Kristen Becker’s Ecommerce Diaries
Sessions College instructor Kristen Becker is no stranger to the business world. A designer/entrepreneur, Kristen spent several years doing what some might consider a dream job at the intersection of design, business, and the Web. From May 2008 to December 2011 Kristen was director of daily operations, design, and marketing for ecommerce site Kir Devries. Though the site is no longer operational, Kir Devries was a Web mainstay for many years, described by Apartment Therapy as “one of our new favorite go-to green gift shops.”
Q: For those who didn’t get a chance to shop at the Kir Devries site, can you describe its goals, and your role in developing it?
I knew when I started Kir Devries I would focus on very fresh, uniquely designed products with an eye on conscientious consumerism in making my selections. I only carried items from vendors that were eco-friendly, had positive business practices, were safe, and so on. However, the actual product line evolved over time to be strictly dining and entertaining accessories with these same features.
In developing the site I literally did everything. I did outsource some elements such as Web coding, and SEO but always held a very tight reign as I had a strong sense of the creative direction and business ideals.
Starting out, I actually did what many people do. I searched and scoured the web and found sites that I loved and then tried to dissect the why/how and use that to build my own ideas. I took this information and began working with a website development company to make it a digital reality.
Q: Growing your own business can be exhilarating and exhausting. What was a day like at Kir Devries?
Very well said! I truly never tired of the creative development aspects of running the site. I loved going to tradeshows to meet vendors, coming up with new promotional strategies, doing all of the social media development, learning about ecommerce best practices and constantly tweaking and of course the lovely visual aspect of seeing it all come together in such a beautiful site.
What I really was not entirely prepared for (and I owned my own brick and mortar store right out of college) was the never ending list of things that needed to be done. It’s really quite complex and to do well you have to give each element of the business your fullest attention which also sometimes means becoming an expert in a new field before you can even begin the work!
Because I was so excited about learning all of the aspects of ecommerce I did not see many of the day to day business building items as challenges really. What I did discover though is that the bigger you get and more money you have coming in the more capital you need to sustain and grow your business. That was definitely my biggest challenge in the last 6 months before I decided to close the business.
Q: Wearing both design and the business hats can result in difficult choices. How did you manage to prioritize?
I have to say I think I’m naturally in tune to both aspects and that was a great benefit for me. I earned my series 6, 7 and 63 stock brokers licenses many moons ago while working at investment company T. Rowe Price, ran my own brick and mortar store for one year right out college and am from an entrepreneurial family. Of course I also have a masters degree in art and found it very natural to blend the two!
Q: One aspect of the Kir Devries mission was to “bring gorgeously green and inspired goods directly to you.” What inspired the environmental mission of the site?
Well I spent many of my younger years living in the country in West Virginia, going for long walks every evening to watch the sunset with my dad and was fairly sheltered from the fast paced consumer based world. This gave me a huge appreciation for the very simple and natural things that bring so much to our lives and the need to preserve that.
My undergrad degree is in Environmental Systems. In fact I have been recycling since back in the day when you stored your bottles and cans on the porch for two weeks until recycling day came up at the landfill and then you could drive it over there in your car. LOL it sounds funny but is so true. I guess it’s just naturally something that I appreciate and I am glad to have found a creative way to marry that into a fun business experience as well.
In fact Kir DeVries really did give me an opportunity to develop and flex my skills in interests in the three biggest interest areas in my life: design, environmentalism, and business.
Q: Looking back on the experience, what lessons did you learn from it? What advice would you give to a designer/entrepreneur thinking about going into business on their own or on the Web today?
Planning, planning, and more planning with a magnificent dose of research! I thought I had planned but learned along the way that I had really just day dreamed (which is good too!)
I often say I learned a lot of expensive lessons. Doing the research required before starting your business and then when you make important decisions such as marketing will help you to fine tune your spending and allocation of resources in the smartest way possible thereby giving you the most leverage possible, and who wouldn’t want that!
Nicholas Griner | Baltimore Business Journal
Gordon Drummond is the President of a Sessions College, where he is Director of Instructional Design, among many roles. He's passionate about education, technology, and the arts and likes to surround himself with more talented people.