The Uncommon Life

Our Story

January 21, 2015

Our Story | UncommonGoods

We know that there’s a story behind every product. It’s that of an emerging designer just introducing her work to the world; artisans working collaboratively in a low income country; or a seasoned artist crafting each of his pieces by hand. With your help, we’re building a community of passionate people who love our products and connect with the stories behind them. We’re growing not only our artist family, but also a strong following of customers who celebrate artists and delight in surrounding themselves with creative design.

Inspiration
Inspiration
In 1999, our founder Dave Bolotsky 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, Dave 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.
Dave turned this idea into UncommonGoods.  He continued traveling to craft fairs and trade shows, meeting artists and finding stand-out merchandise, while running the business out of his home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before long, the company had outgrown Dave’s apartment, and moved through three successively larger offices in downtown Manhattan, eventually settling in our current location in Brooklyn, NY.

Survival
Survival
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 Dave and Thomas, we managed to turn the business around, becoming profitable for the first time in 2004.

Sustainability
Sustainability
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 100 year-round employees. The entire business now operates out of the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal on the scenic Upper Bay in Sunset Park. Keeping the business under one roof helps us monitor a “triple bottom line,” keeping an eye not only on financial, but also on social and environmental outcomes. 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 50% more than minimum wage.

B Corporation
B Corporation
We’re still growing, but what’s important to us hasn’t changed. Sustainability is, and has always been, central to what we do. In 2007, we became a founding B Corporation, which established an independent third-party certification of a company’s sustainability. The Certified B Corporation seal means that a company has undergone and passed a comprehensive screening questionnaire, which evaluates areas including company governance, environmental practices, and impacts on the local community. As we maintain our certification as a B Corp we’re also driven to continuously evaluate and improve ourselves, while raising awareness of the program. To date, more than 1,000 companies have become certified B corps.

Evolution
Evolution
Along with sustainability, supporting creativity and the artist community is extremely important to us. Today our assortment has grown from a collection of Dave’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.

An Uncommon Future
An Uncommon 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 uncommonly good.

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36 Comments

  • Reply Jaci Slee July 3, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Do you sell wholesale? I own the florist gift shop in our town and would like to purchase your product for my gift shop

    • Reply Cassie July 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      Hi Jaci,

      We’re glad you like our products, but we do not sell wholesale.

      Thanks for asking,

      Cassie | UncommonGoods

  • Reply Brenden July 4, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Greetings uncommongoods, I enjoyed viewing your sight and learning your story, it was impactful. Non the less I inquire to know how to involve my uncle with your revolutionary business, he is an amazing artist that creates things I have yet to find on your site.
    -brenden

    • Reply Cassie July 6, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks for reaching out, Brenden! Our buyers would be happy to take a look at your uncle’s work. He can submit his designs online at http://www.uncommongoods.com/designs.

      Best,
      Cassie | UncommonGoods

  • Reply glenda July 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Are any goods available in brick and mortar? Houston area.

    • Reply Cassie July 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      We’re glad you like our goods! We don’t have any brick and mortar stores, but we do ship across the U.S. (and we ship many items internationally), so we can definitely get an order to Houston for you if you find something you love.

  • Reply Shamalah July 15, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Lovely stuff you have in there! Do you ship to Malaysia?

  • Reply Cassie July 15, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Shamalah,

    We do ship many items internationally. To see if the item you’re interested in can be shipped to Malaysia, click on the flag icon at the top of the item page for the product you’re hoping to buy. Once you’ve selected the Malaysian flag you’ll be able to tell if that specific item can be shipped to you.

    Thanks for asking!

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  • Reply Georgi McAllister July 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    What an amazing service you provide. I doubt that you do this because of all of the charitable work that you do, but the Northeast Chapter of the American Red Cross will host its annual golf tournament/silent auction fund-raiser in March. I was hoping that someone from your wonderful establishment would donate an item towards our silent auction. What an incredible blessing that would be. If not, I certainly understand. Blessings – Georgi McAllister

    • Reply Cassie August 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks for thinking of us, Georgi. Because we handle our charitable donations through our Better to Give Program, we’re not making additional product donations at this time. We do wish you the best of luck in your fundraising and hope that your gold tournament is a success.

  • Reply Jennifer August 1, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Cassie – I see that you do ship to Malaysia but could Uncommon Goods work with a reclaimed marine timber project producing items in Malaysia? Our project creates wonderfully rustic outdoor furniture pieces from marine distressed timber from confiscated and abandoned fishing boats. They could be shipped from Malaysia directly to anywhere in the world. The boats are otherwise burnt or scuttled. This recycling project is part of a larger effort to encourage and educate local fishermen and villagers to participate in reducing the huge marine debris problem here in SE Asia. Our project is a way to turn waste into currency, reduce poverty, educate, and help the environment all at the same time. Your online design submission page did not accept an address outside of the US. Hope we can work with you!

    • Reply Cassie August 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We’re working on updating our product submission form to accept addresses outside of the U.S., but since that feature isn’t available just yet, I’ll pass your comment and the email address you left along to our home decor and garden buyer.

