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Podcast: Adaptive Tenacity and Small Business Resiliency amid Coronavirus

a stack of dishes on balancing on a cell phone

 

Connie Matisse had all kinds of plans for her business. Then coronavirus hit.

Like many entrepreneurs grappling with how to move forward during a global pandemic, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of East Fork faced a simple yet scary question: What’s next?

In this episode of Longitudes Radio, Matisse takes us behind the scenes of her Asheville, North Carolina-based pottery company, explaining exactly how the company switched gears to get ahead of the coronavirus crisis. It all began with one of the company’s core values, something East Fork founders refer to as “adaptive tenacity.”

“Our business has always been tenacious and very adaptive,” Matisse says, adding that pivoting quickly came naturally to her workforce. “Nobody has this preconceived notion of how business is supposed to be done.”

Such a mindset served the company well following the coronavirus outbreak, when in March, East Fork achieved its highest-grossing month since launching.

Matisse attributes that success to “running a business with crisis in mind since the beginning,” as well as nurturing and fostering a loyal and passionate customer base — a commitment on full display with the company’s more than 120,000 Instagram followers (she also shares some social marketing tips for small business owners looking to bolster their digital strategy).

What else can entrepreneurs learn from the East Fork experience during these disruptive times?

First, they need to be open and transparent with their own people. And now, more than ever, company values matter, as does customer feedback, which Matisse is using to reshape the East Fork of the future.

Matisse also shares some personal stories about trying to avoid burnout when the line between work life and personal life is blurrier than ever, dispels some myths about authenticity and finally, in the spirit of adaptive tenacity, reevaluates that newly complicated question: What’s next? 

Podcast: Adaptive Tenacity and Small Business Resiliency amid Coronavirus

 [00:00:40] (Show Open).

 

James Rowe [00:00:41]  So, Brian, today we're talking with Connie Matisse. She's the CMO and co-founder of East Fork. It's a pottery company that designs manufacturers and sells durable and I might add, exceptionally cool looking ceramic dishware they're out of Asheville, North Carolina.

 

Brian Hughes [00:00:58] Yeah, and Connie is like so many entrepreneurs right now just trying to figure out how to navigate these unprecedented times during the coronavirus pandemic. She's asking questions like, where do we pivot our business next? How do I talk to my own people? And how do I reach customers at a time when so many people are just hunkering down right now? I really do think, though, James, she has so many insights that can be so useful to small business owners of all stripes right now.

 

James Rowe [00:01:24] Yeah. And one of those lessons that she learned early on and they incorporated into their culture at East Fork is the idea of adaptive tenacity. That's particularly important right now. And you see that in the way that they started the company on social media and their marketing on social media East Fork's really a company that grew up on Instagram and now they've got one hundred and twenty thousand followers who in the middle of this coronavirus storm, they're all behind him.

 

Brian Hughes [00:01:53] Yeah. And part of the reason they have the massive following is they're authentic. They're real. They say what's on their mind. And in this interview, Connie does all those things. Let's get to it.

 

[00:02:08] (music).

 

Brian Hughes [00:02:08] We're living and working in unprecedented times right now. There's not really a blueprint for how you deal with a situation like this. As an entrepreneur and a creative leader, how did you adjust to figure out where East Fork could go next?

 

Connie Matisse [00:02:23] So we we're over thinkers at least work. Some of us are worriers. Some of us like to imagine all scenarios before trudging forward. And so in some ways, that came as a benefit for us. We started thinking about our contingency responses to Covid-19, I'd say about a month before. A lot of other companies our size did. And so that didn't give us any advantage as far as like getting ahead or or preventing us from having to make really difficult decisions about closing our factory or anything like that. But what it did do was let the reality of it sink in a little bit earlier for us than for others. And so by the time it came for us to really jump into action, we were able to have quick responses while keeping our heads on straight and kind of taking things day by day. We we we shut down our factory on March 17th, kind of ahead of any sort of government mandates in North Carolina. And we've been keeping a close eye on the situation and knew that it was going to be inevitable for for businesses to have to close. And as a business that takes itself really seriously as a leader in our community, we felt it was necessary to set the tone and make the decision to close ahead of any sort of mandate to encourage other businesses who were able to to do so, to do the same. But we also came into it in a pretty strong position. Our CFO is a really has a lot of foresight and we've been kind of running our business with crisis in mind since the beginning. So it had two months operating costs on hand and really thought about how we could navigate this company through this uncharted territory while making sure we didn't have to lay anybody off or put anyone in danger. So that's where we are right now. Our stores are close. Fulfillments closed. Everything is closed except for. We've been able to continue paying 100 percent of our company at their normal rate and we'll continue to do so.

