Karen Eschebach, co-founder of Clever Container, a Sterling Heights-based company that sells organization products though home parties, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about growing the company’s consultant base and product line.
1. DDN: Please explain your company’s motto, “It’s not just the product, it’s the process.”
KE: I (used to do) professional organization, primarily in the Grosse Pointe area, when everything was transitioning from VHS tapes to DVDs. I’d go to clients’ homes, and they were getting rid of the containers where they used to store their VHS tapes, because that’s what they were made for. With Clever Container, or with any party planning company in general, you want to demonstrate a product, but you also want to know that (product) can grow with you. It shouldn’t be something that just adds clutter in the future. We try to show that there’s more than one way to use a product. For instance, our belt hangers — more people buy them to hang their camisoles or athletic wear than their belts.
2. DDN: What separates you from other direct sales party planning companies?
KE: I think we’re one of the first to invest in technology. We actually have our own app, which is more of an informational recruiting and training app. But we are just testing and are going to be releasing the updated version, which will let consultants place all of their orders and swipe credit cards right there on their iPad. And that’s pretty new to the industry. The cool thing about this is you can plug your iPad into a television during a party to show videos. You can actually bring the catalog up on the screen so everybody’s looking at the same time. And if a customer is excited about something, you put it in their wish list with just a tap. It’s been a huge undertaking, and we’re really excited about it.
3. DDN: How has your company grown since you launched in 2006?
KE: We have 12 employees and over 2,600 consultants across the country. It’s kind of one of those exponential (growth) type businesses — direct selling, party planning usually is. With us, we really kind of saw a boom two years ago, but it had always been slow and steady growth up to that point. Our consultants are primarily in the Midwest, and a lot of them are in Ohio.
4. DDN: Where do you buy your products?
KE: That’s evolved over time. Up to about two years ago, we purchased all of our products from suppliers. We had become a reseller to kind of test the business model and find out what was working. The problem was that we needed to start getting a price point for us, so we started designing our own patterns and products. We still have some products we get from suppliers, but our goal is to be 100 percent private label or designed specifically for Clever Container. Right now, it’s about 50 percent (private label).
We’re expanding our car product line this fall to include fun patterns. We’re also trying to label our own acrylic products (clear organization containers). There are a couple companies out there that have several patents on acrylics, so that’s a tough market to get into, but we’re hoping to expand there.
5. DDN: Any plans to develop your own products?
KE: We would love to explore that in the future. We do have some travel bags that are patented and sold only through Clever Container. They’re like a Space Bag, but don’t need the vacuum. All you have to do is roll them and all of the air compresses out of them.
(With product development), you have to do a lot of research because there’s so much out there. Even with a pattern, you have to be careful. You get an idea and you have to think to yourself, “Did I see this on Pinterest or is this something that just came to me?” We’re just inundated with so much content nowadays that it’s a bit harder to go through that process than it was before the Internet and social media.