test is when you bring the children in and you ask them, what do you think? And to see these very capable artists be humbled by some children is, is quite a scene <laugh>. Cause they'll be like, I do not like that. Or Why is there glitter here? And no glitter there. So our we really, we really try to source our customers and, and see what they think. But in the end, like this, what tweet is, is kind of like the gift A cool mom gives to another cool mom, and there just happens to be a kid's party going on at the same time. So, it's hard Like we, we design for the kid, but we know it's the, it's the parent in the end.
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, that's so interesting to reflect on. It reminds me a lot of Lego and how the employees are invited to play with the blocks and build their own designs and really put themselves in the mind of the child. But it's also interesting that you talk about your not really selling to the child like a toy manufacturer, what you're actually selling to the parents, not something that I never reflected on
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. Yeah, our customer is the parent. It's the parent that wants to add a little bit of sparkle, a little bit of whimsy to what, or not the parent, grandparent, or family friend. But it's the person that, you know, values, design values, the handmade nature of the products that we make and, and wants that little bit of magic. And, and I, I think that's like, that's the best customer to have because they will, you know, they'll think outside the box. They'll, they'll go with you when you say this is a narwhal horn. And they say yes. <Laugh>,
We've talked about acquiring first-time customers, and I'm curious, how are you turning first-time customers into repeat customers? What is the differentiator that brings someone back to make another purchase?
Well, first off, chalk is reusable or is not reusable. It hits the road after a little bit. So I really like that. But we want to always have something to talk about so and engage with our customers. So if it's a new design, if it's a new give back, if it is a new product, we always want to have something that makes you wanna open our email. And it's, it goes back to the idea of, you know, those direct to consumer commerce driven emails are fantastic, but if you haven't kind of been courting them this whole time and then after the first purchase continue to do that, they're, you're gonna have a one and done sale. You're really building that relationship, that trust, and to let them know that you aren't just one product. You are multiple products. You are a brand and a brand that is worth revisiting. It's really your storytelling
Community is something I hear a lot of e-commerce founders talking about, and I'm sitting here wondering how you build community long-term while still incorporating storytelling, if that makes sense.
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> we have the honor of really staying with a customer from when they first start to experiment with making art all the way until they're ready for, like, I would use the term like professional materials. So you know, we get them when their little hands can only hold the gems. And then we, we kind of take them along the journey of, of becoming from a, a small child to like a full folker from a toddler to a child or a small child to a full-blown child between <laugh> and, and we kind of court them along the way and we, we let them know that at each time there's something new for them even when we, you know, I, it's not an oversell, it's a “this is where you are selling” and, and because they're getting older, that story is constantly changing for them. So for someone who has joined our email list and has expressed having an interest in three-year-old activities, the emails that we can create for them are targeted towards the age group that they're interested in and, then we progress with them. It's almost like a welcome sequence up until 12 <laugh>.
I couldn't have put it any better myself. I think that's a good segue for me to ask what are you doubling down on marketing-wise in 2023?
Ooh, that's a good question. Lean down on, I think we're, we are really trying to push ourselves is getting, so we've started out as chalk, and up until two years ago, we were only chalk. And then we wanna be a brand. We don't, we don't wanna just be a product. So, again in this idea of bringing things in that are cohesive, that makes sense. We started with our first, we called it to chalk adjacent product, which was a park pouch. So the idea is that once you unwrap this beautifully packaged chalk and you go to the playground, what do you do with it where you throw it in a little plastic baggie and put the baggy at the bottom of your stroller? But just like we made the chalk something that was ordinary into something extraordinary, we took that plastic bag and made it extraordinary.
So it is designed by a very talented designer. It is hand-screen printed and Rhode Island, it is a zone in Philadelphia. And then each different design has a different city. So far, we've covered Philadelphia and Atlanta, and we named them after parks that are near and dear to us. And then we, we have a little give back associated with it. But that was still very much in the Chalk family. And just this year, in January, we came out with veggie paints. They're powdered-based vegetable pigment paints. Something, yes, you're making art, but it is not chalk, it is something else. So we're trying now with our marketing to really let our, let our customers know that we're other things and, and our other things are just as good and just as great. And, this is only the beginning and kind of to be like, we can fill your creative cup outside, but now we wanna do it on those rainy days on inside. So it's, it's going back, and it's retelling who we are with our core, staying the same that again, women-owned eco-friendly made in the US and Philadelphia. But now we can, we can be your product, be your brand for the cold days too.
I love that. I think that's a great place to wrap up. I've really enjoyed this conversation, Margo, I've learned so much. And I want to end with where can our listeners go to learn more about TWEE.
I, I'm so proud of the work our marketing person does on our Instagram, so my first thing is to go to our Instagram, which we made. The website is beautiful, and we work really hard on that, it kills me when you see the analytics where it's like some, most people are on it for 30 seconds. But it is, it's beautiful, and it really gives you a breath of what we do.
Perfect. Well, we'll be sure to sun listeners there. And best of luck with everything for TWE in 2023 and beyond.
Thank you so much, Sam. This was lovely.