 

James Rowe [00:04:08] So, Connie, it's really interesting to see on your Instragram site the reaction from your customers. They've been overwhelmingly supportive. I saw in reaction to some of the pre-ordering for the summer that you're doing reactions like, you know, I'm excited about my order, I'm doing a quote here, but perfectly content waiting as long as needed for them. So looks like they've got a lot of patience. You've got a lot of trust in the company and relationship with your customers. So do you think that's something unique to East Fork that maybe other companies don't have? And why do you guys have that?

 

Connie Matisse [00:04:46] Yeah. So, I mean, to put it out there really plainly, March was really bad for business for a lot of a lot of companies for obvious reasons. Somehow it was our highest grossing month in company history by 30 percent. So it was 30 percent higher grossing than November, which is always-

 

James Rowe [00:05:02] That's awesome

 

Connie Matisse [00:05:02] Historically our biggest month. And we got lucky because we were sitting on a pile of seconds inventory that we'd planned to sell this spring very differently. We're planning on going on a big ol' West Coast tour and having these parties and counterculture coffee and engaging people face to face. Lots of hugging and touching. Obviously that didn't happen, but we had that inventory and we were really fast to mobilize. And yeah, our community came up to support in a big, big way. And I think the reason they did so is because we have been fostering that community and nurturing that community all the time, not just in moments where we need them. We don't just call upon our community to save us or to help us out when we're when we're in a need. We've we have taken that really seriously since day one. And people want to spend money where where they can trust that it's going to be put to good use. And I think we've gained a lot of trust with our community.

 

James Rowe [00:05:51] We've seen that with some local businesses here and where I live and everybody's kind of pitching and supporting where they can. Do you have relationships with other small businesses around there that you either know or work with?

 

Connie Matisse [00:06:06] Asheville's in a tough spot right now, you know, obviously it's a huge tourist destination. It's tourism is after after Mission Hospital, the tourism industry is the biggest industry in in Asheville. And people are really hurting. You know, hotels are empty. Restaurants had to close. We have friends who own restaurants who had to lay off all of their employees and help them file for unemployment. I think that's the state of not just Asheville, but most cities our size across the country. And I think a lot of companies also have been running their businesses week by week. And this is a moment when like financial health and financial security is it's, it's showing how important it is. And a lot of companies haven't been able to, for all sorts of reasons, haven't been able to kind of accumulate that safety net in the way that we were able to.

 

Brian Hughes [00:06:55] I wonder if you might talk about how you see the role of business and help in any community, regardless of where it is.

 

Connie Matisse [00:07:02] Esat Fork did not get started to fill a hole in a market. Or to make a lot of money. I can tell you with certainty that if you want to put a lot of money in your bank account, you should not start a ceramics manufacturing company from the ground up because it's extremely capitally intensive and it's a long time to see any returns. And so we started this business because we wanted to provide good paying jobs with benefits to to our Asheville community, where the people who have been born and raised in Asheville have often gone without the benefit of the tourism industry. And so there's a big wage gap in Asheville. And we thought that it would be a good opportunity for us to build a company that could support that could give jobs to to people who needed them. So, yeah, building a financially secure business and making sure that we were making decisions with investment and how we grew to to remain secure, a financially secure business has been important to us because it allows us to offer jobs that are secure.

