If you have lived in Savannah long enough, you’ve likely not only visited the thriving Starland District, but passed what seems to the the ground zero, bright purple and pink beacon that officially welcomes you into the neighborhood- Starlandia Supply. And it would be simple to stop there, just at the pink and purple exterior – but on the inside, you are greeted with aisles of all sorts of brick-a-brack, fabrics, paints, odds and ends, local artists and writers selling their work and sometimes events happening right then and there. To say it is equal parts business, equal parts community hub, is an understatement.
Ultimately, the goal at Starlandia is to support creativity by helping provide local community access art supplies more affordably. Take it a step further and they connect local artists, students, teachers, hobbyists, and neighbors to a market of inexpensive and creative materials. Lastly, Starlandia is designed to interrupt the product cycle of manufacturing to landfill by maximizing the lifetime of art supplies.
Creative Coast: What made you want to start your own business here in Savannah?
Clinton Edminster: One of the reasons I was excited about starting a business in Savannah was the inherent value that this community holds by being connected to itself. Everybody knows each other and there is an unquantifiable value in that, that I wanted to be a part of and help provide support for and to be involved in.
The initial idea was new and used art supplies and it comes down to the idea of developing a new way for people to think about the art supplies that they had and take some of the finer qualities of art stores and just shift it to a different product.
CC: You saw a need and you created a structured business around that need and then in turn, discovered how that fits the community so perfectly!
CE: Basically that. For anybody interested in starting a business, you have to have a clear understanding of an opportunity and the gap and then fill that. Fill it up and figure it out. I think, Heather, you put that really well, where it starts with an idea but you have to have a structure around it in order to maintain it and keep it stable and sort of like the fusion reactor in Spider Man, in the first one, with Doc Oc who fired a whole bunch of stabilizers around it. The idea is the fusion, which keeps it powered, but you have to stabilize it. The idea that it is natural, forever, etc. sure maybe, but you to have to gibe it structure, otherwise it’ll explode and everybody dies.
Heather Macrae: Spiderman as a business model.
CE: Well, because it is such an interesting business model, what is it that y’all do that makes this place run and tick?
HM: Clinton approached the Art Rise board one day in the middle of a meeting and was like, “I think I want to open a store for new and used art supplies,” and I was like, “That’s a fantastic idea.” We kind of back burnered it, or he had it brewing or fermenting and then he was like, “I need to figure out how to set up these accounts.” I was like, “I actually know how to do payroll and like the menial invoice receiving-like the day to day financial structuring of things”, because I’ve worked in most of the businesses under that umbrella or in that position.
It was really fun to build these things together and then do the really tough stuff like driving to South Carolina to pick up a bunch of gondola shelves and whatnot. It’s kind of amazing to see how this little fruit of an idea has blossomed into this little root structure of networks and there’s so many thing feeding into it and then step in and do all this other stuff.
There’s been donations and community work. We were just at the Southern Fest doing painting, different projects, so between making sure that everything is completed as far as taxes are paid and payroll is done, also getting insight about what projects Starlandia, that’s my involvement. What other projects we can embark on here. What the platform is. Make sure we have stuff happening.
CC: So why start this local business with a different business model-y’all so have a really unique business model?
CE: Mostly price. I think it comes down to one thing and that’s and it’s price. I think that’s one of the strongest motivators for any consumer is absolutely price.
HM: Sure, we may not have exactly what you’re looking for, but we can find the closest fit and it’ll be the least expensive-
CE: And it’ll be the least expensive and that’s something that we’re like, “Because it’s reclaimed, I can assure you that any of the reclaimed items that we have here are cheaper than you’ll be able to find them anywhere else in town.” That’s a significant value proposition. That doesn’t even start to get into the brand or that it’s local or that it’s cool or it’s well packaged. You don’t try to … we have free coffee and all that. It really comes down to the price, that’s it. Everything else kind of stem from there
One of my favorite things in Savannah is the vintage and used goods shops. There’s so many things you can find. Vintage fashion, records, everything. We kind of offer that, but on an eclectic art supply level.
CC: That’s the thing that really adds to Starlandia’s unique success. It’s not only that it fits this really needed market in Savannah, a thing like kind quirky and out there. I just feel like Savannah does that really well and has a really desperate need for that, but then also being in the Starland district.
Can you talk about how place is important for your business?
CE: Place has been hugely important and I like to think that in terms of we … I really wanted to be somewhere that was growing for a couple different reasons. One, from the financial standpoint is that our rent is going to be significantly less than it would be on Broughton or anywhere closer towards the river. Also, believing in the area. Believing in our fellow business neighbors and residents and wanting to be a part of the development as well and wanting to be engaged.
I’ve lived down in this area for the past five to six years or so and so I’ve come to know a bunch about it and really just cherish it a lot. For me, there was really no other option or consideration of another place to go that really was not just an art store and not just a reclaimed art store, but a reclaimed art store in the Starland district. That was it. There was no other concept.
CC: Savannah has this really small town feel about it when in reality, there’s a ton of cool stuff happening here. I’d be interested to hear your take on that. What it is about having a business in Savannah and staying here and committing to staying here and not like fleeing somewhere like Portland or San Francisco or New York where it’s probably easier to be, but at the same time it’s different. How would you maybe talk about your own journey to deciding to choose to develop a business in Savannah, but then also for people who are wanting to start a business in Savannah? What advice would you offer them?
HM: That’s been a personal struggle, actually. I know that Clinton has always been like definitely all about Savannah. He is invested, but I’m definitely wafer all the time. I feel like I’ve wafered a lot. There were plenty of times where … because I’m from New York and my family lives an hour outside the city, so I’ve very much seen the difference, but I think that there is that kinetic potential.
There’s so much that’s ready with a little push, which a lot of other cities, it takes a lot to actually get to that point. Savannah has that opportunity. It has that ability to, number one, meet a lot of people very quickly. It has that ability to get invested in a community very quickly. Everyone’s relatively attainable from city local officials to business owners. You can walk in the door and in most places, you’ll get to know who works there on a regular basis and that really helps improve … I guess inspiration.
It inspires people to want to open a business. Like, “Yes, I can do this. I can sign this lease, I can figure out what we need. I can figure out … ” I mean, I’m just saying that from non-fiction perspective, too, ’cause that was something I had actually been an owner of. This stuff and making sure that this dream stays afloat. I feel like being able to feel connected, and that is exactly what I would suggest to someone that wants to open a business.
Because of the dynamic of Savannah, it really is about who you know and your relationship with people and being aware that your reputation very much connects you, who you know, how you know them, what relationships you have, what kind of advances you can get. I think being respectable to other people in the community, contributing to the community, beneficially and not negatively and networking. That’s what I would suggest.
CC: Any final parting thoughts for the folks out there?
CE: Cashflow. Be aware of cashflow.
HM: Yeah. Be very careful with cashflow.
CE: Be very careful with cashflow and debt can be your friend.
HM: Debt can be your friend.
CE: If managed wisely.
Find out more at: https://starlandiasupply.com