"Stay Local!.org" Success Stories: Silk Road Collection

Following is the text of an article on StayLocal.org about the success of Silk Road Collection after Hurricane Katrina.

"Stay Local! is a city-wide initiative for creating a strong economy based on locally owned and operated businesses in New Orleans."

Success Stories

New Reality Leads to New Approach for Silk Road Collection
March 6, 2007

You don’t need to fly to China to satisfy your yen for Asian decor; opt instead for a trip to Silk Road Collection on Magazine Street. Silk Road was the name given to the trade routes between Europe and Asia that carried the luxurious fabric 5,000 miles over land and sea. A significant factor in the development of many great civilizations, the trade route also helped lay the foundations for the modern world.

Similarly, New Orleanians Donald St. Pierre and Robert Turner have been laying the foundation to remain competitive in today’s economic climate by pioneering unprecedented marketing strategies.

Although from a small town in between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, St. Pierre has always identified himself as a true New Orleanian. After graduating with a marketing degree from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, St. Pierre worked as an accountant. After sharing his business savvy with others for nearly 30 years, he finally decided to apply it to a masterpiece of his own making.

St. Pierre had a vision of a store on Magazine Street that would showcase beautiful household items. Like a seasoned yogi who practices envisioning the next position in a sequence of asanas, St. Pierre was ready to act when Patsy Perry decided to sell Silk Road Collection and all the luxurious charms therein in 2004. St. Pierre and Turner traveled to China with Perry to learn the ropes and hand-select new items for their collection.

Not included in St. Pierre and Turner’s vision was Katrina’s uninvited appearance; she crashed Silk Road Collection’s one-year anniversary party, making landfall that same weekend.

Silk Road did not suffer any physical damage, yet St. Pierre and Turner soon realized they had only one-fourth of their pre-Katrina market, where fifty percent of their sales came from tourists, and the other half from locals. With tourism nonexistent, and only half of the local population in town, they were looking at a seventy-five percent consumer decrease.

It was time to regroup, rethink, and revise.

St. Pierre and Turner then teamed up with business consultant Desiree H. Young of VentureWalk Business Partners, a New Orleans-based consulting firm that focuses on re-invention, marketing and growth strategies for small businesses. Young assisted the partners in creating a new, sustainable plan for the future of Silk Road.

“Working with Donald and Robert was easy because they could think out of the box and were open to changing how they conducted business,” says Young. In my experience, many business owners don’t recover from setbacks because they resist change and are unable to be flexible.”

Turner’s background in industrial engineering and systems analysis, along with St. Pierre’s financial savvy and Young’s marketing acumen have led to the development of an e-commerce web site.

As St. Pierre and Turner saw it, Silk Road’s survival depended on looking beyond clientele coming through their doors, and extending their marketing beyond the hurricane-ravaged Gulf South. St. Pierre and Turner were able to tap into free technical assistance through Solid Cactus, an e-commerce website design and programming firm that provided four area businesses with websites as part of their hurricane recovery efforts.

With a fabulous website up and running, Silk Road was finally on the road to recovery and ready to help their fellow entrepreneurs by coordinating a marketing seminar.

The seminar, sponsored by the Magazine Street Merchants Association and the New Orleans Chapter of American Society of Interior Designers, will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2007, from 8 am to 10 am at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 5342 Saint Charles Avenue.

“Speed Marketing is like speed dating, where business owners old and new can efficiently be exposed to and learn about the many available resources out there to help them get back to business as usual with an emphasis on marketing strategies essential to survival,” explains St. Pierre.

The seminar highlights the top 3 marketing mistakes that could cost you your business and how to overcome them. Over the course of two hours in a high energy, engaging format, business owners will learn about marketing, PR, developing media relations, e-commerce and internet marketing, sales and customer service, branding and communications, and more.

St. Pierre and Turner are motivated to spearhead this effort in order to help the rest of New Orleans realize that it is only as strong as its weakest link.

“We know that we will thrive or die with neighboring businesses; we’re all in this together,” says St. Pierre. “At a time when citizens realize their local government’s word is a strong as, well, the levees- citizen participation must rise to new levels.”

To participate in the Speed Marketing Seminar, call Desiree Young at 504-392-0707. The seminar is free and open to the public, but space is limited so pre-registration is required. To register online, send a blank e-mail to SpeedMarketing@NewOrleansMagazine.com.

Silk Road Collection
3714 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday: Noon to 4:00 pm