 

Brian Hughes [00:08:02] Yeah, it's interesting, Connie, of I'm hearing a lot of through line of all these actions start with people first, right? And I'm wondering, as you guys were calculating how you were going to take your first step after the coronavirus outbreak, what was your message to your own people when you were outlining how you're going to move forward?

 

Connie Matisse [00:08:23] We run our business extremely transparently. I think if you asked anyone to East Fork, if they feel like they have a good sense of what's happening with leadership, people would probably say we give them way more information that they than they can even handle. And we try to make sure that we give information in a way that's digestible and appropriate. But we also, we keep everyone really informed of the decisions that we're making in, you know, in the conference rooms. And so we started talking about the potential effects of Covid-19 early on, we we were letting people know, hey, this is happening. It's happening in these places. It's very likely that it's going to happen in Asheville and Buncombe County and we want to let you know that we're doing everything we can to make sure that you're protected and we're gonna keep you posted. And so every day, our CFO, John, sends a daily email updating people on the status of what's happening in Buncombe County, providing resources for anything from legal sessions that are being offered for free for artists or emergency relief funds for people to access. And then we also give people a look into how how the three of us as a founding team are thinking about these conversations in the short and the long term. So the day that we got up and announced to everybody that we were going to be closing the factory, it was met with a lot of gratitude because people were aware of just what that, the impact of that decision. It's been really fun to try to foster a sense of community virtually. And I think we've done a really good job of it. Every day we we send around I send around a little writing prompts to the whole staff to get to know each other better. And the stories that have emerged from that are just, I mean, I just sit there weeping at the end of the night, listening to everybody's stories about where they grew up and their parents and the books they like to read and things that I never would have known about had we not been forced into this weird situation. I send a prompt every single morning. So yesterday's was just who is your high school celebrity crush? And people sent around their, you know, lots of Jared Leto's and things like that. Or another one was: tell us about a time you felt connected to nature. And I think we had forty three responses from the team with beautiful essays on moments that they they felt content and at peace with nature. So, yeah, it's been fun to connect with everybody virtually.

 

Brian Hughes [00:10:31] I mean, I think we might need to implement some of that on our team. James, it might alleviate the stress.

 

James Rowe [00:10:38] I was going to say it doesn't sound like a true corporate environment and I'm just kind of interested in the that authenticity kind of vibe, that genuine feel that you all have there. Where did it come from?

 

Connie Matisse [00:10:50] Well, when we started this company, it was just, you know, the three of us, me and John and Alex, and we were just friends who were who wanted to contribute our own skills to build something together. And we always had a lot of respect for the skills that other people brought to the table. We never really tried to, you know, we all kind of stayed in our lane a little bit. We identified what we were good at. And then we we did those things. And so the three of us together were a little micro ecosystem for how we would potentially want to work together as we got bigger and so culture, building a culture of honest communication and accountability and and real compassion has been essential to East Fork from the start. We grew a lot in, you know, in two years we went from being a company of 12 people to a company of 80 people and that we had some serious roadblocks or bumps in that road. But yeah, it's we've been fostering that intentional community since since day one.

 

Brian Hughes [00:11:41] Connie, I wonder, you mentioned some roadblocks when you first got started. What were some of the biggest ones you had to get past?

 

Connie Matisse [00:11:47] None of us came from a business background. The three of us founders had no experience running a business, and we certainly had no experience managing big teams. And when we first started out, it was mostly just like hiring friends or friends of friends. And we knew pretty quickly that if we did that, we weren't going to be able to build the truly inclusive and equitable sort of culture that we wanted to eventually become. And so we started when we moved into the factory and overhauled our hiring practices, we were really brought face to face by some of the economic disparities and cultural disparities that exist in Asheville. There was just a lot of navigating how to speak to each other honestly and how to how to share expectations and share feelings in a way that that allowed people to be heard, but also kept professional boundaries. There was a lot of that, just how do we how do we show up to work with each other when we're all really different?

 

Brian Hughes [00:12:40] I love that you brought up the cultural aspect. I'm curious when you're looking for the right, quote, fit for East Fork, is it something that, you know when you see it or is it more trial and error?