      Best,
      Cassie

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  • Reply Jean Claude August 11, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    I would be interested in signing with your Co.
    What are your terms?

  • Reply Cassie August 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for asking Jean Claude! Our buyers are always looking for new designs, so if you do decided to submit your work please use our online form here: uncommongoods.com/designs.

    To learn more about our terms, take a look at our Vendor Code of Conduct: http://data.uncommongoods.com.edgesuite.net/images/vendorCode.pdf

  • Reply UncommonGoods: Unique Gifts Meet Sustainability August 27, 2015 at 8:02 am

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  • Reply Jeannie August 29, 2015 at 1:34 am

    Hello. Today I found your website while looking for a U.S. map for children. What a great variety you have. I purchased two of the best designed maps I’ve seen anywhere. Thank you for having exactly what I was looking for.
    J. Petersen

  • Reply Cassie August 31, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Jeannie,

    Thanks for the comment. We’re happy to hear that you found just what you were looking for!

    Cassie

  • Reply leah September 3, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Cassie
    I have an idea for a personalized gift product. If a supplier works with uncommongoods, do they have to have a minimum number of pieces that must be possible before you will engage? My product is personal, beautiful and cherish-able, but I could only produce about 20 of them a month. Is that too few for your team to be interested? Do I tell you what price I need, then you determine your price by adding to that? How do you set the price? I would need to get $100 – 200 per item.

    • Reply Cassie September 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Leah,

      Thanks for getting in touch! We do work with many vendors who produce made-to-order items, and requirements for minimums and pricing vary from product to product. The best way to get your product in front of your buyers’ eyes is to tell us about your design through our product submissions page (http://www.uncommongoods.com/designs). If the product seems like a good fit for our assortment a member of the buying team will be in touch to work out the details.

      Best,
      Cassie

  • Reply Tasha September 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Cassie, I am working on a paper in school where that I had to choose a company to write about. I chose Uncommon Goods as my company. I have been reading through all your pages but having a hard time finding some of the information that I would love to write about. My questions I would love more information about is how much of the money made on a product goes back to the artist/inventor and do you just serve the artist/inventors in the united states or does your company also allow people from other countries use your online marketplace? If you can not answer these questions for me that is understandable. Thank you for your time!

  • Reply Ana Molina September 20, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Cassie,
    I have a great idea for a unique jewelry organizer. I am working on the prototype.
    I am wondering how your system works, if you like the idea/product and you decide to purchase some items, do you have a minimum amount of items for the first purchase? and your company receives a fee per item sold or you purchase the product to the vendor and then you sell the product on your website?
    Thank you.
    Best regards.

    • Reply Cassie September 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Hi Ana,

      If your product is selected for sale at UncommonGoods, our merchandising and purchasing teams would work with you to determine pricing and how many units we’d need to meet a minimum. Once you’re ready to show us your product design, you can submit through our online product submission page here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/designs

      Best,
      Cassie

  • Reply Agrillo,Rosemarie September 22, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I placed an order for a personalized street sign photo. This photo called Intersection of Love , black and white, was ordered on September 11, 2015. My order I thought went through I thought,because it said thankyou for my order. But when I tried to put in my email information Idon’t think it went in. Said it wasn’t working at that time.

  • Reply Cassie September 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Rosemarie,

    Your order was shipped on 9/19. If you have specific questions about your order, our Customer Service team would be happy to answer them. Just call 1.888.365.0056 to speak with a representative.

    Best,
    Cassie

  • Reply Karen Michaelsen February 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Congrads. on your success for a wonderful company. I placed my first order yesterday when in the middle of my conversation,we got disconnected. The very sweet woman called me right back and I have not yet given her my phone #. I use to live in Sunset Park as a child and moved to various places within Brooklyn. When I read your history, I became home sick. I moved to No. Virginia about 20 miles from Washington,DC after living in B’klyn for 35 yrs. Keep up the good work and looking forward to new and exciting produts.

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  • Reply Marilyn McGaughey September 12, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I have been buying gifts both for friends and myself for some years now. Each one has been a joy. My friends have asked how to get the catalogue and have really enjoyed the introduction to creative, unique and unusual gifts. Today after viewing your basic concepts and way of operating I am not only very impressed but so delighted that someone like your company operates with your ideals. Creativity, high standards, fairness and kindness go a long way. Congratulations! I will be with you a long time as a customer.

    • Reply Emily G. September 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Marilyn. We’re always happy to hear that customers agree with and appreciate our ideals. We’re glad you’re sticking with us! 🙂

      -Emily

  • Reply marci November 11, 2016 at 12:40 am

    What is your return policy and guarantee of the products I purchase for myself or for others? I cannot find this anywhere on your website. Do you offer 100% money back guarantee, or return for merchandise only, or what?

    Thank you,

    Marci

    • Reply Emily G. November 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Marci,

      We always want you to absolutely love your purchase. If you’re ever unsatisfied with a product, you can always return or exchange it, unless it’s a made-to-order item. You can read more about our return policy here. Thanks for reaching out!

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