The name MÛR comes from the French word for ripe. Like their logo of a pear, you can think of their wide range of products as ripe fruit, each unique, but consistent, made with confidence and ready for you to pluck it to be your own.
MÛR is a husband and wife team, Joel and Danielle Cyr, focused on functional, classic pieces like towels, brooms, and bowls that will make any home a little more beautiful. They stress the importance of high-quality goods that you won’t quickly throw away, doing their part to fight against the disposable consumerist culture.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they were kind enough to chat with us about getting started and what matters to them when making products.
What inspired you to start MÛR?
Danielle and I have always had the desire to start a business and we wanted to do something together. Before launching MÛR there were many previous business ideas and even a few failed attempts. For example, we actually started a specialty food store in our neighborhood. About five months into the project we realized that the location we had leased didn’t meet the building occupancy requirements and we wouldn’t be able to operate in that location. Long story short, we abandoned that plan and went back to the drawing board.
Throughout this period, I had been working full-time as a chef in a busy restaurant group and Danielle was a stay-at-home mom taking care of our two kids. In 2014 we became tired of the daily grind and wanted to do something that would inspire us and provide us with a better lifestyle. We wanted to be in control of our time and wanted to invest in ourselves while building something where we could reap the benefits of our labor.
We evaluated our strengths - Danielle had a keen eye for beautiful products and I had an aptitude for business. After a bit of research, we decided that launching an online shop was the most obvious and safest way that we could marry our passions and start a side hustle that we could grow and test in our downtime. Danielle started hunting for unique goods that we could sell and worked on the aesthetics of the shop, while I worked on the details, logistics, and behind-the-scenes stuff. And thus, MÛR was born.
What was the biggest challenge early on?
The biggest challenge is always starting. Going from “idea” to “reality.” Most people tend to stay in theory mode and never step into execution mode. It’s easy to come up with excuses and reasons why not to start, but ultimately there will never be the perfect time or conditions. You simply have to get over the initial fear, start with one step forward, and evaluate from there.
I think that’s so true. How did you pick where to start? Was there a specific aspect of the business where you felt more comfortable jumping in?
I think it’s important to start with an easy victory, something that will be easy to execute and will provide a valuable reward. For us it was as simple as registering our domain name and signing up for our Big Cartel store. These weren’t huge risks and didn’t cost us a fortune, yet it allowed us to begin working on our business and move things to the next level. From there we could proceed to testing little by little what works and what doesn’t work, and our business began growing and evolving.
Is there something you wish you'd known before starting?
The thing about being an entrepreneur is that the highs are high, but the lows are really low! One day you can be soaring high and the next you can feel like throwing in the towel and crawling under a rock. It is an emotional roller coaster, I wish I had known how not to take things too personally and remain more objective. I guess that’s hard to do when you pour yourself into your work. It’s a double edged sword.
I also wish I’d known more about handling shipping for both incoming and outgoing parcels. I feel like there was a lot of trial and error as we were trying to figure out what the most economical options were for bringing in products from abroad and sending out products to our Canadian, American, and international customers.
You mentioned Danielle's passion for design and Joel's entrepreneurial focus. Is that how you split up the work, or do the lines get more blurred? What does the day-to-day look like for each of you?
We definitely have very different strengths and interests but at the same time we have a lot in common and the lines do tend to get quite blurred! Generally speaking, Danielle takes care of sourcing out new products, curating the collection, managing the Instagram account, and the overall aesthetic of the website/brand. I manage inventory levels, customer service, financials, logistics and paid advertising. Together we tackle product photography, packing orders, email marketing, content creation, and a handful of other shared duties.
A typical day for us always starts with a good cup of coffee and getting our seven-year-old son off to school in the morning. After that we head to our studio, which is located in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District and is only a 25-minute walk from our home. Our four-year-old daughter often joins us at the studio where we do all of our work, from business meetings, to product photography, to fulfilling orders. We try to theme our days in order to get the best output - for example, we ship orders on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for creative work like photography, styling, and content creation. Our work day typically falls between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. with a few exceptions here and there, of course. (During the busy season we’ve been known to work well into the wee hours of the night!)
What's your favorite piece?
That’s a trick question, we love them all! No but seriously, I think we tend to get excited about the new products that we bring in - it revives our passion for what we do when we find a great product with an inspiring story behind it.
How do you decide to make a new product or to expand into a new category of goods?
It’s usually either one of three scenarios: (1) we have an item in mind and we hunt until we find it, (2) we stumble upon an item or a set of items that we feel make a great fit, (3) we launch a category or collection and try to find items that would fit that category and that meet our guidelines and aesthetic.
Do you manufacture your pieces or work with partners?
We don’t currently manufacture any of our own custom products, everything is sourced from artisans and manufacturers originating from a variety of different countries. There have been occasions where we have requested that the manufacturer make a slight alteration to a product they are already producing, but that’s been the extent of our manufacturing so far. One of our goals for the next year is to launch our own line of custom manufactured private-label MÛR goods.
Your product photography is stunning and clearly the look and feel of your brand is of high importance. Do you work with a photographer? How do you keep things consistent?
Initially we worked with a photographer, but we quickly discovered that it was not a sustainable option. When we first started we had no photography experience, no training, and didn’t own any professional photography equipment. Seeing as we had limited options, we resorted to using our iPad for product photography. A few months down the road we purchased a DSLR camera and took pictures on a used projector backdrop in our home. Little by little we taught ourselves how to use the camera along with the photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Today we feel much more confident with our photography skills and we’ve since been hired to do product photography and styling for several clients.
While there are no “rules” for ecommerce photography, we learned that consistency was important to us as we wanted to maintain an aesthetic throughout our brand.
On that note, Instagram seems to be a key part of your marketing. Did that grow organically, or was the focus on that social network more intentional?
As previously mentioned, Danielle has managed the Instagram account from day one. Although we both contribute to creating the content and photos for marketing, Danielle carefully chooses what actually makes it on the Instagram feed. Our goal with Instagram, as with any platform, has always been to acquire an audience organically and have sincere engagement with our followers. However, regardless of the platform, in order to grow an audience there certainly needs to be intention and consistency that is employed in the execution. There have been times where we’ve benefitted from being mentioned or tagged by larger accounts but those are isolated events and they have a limited impact. At the end of the day you still need to be committed to creating and putting out original content on a consistent basis.
That’s the only secret, there is no shortcut.