MINNEAPOLIS, MN– How do you take an item as classic and rudimentary as a wooden spoon and turn it in to a top seller at kitchen stores throughout the nation?
Add creativity and passion said Katherine Waymire, president and founder of Talisman Designs, located here. Her company offers a large selection of kitchenware and serving items, including a line of basic beechwood utensils easily identifiable by the whimsical lasered designs that include animals, nature themes, vintage patterns, witty statements and much more.
“Our team gets its inspiration from what makes them happy and makes them smile,” Waymire said. “Personal passion is what influences our work, and customers seem to resonate with that.”
While Talisman Designs has earned recognition and profitable growth with its line of wooden utensils and measuring spoons, Waymire never imagined that she would be selling these types of products when she launched her first handmade line of wine accessories in 2002.
Her first product, the Stylish Stem wine charm (discontinued in 2012), was born out of a hobby for crafting and beadwork, she said. Waymire’s first customers included several gourmet stores, such as Kitchen Window in Minneapolis, and within months she found herself overwhelmed with orders and toying with the idea that her hobby could potentially sustain herself and her growing family.
With no experience manufacturing or selling products, Waymire chose to transition from basement entrepreneurship to sourcing overseas. While orders continued to come in, she soon found that the lack of year-round sales for the fourth-quarter-driven items was hindering her business. Waymire recognized that to develop the company and maintain profit growth, she needed to incorporate summer-seasonal items.
And so, with a bit of an education in injection molding, Waymire introduced Butter Boy, a plastic kitchen gadget that aids in the buttering of corn, in 2005.
“It felt odd,” Waymire recalled thinking when she added Butter Boy to her catalog of wine accessories. “It was unsettling at first, but that’s when you know you’re in the right area. This item is so different from what we were offering, but that’s what innovation is. Awkward and different.”
Her perseverance through the “awkward” times paid off and Butter Boy (along with the family of products that includes Butter Girl, Butter Bot, Butter San, and Butter Babies) remain among the company’s top sellers to date, and are available in gourmet and specialty retailers.
Talisman Designs has since grown to seven full time employees and also utilizes a network of distributors and sales reps. Waymire says her goal is to maintain growth and “to be around for a long time.”
“We’re chasing the long-term goal, not the shiny object,” she said. “We want to be around for a long time and to do what we know we have to do to take care of our core customers. We have learned when to say ‘no,’ and we won’t jump in to mass [retail]for the sake of unprofitable growth.”
Waymire noted that the company is particularly loyal to the gourmet channel and caters to independents in a number of ways, including accepting relatively small minimum orders of $100 and pick-packing instead of requiring full case pack orders. Talisman Designs also puts additional focus on product quality to maintain trust with retailers and consumers, and invests heavily in packaging to help tell the product’s story.
“You need creative packaging for items like a wooden spoon so customers understand that they’re not just buying a basic utensil, but are buying one with laser [engraving]and color. It gives an edge over big box stores,” Waymire said.
And while Talisman Designs may not be priced competitively with mass retail channels for items such as a wooden spoon — for which a 12-inch lasered Talisman model has a suggested retail price of $6.99 — Waymire isn’t concerned about losing her core customers to the competition.
“We’re not chasing pricepoint,” she said. “We compete on experience and emotion and connection and customers are willing to pay for that. They’ll pay for something that makes them laugh or smile, and that’s what we make.”