After a decade at Le Creuset, Will Copenhaver has taken on a new role as vp/sales and marketing for Smithey Ironware. The manufacturer of cast iron cookware, headed by Isaac Morton, is poised for growth in the next year as the company is looking at a product line expansion as well as growth in the independent gourmet housewares channel.
GOURMET INSIDER® spoke to Copenhaver about his new role, his goals for Smithey’s brand growth and what’s to come for the company.
Gourmet Insider: What made you want to take the plunge and jump into this role at Smithey?
Will Copenhaver: One of the things that really captured my attention was that the brand has so much potential. It already has a following, which is great, and we can really build on that. It’s also a really personal company and was built on forming real, personal relationships. And, we make great cookware.
GI: Why do you think cast iron is still one of those trends booming in cookware?
WC: Cast iron is a combination of so many good things. It harkens back to American craftsmanship and it’s an investment. Consumers want to know that they are getting a piece that is going to last them and it’s also such a piece that speaks to generations. Buyers these days know that their grandmother had this and it’s nostalgic for them.
GI: What’s on the horizon for Smithey this year?
WC: We are actually looking at a pretty significant product line expansion in the next 12 to 24 months. One of those products is an 8-inch skillet, which is likely to happen this fall. But, we definitely have some expansive plans behind skillets for next year, and maybe you will find us entering into new materials, too.
GI: You spoke about wanting to grow your retail base this year. What are you looking for when it comes to taking on new outlets?
WC: We realized that there is an opportunity with retailers to have a higher, premium, raw cast iron product. Consumers are really responding to it and love it. So for us, it’s about finding those retailers who can tell the story. Storytelling is important. And we are also looking for those retailers who can give the consumer a good experience. We’re in a place where we don’t need to be broad in our distribution, so it’s really about finding retailers to help us build this brand and tell the story. It’s a neat place to be.
GI: What’s your short-term plan for growth?
WC: Short-term, we are focused on growing where we are. We are focused on continuing the direct-to-consumer sales on our own website and then we are also really focused on staying with the select independent retailer. We are supportive of the independent market and we really want to focus on getting them good tools, including the right digital tools, to help them. Getting them excited helps to get their customers excited as they walk through the door. Some of the higher-end specialty retailers are on our radar but there’s no rush. We believe that building the brand is going to come from those retailers and there are so many great ones out there.
GI: What are some of the marketing goals you have for the brand?
WC: The bigger picture right now is putting a focus on our digital marketing. Right now, digital is a marketer’s dream and we are putting a focus on digital initiatives and social media. It’s powerful. And, some of the targeting you can do as a brand now in finding out exactly who your consumer is, that’s a real opportunity for us. Highly efficient marketing is going to be a huge driver for us going forward.