Welcome to this week’s Open Call. Today I’m highlighting the work of Sophie Aschauer who founded Serpent Sea in 2011. Sophie makes mats out of recycled marine rope after being inspired by a sailing trip to Nantucket. Each mat is unique and woven by hand with reclaimed sailing ropes woven with four different knots referred to as “Bonny”, “Drake”, “Morgan” and “Killigrew” after four of the most infamous pirates from the 17th century. All four knots are traditional knots and have been tied by sailors for centuries for practical purposes as well as decor. Don’t you just love that! You can use the mats indoors or take them outside. I whizzed over some questions to Sophie to learn more about her business?
What lead you to start your own business?
At first making these mats was just a very enjoyable hobby (that wasn’t really going anywhere) until one of my former work colleagues (at the time I was working at an art gallery) mentioned that she was looking for a mat for her kitchen. To everyone’s astonishment I said that in my free time I was making doormats and I could bring one in for her to look at. Next day I brought in my mats and because it was around Christmas all my colleagues started buying the mats as Christmas presents and within 5 minutes they were all gone – that’s when I realized that there may be a business behind all that!
What has been most difficult?
The first hurdle was to find a steady rope supply. In the beginning I was getting all my rope from a boat yard in CT but soon I had used up all the rope and the mats take a lot of footage to make. In the end I found several very reliable suppliers but it was scary when I didn’t have them… also it is a constant challenge to get people to come and look at my site. Thanks to blogs like yours or magazines I get new people interested but without any write ups no one knows about my site….!
How do you get your work seen by retailers, is it through trade shows, mail shots etc.?
It really is thanks to the press! To get the ball rolling I made nice press kits and sent them to several magazines and I think I just got really lucky as I got a lot of positive responses. Once I got my first little write up more people got interested etc. etc. I never contacted any retailers myself, only press – the retailers came to me after the read about the mats!
Any tips/advice to people starting out;
I am not sure if it really is good advice because one can only grow “that” much but I never borrowed any money or invested over my head, what I made I put back into the business so the growth was and still is very organic. I never had to be scared about money and that is an empowering feeling that makes one feel good about one’s business
What has been most successful about the business?
It is hard to say what has been the most successful, I guess it is the fact that it actually really turned into a business haha :)))) I love being my own boss and an entrepreneur and who would have thought that the mats would be my key to that!
Thanks Sophie, best wishes with your business x