Samantha Rachuy, MSUM Public Relations
Fargo, N.D.–After being faced with a series of struggles, including the death of a loved one, the mother-daughter team of Cari Luchau and Liz Walberg found themselves at a crossroads in their lives. They used the crossroads to start a new chapter. The new chapter resulted in a successful downtown business known as c.lizzy’s.
The history of c’lizzy’s
“The dental office I had worked at for 25 years was closing, and Cari was faced with the decision of starting a new career or moving out of the area,” Walberg said.
c.lizzy’s originated as a simple idea held by Luchau when she was living in the United Kingdom.
“I was living in the U.K. for work and fell in love with the local handmade markets there,” Luchau said., “ I started to campaign with my mother to begin this business.” c.lizzy’s expanded from just an idea to a part-time crafts business in the year 2001 and became to full-time business in 2002.
“Mom is so talented in this arena, and I had the business background so I knew it would work,” Luchau said.
Even though they were confident, the two knew little about how successful their new business would become.
c.lizzy’s moves downtown
Some may get the impression that Luchau and Walberg have always been downtown retailers – this is not the case. In fact, the team has only been located on Broadway since 2006.
“The main reason we moved downtown is to have a presence outside of our home,” Luchau said, “I felt I was having too many people come to my home to ‘shop’ .”
The thought of moving downtown may be scary for some, but this was not the case for Luchau and Walberg. The team realized that being located downtown might came with some disadvantages for the shop, such as, creating a large amount of their own traffic and convincing customers to take the time to drive downtown for that unique gift; however, they are focusing on the positive aspects of the location rather than the negative.
“Downtown Fargo continues to revitalize itself, and more businesses are settling into downtown,” Luchau said., “We love the lifestyle of downtown Fargo and feel it is a great fit for our business.”
The transition to wholesale
Settling downtown was a big decision for the c.lizzy’s business; however, Luchau and Walberg weren’t done yet. The team took on a new challenge, and expanded its business into the wholesale market.
Starting a retail business comes with its own set of risks and challenges, but adding a wholesale factor into the mix complicates things a bit further. Raw materials, ease of production and “sell-ability” of the product are all factors that Luchau says are important when entering into the business of wholesale. Luchau and Walberg realized early on that wholesale can be an intimidating business to enter into.
“Cari is definitely more of a risk-taker than I am,” Walberg said. “It took some convincing to get me on board.” However, the duo didn’t let this notion scare them off. The team turned its hesitation into a booming success.
“We attend wholesale trade shows that are specific to handmade products and are attended by stores who carry at least 50 percent handmade products,” Luchau said. Luchau and Walberg have participated in trade shows in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas.
The team also incorporates wholesale products into its shop on Broadway. The c.lizzy’s shop holds many different products; 95 percent of these products are handmade and are purchased through wholesale. Using the knowledge and experience gained from attending trade shows is key to maintaining a successful business.
The future looks bright for c.lizzy’s
The Fargo-Moorhead area is quite familiar with c.lizzy’s, but the name is well known in other areas of the nation as well.
“I would guess we have shipped products to close to 40 states, plus Canada and Aruba,” Luchau said.
Although the success of c.lizzy’s quite apparent, Luchau and Walberg have some big dreams for the business. Some business goals the team hopes to achieve are opening multiple stores, incorporating a small café, and creating a solid Internet business.
“I would like to grow this business to 500-plus accounts in the next three years. We are currently at approximately 200,” Luchau said.
These goals definitely seem possible when considering how far c.lizzy’s has come within the past decade.
“Entrepreneurs must have extreme focus on concrete goals and carry out those goals with them every day and throughout the whole team in order to be really successful,” Luchau said.
c.lizzy’s has Facebook! The site provides information on upcoming events and sales promotions. The page also displays the products available within the store and wholesale options.