The Citizenry creates exclusive collections of beautifully crafted home goods, one country at a time, then brings those directly to consumers online. The inspiration came from the founders’ personal travel, design and business experience, and the identification of a broader trend towards more premium, artisanal goods among young adults wanting to invest in the spaces they live in (up to a certain point) to create inspired, unique, and meaningful homes. The Citizenry was created to connect globally-minded consumers with modern, well-crafted pieces that also evoke the story of their country of origin.
Business and Operating Models
The business model for The Citizenry is very straightforward: it designs and delivers high-quality home goods through an e-commerce platform at a mark up directly to aesthetically-, culturally-, and socially-minded consumers. The Citizenry’s costs are kept low by only having a digital storefront (no brick and mortar), an integrated supply chain (direct partnerships with global artisans, so no middlemen), and an on-demand workforce (e.g., part-time freelance designers and developers). Core aspects of their business model and the associated operating model features are detailed below.
Small, curated selection allows for lean logistics.
The Citizenry produces small batches of home goods (e.g., furniture and soft furnishings) for each country collection. Launching collections one country at a time leads to longer “set-up” times for each country; however, this period enables the team to build a country-specific model which they can then test, iterate, and then scale. Sustaining the business in that country requires much fewer resources, and allows for quicker run time when producing additional products. The limited number of SKUs and small item batches help drive demand, enable a simplified shopper experience (buyers can browser the finite inventory by category item, e.g., chairs, or by collection, e.g., Uganda), and ensure that the company does not overproduce inventory before ensuring there is sufficient appetite for the SKU.
Culturally inspired, designer approved, customer delighted.
The Citizenry’s products are based on proprietary designs that balance an intimate understanding of the crafts (local traditions and resources) native to a specific country and an awareness of global consumer home goods trends and preferences. Products are envisioned by freelance designers under the supervision of the co-founder thereby letting The Citizenry flex up and down on labor costs based on design cycles. The cost savings from the self-designed collections are passed on to consumers, enabling a competitive price point. The company is aware of the table-stakes of doing business as an e-commerce company: needing to constantly delight your customer. To allow for this they offer free shipping and returns, complimentary holiday gift wrap, surprises to loyal customers, and a direct line of communication to the company.
Strong artisan supplier relationships.
10% of proceeds are reinvested back into artisan communities. The Citizenry’s philosophy: “every purchase directly supports artisan entrepreneurs” promotes the pro-social desire in consumers to have a clear line-of-sight to the do-good feature of the good or service they are purchasing. The ongoing reinvestment into artisan communities creates strong financial alignment across the supply chain. This reinvestment loop is desirable from a marketing and customer value proposition perspective, but more importantly, from a business model perspective as the reinvested profits sustain the supplier communities. The proceeds go towards grants for tools, workspaces, and education which ultimately helps scale production and improve product quality stemming from suppliers’ communities.
Why They’ll Keep Winning
As a founder-led start up, it is a lot easier to establish and maintain alignment throughout an organization. It will be interesting to see how The Citizenry scales as their brand becomes better known and their consumer-base and sales increase. However, their foundation has created strong alignment between their business and operating models. The value proposition of inspired, authentic, and “soulful” products is sustained through a superior production formula of trend-focused designers, high-quality, globally-sourced products, and direct artisan supplier relationships. This formula will ensure that the Citizenry’s proprietary collections will continue to be in high-demand by consumers. The choice to reinvest 10% of proceeds to artisan communities creates a virtuous cycle that will maintain strong supplier relationships. The Citizenry created a business model based on a prescient understanding of the emerging professional consumer who wants to live in a beautiful, unique, and meaningful space but who is cost conscious and wants to feel like (and tell the story of) the stuff that they do have being sourced from a socially sustainable supply chain.
- Conversations with co-founder Rachel Bentley.