 

Connie Matisse [00:12:51] When when we first moved into the factory, we had plans big a lot of plans to do that mission, vision and values work that so many companies either neglect to do or or kind of fumble through early on. And we kept putting it on the backburner because it didn't seem essential until Alex, my husband and East Fork CEO, finally was like, we can't keep putting this off is important we need to sit down and really lay out what what our mission is. We have to put it in writing. We have to identify those values and we have to share it with the team. And so we finally did that. And when we were able to sit down with the team that we'd brought to the to the factory and say, hey, this is why we're here, this is how we're gonna work together and this is where we're going. It was it was wild. The shift in the weeks that followed from people because before we were working in this factory were a little, you know, kind of craft hobby, not hobby pottery a craft pottery in Madison County, North Carolina, with a really small team of craftspeople making, work at a completely different scale, at a completely different pace. And so when we all of sudden brought those people over to the factory and said, okay, we're gonna build a factory and we're gonna grow 200 percent a year and we're gonna do this, this and that, people were just like, "But, but why?" And by not telling them why, that that caused a lot of friction. And people were like, "well, I don't want to do this thing anymore. Like I this isn't what I signed up for." And so when we finally were able to really lay out what the vision for East Fork was, the people who'd been with us since the start, just I mean, they just turned right around and were able to help us to just totally jump on board and and help us carry out that mission.

 

James Rowe [00:14:20] When you're talking about those values and going through the mission statement and whatnot, I heard you mentioned that on one of your Instagram post is how important those values are to the company. Could you tell us a little bit about what those are?

 

Connie Matisse [00:14:33] Yeah, sure. So the values that we've identified at East Fork are compassion, equity, accountability, adaptive tenacity and sincerity. And when someone started talking about how you use values in business. I was initially kind of just turned off by the idea.

 

James Rowe [00:14:52] Just like a corporate term. Yeah.

 

Brian Hughes [00:14:55] We're not familiar with those at all.

 

James Rowe [00:15:00] Not at all.

 

Connie Matisse [00:15:00] Not at all, I'm sure, you know, you see 'em like over the bathroom or whatever. And it's just like what is what is the point of that? It just seems so silly. But when we landed on those and we really started talking about what it would mean to use those to make business decisions, and then we started practice practicing it and asking our our teammates to actually use those values to make decisions and to navigate conversations with teammates it was wild how people ran with it. And I heard people out here, people from across the office being like, well, in, you know, using the East Fork value of accountability, I feel like we need to do this, this and that. Or if a vendor came along and we were trying to figure out if we should work with them, you know, different members of our leadership team would be like, well, let's give them a quick values check. Like, are they treating their people compassionately? Like, what are their do they have equitable, hiring practices? All these, the people really started to use them. And so they've been they've just been huge in helping us make decisions of who to work with and what issues to stand for and where to go to bat for our employees. You just you can't run a business that is worth a lick of anything in the 21st century without having clearly defined values.

 

Brian Hughes [00:16:06] And I would. But I would imagine that especially now you've brought up adaptive tenacity, I would think in terms of the Covid-19 world, there's not really any more valuable tool for businesses of any size than that.

 

Connie Matisse [00:16:19] Our business has always been tenacious and very adaptive. Our big goal for this year was to lay out this beautiful strategy that had there was so many plans and we had everything really thought out and we've had to throw that plan completely out the window and do it from scratch. But we're also used to working in that manner of having to pivot really quickly that it came really naturally to us. No, no one on our team has, comes from a corporate background in the way that we don't have any like a y'know big grown up person who's like comes from a completely different environment, like leading the ship or anything, we're all kind of just kids figuring it out. And I think that it's benefited us because no one has this preconceived notion of how business is supposed to be done. So it's really let us think outside the box.

 

James Rowe [00:17:05] Yeah. You know, one of those values you mentioned the sincerity part, we were talking about it through the lens of authenticity. I was going through your feed on Instagram and you've posted a video last week where it was just straight up. It was just unedited. Even the camera was kind of tilted down. I didn't quite see your eyes there, but it was like super real. You got a lot of comments on your sweatshirt, too, by the way. But it was it was super authentic. You kind of laid out the truth. So let's take a listen.

