One of the first reactions we often get when explaining Upward Dog now sounds like a cliche – “So you’re going to sell online, right?” Since this wasn’t part of our plan, at first it bothered me, forcing me to question my own logic. But over time and lots of face-time discussions, we can now articulate both why we so often hear this question and why our response is no – for now, anyway.
I’ll qualify this first by explaining that before leaving the U.S. to come to Australia, I ran a moderately successful online store (combined with eBay sales) of crafts and textiles from Palestine. I started it in a time when open-source software was just getting ramped up, and because it was a true bootstrap organization, I spent a lot of time and effort trying to create an online shopping experience that was clear, trustworthy and simple. Now with hindsight, I see that although I had always prioritized telling the stories of the artists and their crafts, I actually utilized most of my energy on tech management. Though I couldn’t see it clearly at the time, when I did go out to special events and sold to people face-to-face I was able to tell the stories and the crafts and clothing came alive in the hands of those who cared. I sold thousands of dollars of goods in a day, compared to hundreds on my best online days. The difference was people and to me, this – call it engagement or relationship or something else – is still a vital piece of how I choose to do business.
Over the last year or so, I’ve reflected often on the Western (or is it just American?) tendency for most people to have an answer, a solution, an expert opinion, or at the very least, an informed interjection, to whatever. Literally whatever. How long this has been happening, I can’t say, but I find it to be both irritating and harmful. Sometimes, it’s a little thing, just out of habit, and it often comes without thinking. Or intentioned listening. And this, I believe, is why people ask us if we’re selling online, as opposed to listening and then maybe asking why we aren’t selling online. It’s okay, all of these things that I reflect on that I find annoying, I do all the time. But it does help to see this kind of reaction from people as just that, not a flaw in our business model that we have somehow, in all of our planning, overlooked.
So no, thank you for asking, we are not (again, for now) selling our wonderful gear online. There is plenty of competition doing that already, and doing it well. Despite the advances in ease of technology, it’s a whole other level of commitment and decision making, on top of what we’re already committed to. And that’s this: we are aiming to set up a boutique shop in the Northern Suburbs that will be combined with studio space to serve the people in our community. We believe in sourcing gear that is ethical, sustainable, well-made and unbranded. We believe in relationship and community. We’re not out to compete, we are out to provide something unique and important. Clothing and accessories for movement, for bodies, for living.
And who knows, maybe we will hang out a digital shingle one day. But it most certainly will only happen after lots of questions. And listening.
See you at the markets!