In 2000, our founder Charles Douglas visited a Smithsonian Museum craft show in Washington D.C. and was captivated by the variety of unique handmade goods and the talented people behind them. He saw there was a significant public demand for beautiful design. At the same time, he realized that the artists working to make those pieces were often traveling great distances in order to sell their wares at the show. Inspired by his experience, Charles had a vision to create something that had never existed before—an online marketplace to connect makers and their creations with individuals looking for truly special goods, regardless of the physical distance between the maker and the shopper. Charles turned this idea into Renicart.
Of course, in the struggle to build a viable business, there are always bumps in the road along the way. When the internet bubble burst, we faced unforeseen hardships—funds were dwindling, and we were forced to cut back from a staff of 35 to just five full-time employees. Around this time co-founder Thomas Epting joined us as a photographer. Thomas worked tirelessly to help ensure the company's survival, steadily expanding his role to encompass all creative, technology, and warehouse operations. Times were tough, but thanks to the guidance of Charles and Matt, we managed to turn the business around, becoming profitable for the first time in 2005.
Our focus is on building a business for the long haul. We've worked to create a sustainable business in all its aspects. We attempt to minimize our environmental impact, working with our artists to use sustainable or recycled materials whenever possible, choosing environmentally friendlier packing materials, and printing our catalog on Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] certified and recycled paper. We're building relationships with non-profit organizations through Better to Give, a program we created that allows our customers to choose a partner for us to donate $1 to with every order. And a concentration on strong financial health allows us to maintain independent ownership and stay true to our values. Our team has grown steadily over the last decade, from just 5 to over 200 year-round employees. Our business grows dramatically during the winter holidays each year. Thousands of packages ship out every day during these months, so we expand our workforce to hundreds of employees. We try to never lose sight of an inverted pyramid business model, meaning that the needs of the people closest to our customers, our customer service and warehouse teams, come first. As part of this model, our lowest paid hourly seasonal worker makes 100% more than federal minimum wage.
Along with sustainability, supporting creativity and the artist community is extremely important to us. Today our assortment has grown from a collection of Charles's trade show finds to a plethora of products handpicked by a full-fledged buying team, who scour the web for the latest in creative design and, just like in our early days, hit the road to bring back treasures from around the country. Thanks to our community of artists and designers, we also discover many unique pieces through online product submissions. Additionally, we've grown an in-house product development team, who work hard to create new goods sure to make even seasoned design junkies swoon.
A Great Future
As we enter a new age of business, we'll remain focused on our commitment to sustainability and creative design. We'll never stop working to provide a remarkable shopping experience to our customers, make our company our team members' favorite place to work, celebrate craftsmanship and innovation, and support our community of artisans, designers, and creative thinkers. We have a feeling the future will be great.
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