We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Bissinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I don’t think of myself as a risk taker. I think it’s a mischaracterization of entrepreneurs. I would never bet the farm and risk losing it all. On the contrary, I’ve grown my business by taking countless opportunities that have come my way and seeing how they work out in a small way before committing wholly to them. To me that defines my entrepreneurship. It is true once I set my mind to doing something it takes alot to deter me and in that way perhaps some would call me a risk taker. The thing I’ve learned is one needs to just keep looking forward and making decisions based on the best information available to you in that moment. Some will be good decisions and some won’t be but you quickly recognize poor decisions and correct them. Life goes on. In the end you just hope none of the mistakes are expensive ones that hurt your business. And above all else, talk things through with others, surround yourself with smart people, and be open to different points of view.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I opened Maker & Moss in 2013 with the goal to highlight artists, makers, and manufacturers that use sustainable materials and production methods. I felt the world did does not need more mass produced products that just end up in landfill after a short shelf life. Quality and craftsmanship still matter. We take pride in a high level of service and an approach to sales that is respectful to the customer. We have carved out a niche for ourselves and I’ve been pleased that so many people have responded to it.
The hardest part by far was the first few years as the new kid on the block. We were still learning our way, refining the direction of the store, and finding partners to work with. There were months where cash flow was negative and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the bills but we stuck it out and we became viable and sustainable.. The challenges keep coming which is what I find most engaging about being in business. Things are constantly changing and you just have to keep up.
In recent time the biggest challenge, and I know I’m not alone in this, was the pandemic which forced me to all but shut down for a few months and then operate in a more limited capacity. At the outset I decided the only way we would survive is if we invested in our online business. I hired someone to manage our e-commerce and started advertising in a serious way online. I had a mentor whose mantra was you can’t wait for the customers to come to you. You have to meet them where they are. So that’s what we did. The beginning of the pandemic was a tough period but we got through it, I was able to retain my entire staff and even create a position. As things pick up in-store if anything our expanded online presence has made us stronger.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area it’s not tough to find fun things to do. Exploring the different neighborhoods and checking out the restaurants and shops is pretty much de rigueur. A trip across the bridge up to wine country is an essential, as well as exploring the surrounding parts of the Bay Area, not to mention any number of urban hikes in the city itself. Hayes Valley, where Maker & Moss is located, is a great neighborhood with a ton of small businesses and restaurants that can make for a full, fun day. In recent years I’ve enjoyed visiting the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park which I feel is a hidden gem. San Francisco, even with all the challenges our big cities are facing these days, is still a charming city full of interesting people and places to go.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would dedicate this to the people I work with past and present. Each have put their stamp on Maker & Moss and oftentimes challenged me to look beyond my own nose or think differently. As a design professional, my colleagues have influenced my aesthetic eye and helped me grow creatively.
#1 and #7 by Clay Siebert #2, #3, #4 by Caydie McCumber Other images are taken by employees