Incollect 10-18
midwest edition
How to sell heirlooms to millennials, and other tips from a Louise Gray co-founder
Oct 23, 2017
Melissa Studach

Whoever said millennials don’t like heirloom products has never met contemporary quilt maker Louise Gray. The Minneapolis-based textile brand has been honoring quilt-making traditions with a modern design eye since launching its first American-made collection in 2015. The merging of old and new has proven successful for Louise Gray, which has scored partnerships with millennial-minded brands like CB2 and Dwell.

Louise Gray
Louise Gray co-founders Alexandra Gray Bennett and Jocelin Johnson

In a few short years, co-founders Alexandra Gray Bennett and Jocelin Johnson have paved an original path within the textile industry, a trade that has largely moved overseas. Here, Bennett shares five unexpected business lessons they’ve learned along the way.

1. Manufacturing domestically can actually save money.
“From a purely business standpoint, we found with our previous company that when we sent things abroad, it was really hard in the prototyping process. Manufacturing domestically, we have found, can actually end up saving money. In terms of our values, we felt strongly about producing domestically because we wanted to be part of the movement in supporting our local communities and economies.”

2. Brilliant resources exist for finding artisan talent.
“We work with a number of artisans locally in Minneapolis, and as we continue to grow and test new formats, we’ve run into some hurdles with finding people who sew. One tool that’s been really helpful to us is a website called Maker’s Row. It not only connects manufacturers to businesses but also vice versa. Local to Minneapolis there’s also an organization called The Makers Coalition, which partners with a local college and has companies guarantee jobs to students before training them to make their products. That’s one program we’ve had great success with.”

Louise Gray
Louise Gray relies on a handful of Minneapolis artisans to produce its contemporary products.

3. Success comes from respecting the tradition.
“The quilt is a humbling product that’s been around for centuries, so we can’t claim to know anything more than anyone else. We’re still learning more and more about the tradition of them. I’m biased, but I believe Midwesterners are humble and kind, and I hope our brand always leads with that.”

Louise Gray
The brand has added pillows, prints and throw quilts to its offerings to meet the needs of younger consumers.

4. Believe it or not, millennials do actually enjoy heirloom products.
“It’s always the older generations who are down on the younger ones saying they’re not buying thoughtfully, but we definitely find here in Minneapolis that there’s a thriving artist community. Since the beginning, a lot of millennials have gravitated toward our product, but we’ve discovered that our price point fits a customer that is a little older, so we’ve come out with pillows and prints that are more approachable.”

5. Just like product, smart business moves require time to process.
“We want to grow slowly and thoughtfully and be very methodical. It’s easy to get excited and want to do a lot of things, but we want to make sure every move that we make is intentional and well thought out. Jocelin and I both tend to turn over ideas for months at a time before we make a move, which has worked for us so far.”

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