 

Connie Matisse Instagram Clip [00:17:35] Good morning. Our spring and summer collection is going to be available for pre-order at 12:00 p.m. eastern time. We have not yet made these pots. We are not currently working at the factory or the fulfillment center or our stores. So all these pots will be made to order after we're all back to work. After this global pandemic has ended, the global pandemic will end just as soon as America as the American people hold ourselves personally accountable and we all stay home and keep our communities safe if possible. So let's all do that. And then we'll be all, we'll be able to get back to work in the factory and making these pots as quickly as we can. So available for preorder, you're going to be waiting on them for a long time. So please do not order unless you feel comfortable with that. And thank you so much for your support at this time. And thank you also for staying home. As much as you possibly can. Just stay home.

 

James Rowe [00:18:28] You've been talking to your customers throughout the whole crisis. What kind of feedback are you getting on that? And what do you think it means to the employees who kind of see that at East Fork? And then also the customers?

 

Connie Matisse [00:18:41] Yeah I mean, I think that it's interesting that the word authentic, I do believe that it's been so co-opted, you know, by different brands in the past decade who want to want to build authenticity, or, you know, incorporate authenticity into their brand. And if you're starting from that angle, you're starting on the wrong foot, because anytime you try to be authentic, you're going to fail. A lot of people asked me or when they when they see that the value of sincerity, they confuse it with just kind of being exactly who you are or like saying whatever comes to your your mind. I don't confuse sincerity with saying whatever comes to your mind, because a lot of people I have a lot of thoughts that should only live in my brain and they should be they should leave my mouth in some edited fashion.

 

James Rowe [00:19:24] Brian has that situation as well.

 

Brian Hughes [00:19:26] I was about to go, wow, that feels strangely relatable.

 

Connie Matisse [00:19:32] Yeah. I don't think you should do that, but I do think that vulnerability is a characteristic that a lot more businesses should be adopting both for their customers and toward their employees. So while our our y'know our employees have trust us because we share with them, we tell them what's going on in the business, we share with them things that are both positives and negatives. We talk about different issues that we're struggling with. If we don't have an answer for it, we don't say, hey, "we're the bosses so here's the answer to all your questions" we say, you know, I don't I don't really know. Like, here's how we're we're talking about that, but we don't really have a clear answer for you yet but we're gonna make sure that we tell you the second we do and we're gonna gather your input to make sure that we're using, you know, your feedback and making decisions. It's just like basic human relationship skills, like how would you want to be treated by a brother, a friend?

 

James Rowe [00:20:21] It's too hard to tell right now, but we're kind of touching on this is you know, what happens in the aftermath of this, the philosophy changes, that kind of thing. But are there anything things like tactical maybe that you all are thinking about or that you could share with other small business owners for a post pandemic time?

 

Connie Matisse [00:20:40] You know, you always see people fundraising or giving doing auctions or in in times of crisis, like when a new law is passed and everyone rallies around one particular issue and all fundraises for that or whatever. But there's no consistency. And I think businesses really need to start kind of identifying what are the main issues that they want to help alleviate and and have some consistency and show up for them, not just in the really hard times or the low moments, but like consistently be supporting their work throughout the year. I've always thought it's really important to focus locally here in western North Carolina because we can have a pretty wide impact if we devote our resources to this kind of small community. And if all businesses are doing that, like it would just it, it would be a huge shift. And then also, like you don't have to think about money as being the only resource. A lot of businesses have resources that they can offer that might seem a little out of the box. We have a community kitchen here at East Fork where we make team lunches. And something that I really want to do when we get back up and running is offer that kitchen space to small businesses, small catering businesses. A lot of people have food businesses and they have to use like a certified kitchen to to run it. And so what would it look like if in off hours we allowed people to come in and for free use our kitchen to support their their food business? It doesn't have to be just like writing a check at the end of the year or something.

