Name and Job Title: Emma Wilson, Co-Founder Website
Social Media Links:
Number of outlets: Online only
Location(s): London / Essaouira, Morocco
Market(s): (eg. Homeware, fashion etc) Home Decor – Rugs
Other relevant info: Online shop selling rare and vintage Moroccan berber rugs. Handpicked collection. Each rug is unique.
Modern Retail talks to Emma Wilson co-founder of website Beldi Rugs, a unique collection of handcrafted authentic Moroccan rugs .
MR: How do you aim to stand out as a brand?
Emma Wilson: Beldi Rugs offer genuine vintage and incredibly rare Moroccan pieces that are not accessible to the public, or even other buyers. Each piece is unique, rich in history and highly collectible. We are often approached by big name companies to buy on their behalf as they realise and respect that we have access to the pieces others do not. We don’t! Our aim is to offer these exclusively to our clients.
As a brand, we also hope to inspire interior designers, home owners and collectors to see how these tribal pieces are still relevant in a modern context – how these pieces can work in a “real home” environment. Our website is full of lifestyle photography to inspire people to be creative in their own homes.
MR: How would you sum up your target customer?
Emma Wilson: Our clients are an international, diverse and creative roster, which varies from interiors stylists, architects and designers through to celebrities and art collectors.
MR: Why should people shop with you?
Emma Wilson: Beldi Rugs sell genuine vintage berber rugs and our contemporary pieces are the modern day equivalent in terms of their quality, design and being handwoven by women of indigenous tribes. If you want the original Beldi chic and to bring an authentic piece of the ‘real’ Morocco into your home, then Beldi Rugs is for you!
MR: What do you want to do differently to your competitors?
Emma Wilson: In addition to offering unique, rare and hard to find vintages pieces, we also offer a bespoke contemporary rug service, “Build My Beni”. Clients can commission Beldi Rugs to create a bespoke and unique Beni Ouarain rug. Contemporary Beni Ouarain rugs are becoming increasingly popular in the world of interior design and modern homes as they can be made to any size and you can even design your own pattern. Your Beni, Your Way! http://beldirugs.com/bespoke-beni-ouarain-rugs/
MR: What challenges do you face as a business, and how do you aim to overcome them?
Emma Wilson: Substandard competitors and IP infringement is a growing issue. Lots of people think they are professional buyers, purchasing a few rugs on holiday (often not even knowing what they have bought) then go home and set up an online rug shop and claim they are selling the real deal. Sadly, most are not and simply don’t have the local knowledge nor the experience to differentiate between real vintage pieces or even good quality modern ones.
Consequently, we have to compete with stores selling non-authentic or low grade goods so we are on a constant mission to educate shoppers, in person and through our website and social networks, that there is a huge difference in the quality and authenticity of these pieces. More recently, we have many of these new shops even using our brand name and reputation to sell its poor quality goods. We have a team who work tirelessly to protect our brand from copyright infringement and shoppers from being sold fakes. Whilst it can be infuriating and a waste of valuable resources, it is a compliment and continually challenges us so we are never complacent, always progressive. People like our honesty and integrity and reward us with their loyalty, and that’s the best gift any brand could ever have. We work hard but the rewards are limitless.
MR: How do you use technology/media/ecommerce to improve your offering?
Emma Wilson: From our online shop to building our brand amongst a growing, interactive digital community, technology is our biggest friend. Our website and online shop gives us the opportunity to showcase our collection, inspire web visitors and generate a wider brand reach. Many clients still like to pour over our pieces in the showroom, but often the website is their first port of call before they contact us. We are also blessed with a very loyal and ever expanding online community on social networks who give us feedback and support the brand. Without them, growth and relevance in a busy marketplace would be almost impossible.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, we have made some incredible contacts and friends along the way through a myriad of new media chance encounters and down-to-earth brand engagements. This has helped to shape the Beldi brand and its family.
MR: What do you love about your work/business/brand?
Emma Wilson: There is so much we love about our brand and daily work life: from working with our team in Morocco sourcing pieces to getting them photographed and online with our UK team. It’s a team effort from start to finish. We really enjoy this organic and inclusive way of working, and our Beldi family gives the brand an extra stamp of authenticity that we love.
One of our most favourite parts of the business is when we see our customers sharing images of their Beldi Rug in its new home. These rugs can really transform cool living areas and work spaces to create a more homely, lived in feel or make a bold design statement instantly. We get quite attached to our pieces (as they are becoming so hard to find) so it’s such a rewarding part of the process to see the next chapter of their life and how creative owners are with their newly acquired piece.
MR: What advantages/disadvantages does your location bring?
Advantages: After 18 years as an expat based in Essaouira, I’m now (finally!) considered a local which gives us an advantage – our Moroccan suppliers give us exclusive access to pieces that other buyers will simply never get the chance to see.
Disadvantages: There is no super quick method to get the very old, very large and really heavy pieces back to our London showroom. It can be a bit frustrating when we are excited to get new pieces photographed and online for our clients!
MR: What are your growth aims for the next 12 months?
Emma Wilson: In October 2016 we are excited to be launching “Modern Beldi”. This new collection is a creative and inspiring mix of contemporary Moroccan pieces, all beautifully handmade. While the pieces are all contemporary, they share the same core values of the main Beldi Rugs collection: handpicked by us, rare one-off designs, exceptional quality and handmade by traditional artisan methods. These pieces are again not easily accessible to other buyers so we are thrilled to launch a modern collection that offers the same brand values at a more accessible price point and showcases contemporary edgy tribal designs. The Modern Beldi collection is a relaxed, bohemian style for a modern home. Perfectly suited to family life with kids and pets!
Modern Beldi offers new Beni Ouarain geometric wool rugs for minimalist luxury; bright and colourful Boucherouite rag rugs for bohemian and mid-century lovers; abstract and tribal modern Azilal rugs for a stylish modern twist on Berber weaving.
MR: What advice would you give to a new retail start-up based on your experience?
Emma Wilson: Differentiate yourself from competitors, offer something really unique. Build strong, long terms relations with trusted suppliers. Believe in your vision – integrity is everything.