Interview: Goods of Record's Trey Sisson
The online platform goes above and beyond in sharing the stories about the people behind their American-made products
by Emily Bihl
The e-commerce industry is awash with the “storytelling as a sales pitch” concept. Brands offer a few hundred words to tug on customers’ emotions just long enough for shoppers to feel the urge to click “add to cart.” What sets newcomers Goods of Record apart from this approach is that they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—literally. Whether trekking through a muddy forest to shadow a fearless woodworker, or watching leather craftsmen hard at work in drafty, rustic workspaces, the team isn’t interested in telling the same old scripted story over and over. Rather, they seem unusually determined to uncover the process behind a product for themselves, which they recount through videos and in-depth articles. They also have a penchant for finding lesser-known makers. To learn more about how they find these great craftspeople and why they've decided to go the extra mile, we caught up with Goods of Record co-founder Trey Sisson.
We often see the same "heritage" brands touted over and over, but Goods of Record has already avoided this pitfall by bringing in a number of lesser known brands. How do you find the makers that you feature?
One of the driving forces behind founding Goods of Record was our astonishment at the breadth and depth of talented people across America making amazing products. We’ve found these under-the-radar makers all over the place: brick and mortar stores, word of mouth, online marketplaces and even Twitter. We’re taking the best and putting them in one place and, along the way, discovering exactly what makes whatever they make so special.
The in-depth editorial features are what really sets Goods of Record apart from other like-minded shops—not to mention the fact that you interact with each maker in person. What is the benefit of sending your team on location?
We meet our makers in person so we can do our best to bring those stories and experiences to our customers online. Hearing how they got started, where their products are made, how they’re made, and what they’re made from—it’s something that can only be done in person. We see our makers in their element, crafting their products, and every space is unique, but equally fantastic: workshops, garages, design studios, and once, out in the forest. We’re extremely proud of the films and photography we’ve produced so far, and hope that our customers are able to connect with the products and makers in the same way we were.
Though Goods of Record is in its infancy, you've already had quite a few adventures, like felling trees, in discovering the sometimes unwieldy spaces in which these people work. Any anecdotes to share that didn't make the editorial cut?
It’s funny that you ask about felling trees, because we actually have a few choice stories to share from Ohio visiting Jason of J. Birchfield. One was about him warning us to watch out for falling tree limbs that have been known to impale heads, just as he was revving up the chainsaw. We decided to take the risk, and it was worth it. Jason’s mom also named one of her kittens after Kush. He’s doing well, by the way. We also became a bit concerned when we realized that our first four makers were men with beards. Don’t worry, we are diversifying. Stay tuned!
What are the main things you look for in featuring someone's work?
One of the most rewarding parts of building Goods of Record is the “getting-to-know-you” phase with each maker. Our initial conversations are all about understanding their motivations for starting their business, what inspires them and their process. We want to understand what makes each one of them tick, so that we can be as genuine as possible when sharing their stories. We also love to hear why they are interested in working with us, so we know our interests and passions are aligned.
We look for makers who pay great attention to detail and take enormous pride in their work, which is evident within the first five minutes of speaking with them. We don’t want to be another marketplace that customers get lost in, and overwhelmed by. We want authenticity from real artisans, and products that our customers will be excited about owning and using for the rest of their lives.
For you, what's the importance of making sure these stories get told?
When it comes to our products, we actually don’t believe you can separate the good itself from the story behind it. A huge part of the experience of using these products is knowing the hard work and passion that went into them. Beyond seeing the hand-stitched thread of a Wood&Faulk passport wallet, or the live edge of a J. Birchfield iPad stand, our stories explain why these products will last for life and why they are worth spending a little bit more for.
We are telling stories that haven’t been told before, and offering products that most of our customers are not aware of. Rather than just a blurb to give our guys some comfort that this brand is real, we explain why it’s worth taking a chance on some amazing goods and some amazing people.
Are you able to give us any teasers as to what you'll be featuring next?
We are incredibly excited for the next few months of Goods of Record. We are introducing at least 10 more makers and over 60 new products. We’re not sure which one of our makers will launch first, but be on the lookout for some apparel, footwear, and unique goods in the cocktail space.
Images courtesy of Goods of Record