 

James Rowe [00:21:57] So, Connie, you know, you guys have been around since 2010 and you've built East Fork up from the ground and really done that online through the social platforms, I believe. So like Instagram, you've got about one hundred and twenty thousand followers. How did that start?

 

Connie Matisse [00:22:13] Let me go way back. My husband, Alex, he moved to North Carolina because he was interested in clay and he dropped out of college after a year and a half to become a full time apprentice with two master potters here in North Carolina. Bought a piece of property out in Madison County. I met him right after he bought that property. And together we built a big wood burning kiln and a workshop. I was not a potter. I worked in the restaurant industry, but I helped him mix a lot of glaze. And wad a lot of pots and cut a lot of wood. And so for a few years, we operated just like that. We were making very traditional kind of vernacular in North Carolina folk pottery and selling it at craft fairs and having big kiln sales. So it did start off online kind of, but from the beginning, we were really good at throwing big parties and gathering lots of people together in the form of kiln sales. A kiln sale for those who don't know, it's a traditional way of selling pottery in the southeast, where you open up the kiln, so to speak, and everybody comes out and purchases the pots kind of fresh from the kiln. And so we'd have big barbecues. I'd make food for two hundred people and we'd have you know, we'd have people showing up from all over the southeastern region to buy pots. I tried really hard to not be in the family business. I had no intention of like being a potter's wife. And, but I also realized that, like, this guy had a good thing going for him. And if I had if I use my skills a little bit to help him out, we could potentially do something pretty cool. And so I just started documenting things and writing in the newsletters and all that and just kind of grew from there. I think the reason why our Instagram ended up catching on as quickly as it did is because it wasn't like a "brand" Instagram where it just like emerged from nowhere perfectly polished. It really evolved from the ground up and it was just me following around my boyfriend and my friends while they made pots. And I mean, we used to make some really raunchy, weird videos that probably if I reposted them now, people would freak out. It was just silly and fun. And I wasn't trying to, I didn't have an emerging brand strategy or anything. It just it just happened.

 

James Rowe [00:24:12] Yeah. And we kind of see that with, I was checking out that you had a three part video series on Instagram with your daughter.

 

Connie Matisse [00:24:19] Oh Lucia yeah.

 

James Rowe [00:24:20] Lucia, yeah, lucia does my dishes.

 

Connie Matisse [00:24:22] Yeah.

 

James Rowe [00:24:23] Is that kind of what you're talking about is you just like, you know, blending your personality, your life and things like that with the business.

 

Connie Matisse [00:24:30] Yeah. I mean, absolutely. Like we have an incredible creative team here of a photographer, Whitney Ott, she makes beautiful, beautiful photographs. And every once in a while, one of her photos will get a ridiculous number of likes. But then the next day, an iPhone photo that I take of my kid with spaghetti sauce on her face will get just as many. So people really come for for both reasons and. Yeah, I think I think it's pretty different. I've I've let a lot of people into our lives in a way that's pretty intimate and raw. And so people know my kids names. And obviously I have to, I, I stay up a lot at night thinking about how much I should reveal from of my family life and just as far as like what feels emotionally appropriate for me and my family. But I also know that it brings, it's, it's really effective marketing, James, let me tell you.

 

James Rowe [00:25:14] Yeah.

 

Connie Matisse [00:25:14] It it's. Yeah. We joke about which kid has the best ROI.

 

Brian Hughes [00:25:22] Since you're an expert, I've got to ask you this. I have been told that I'm bad at Instragram. And the reason is people say "you just post the same pictures of your kids smiling at the camera." Is, this isn't an effective am I doing something wrong?

 

James Rowe [00:25:41] Yeah! I don't know.

 

Connie Matisse [00:25:42] Well, there are companies. I mean, I know friends who who posts like the same exact overhead shot of like a sourdough a loaf of sourdough bread. And they do really well. So there is some element of consistency in Instagram that that could lead you to be successful one day, Brian.

 

James Rowe [00:26:01] One day far away.

 

Brian Hughes [00:26:02] It sounds like you're being charitable and I'm essentially the person taking the boring picture, the sourdough over and over again.

 

James Rowe [00:26:11] So how did it grow? Like, you know, to get to one hundred and twenty thousand? Was that like overnight? Did it just slowly grow?

 

Connie Matisse [00:26:18] No, so it was pretty. It was slower growth, but we had kind of random peaks and valleys. You know, the Instagram is so weird. The algorithms are always changing. There are companies that got on there early on and kind of gained momentum that saw like a lot of followers starting to follow before. We had, we did a handful of giveaways with some aligned brands that really saw a good pop in followers. We've had amazing press coverage over the last two years. We brought up our PR in-house this year or last year. And the woman who runs our our PR, Erin Hawley, does an amazing job of getting the word out. And so we'll get media coverage that'll bring some followers, but gets a lot of sharing. I have one picture of myself breastfeeding my my littlest one and eating a donut that's gotten reposted like seven hundred and fifty times on other people's feeds. Yeah. It just comes from all around. Not all businesses are are built for Instagram. There, it's I think a lot of people try to push it a little bit too hard or you're like they always feel like this advice of like post something every single day. Even that advice. Right now, I see companies who are trying to sell their products and every day they get up there like trying to say like, well, look at this thing that we have and like this thing still, still beautiful, like you should buy it. And there's just so much fatigue. And so I don't I think Instagram is having like a lot of people are experiencing social media fatigue. So you really have to know how much your customers actually want to be hearing from you. And if you don't have something new or interesting to say, then just don't say anything. And that's OK. It's OK to be silent a little bit. I think that's what I would tell people on Instagram right now.

 

James Rowe [00:27:50] What about, you know, for other small businesses who are used to more traditional marketing strategies? What are some of the tips that you could share with them?

 

Connie Matisse [00:27:58] As far as social media goes?

 

James Rowe [00:28:00] Yeah, social media, you know, just marketing online, really.

 

Connie Matisse [00:28:03] Yeah. Geez. I mean, I think I got going back to the sincerity thing. You have to be really in tune with your audience. You have to be able to share honestly about things that are happening in your own world, your own business world. Thoughts that you're having. But you have to do so with very clear awareness about who you're speaking to and what your words might elicit in somebody else. I think it's really hard to internet market these days. And I think that you have to really think about whether it's a skill that you have or want to foster, because not everybody should go out there and start blasting on social media. I think you can do a lot of damage if you do it wrong. And that's I see a lot of people who try to be vulnerable on Instagram, but they're they're thinking more about how their own feelings and not as much about how those feelings are going to land when they hit someone else. So, yeah, I think my my advice would really be to be consider your audience. It's still marketing. You're not just it's not a live journal.

 

Brian Hughes [00:28:56] So kind of you guys, I'm curious, you guys are the James mentioned at the ten year mark and I think it's call me sentimental or basic or whatever, but it's a good point for reflection.

 

Connie Matisse [00:29:09] Yeah.

 

Brian Hughes [00:29:09] How do you how do you think the next ten years look different for East Fork compared to the first ten?

 

Connie Matisse [00:29:14] Oh geez. If you'd asked me that six weeks ago I would've I had a beautiful answer for you. Brian,.

 

Brian Hughes [00:29:19] Maybe you could miss the coronavirus answer. And then back to the new normal answer.

 

Connie Matisse [00:29:25] The coronavirus answer, you know, this is all new for us now. I think that we're we're radically reimagining the company that we're gonna be on the other side of this. I'll give you the the answer that I would have answered first, because kind of shows you where we thought we were going, but. We thought that we were on our way to becoming the largest manufacturer of ceramics in the U.S. That's that would possibly be like the 15 year goal. And that would have looked like a big campus where we made the line that we're making now, potentially introducing cheaper lines, more automated lines that were more accessible, being completely carbon neutral, building out a huge R&D department, working with manufacturers potentially in other countries to help them design lines and kind of overhaul manufacturing processes to be more environmentally sustainable. I mean, we have lots of things that we thought we were going to do in 15 years. And now with with this pandemic putting a wrench in things, we're taking it day by day and week by week and going back to those values and thinking about the company that we want to build and all I can say for sure is that we want to in ten years, have a company that that's trusted by the community that can can reliably say or can confidently say that they've made the ethically right decision when they had to, that's done right by its employees and makes a product that people can really connect with. That's all I'm hoping for, for east work.

 

James Rowe [00:30:48] It kind of sounds like you're you're in a spot where you have to keep dreaming for for the future that you want, but you have to rely on being able to be adaptive in this environment and kind of almost have like two visions right now.

 

Connie Matisse [00:30:59] Yeah, I think we do after I think that we're still you know, we're talking to a couple of different manufacturers to kind of breathe, breathe new life into that industry in a way that was a little bit more in tune with modern aesthetics and more in tune with cultural need and better stewards of the environment, et cetera, et cetera. And so, yeah, I think that East Fork is is kind of an experiment for what what does manufacturing what does ethical manufacturing look like? What does it look like to build a sustainable, financially sustainable business while also doing right by people who work for you and with you? So that's that's the I don't know what that's going to look like now in 15 years, but that's that's what we're gonna keep doing.

 

Brian Hughes [00:31:40] I don't have a business of my own, but what I'm struggling to be honest with you with unplugging. Like I'm kind of forgetting what day it is when I start when I finish, I think I have a computer screen ingrained in my eyeballs.

 

Connie Matisse [00:31:54] Yeah.

 

Brian Hughes [00:31:54] How I mean, how are you able to step away from it right now? I would imagine that challenge would be even greater for someone trying to run a business.

 

Connie Matisse [00:32:03] Yeah. I mean, Brian, it's a huge challenge for me, I work with a a business coach named Desiree Adaway. She is amazing and I've learned a lot from her about how I'm one of those people who just goes, goes, goes. I work really hard. I learned it from my mother. She learned from her mother. You know, my grandmother worked in the Keebler cookie factory until the day that they told her she had to go home. Mexican immigrant, just like did not take a day off ever. And even when she was off, she was making food for the whole neighborhood and taking care of children. And my mom's the same way. She works at the D.A.'s office in Los Angeles. She just does not slow down. And I've seen the effect that that's had on her. And I know that that's where I'm heading if I don't do something about it. So I kind of had to be yelled at by a business coach that I was paying money to, to really listen to the fact that the less I care for myself and the less that I attend to my needs, the harder of a time I'm going to have helping other people. And I'm I'm starting to see that in the last few weeks I've been able to sleep in with my kids and, you know, snuggle them and take some time to eat lunch and make elaborate dinners. And it's been my own mental health has really benefited from this kind of forced halts in production. My my I feel like I'm having a total adrenal overhaul right now.

 

Brian Hughes [00:33:18] Well, Connie, in the interest of helping slow you down right now, we'd like to thank you for joining us today on Longitudes Radio.

 

Connie Matisse [00:33:24] Thank you both so much appreciate it.

 

James Rowe [00:33:25] Thank you and good luck.

 

Connie Matisse [00:33:26] Yeah, sleep in go to bed early.

 

Brian Hughes [00:33:29] I love it. And we're gonna close giving Connie's husband and East Fork CEO and co-founder Alex Matisse the final word. He has a message that speaks to these trying times we're living through right now.

 

James Rowe [00:33:40] Yeah. So what we're about to play for you feels like the words "adaptive tenacity" in action. Whenever I hear this clip, Brian, I find myself replacing the word "art" with the word "life.".

 

[00:33:52] (music)

 

Alex Matisse [00:33:53] I think that's a funny illusion that art is joy because it's not always joy. And I think a lot of good art comes from struggle. And there's good days and there's bad days.

 

[00:34:05] (music)

 

Brian Hughes [00:34:10] If you like what you heard today, check us out and leave us a review on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.

 

James Rowe [00:34:15] You can also read our blog at UPS.com backslash Longitudes where we post new content every weekday.

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Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?

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