Citizen Supply is one of our newest stockists - but one we're truly excited to add to our roster. Located in Atlanta, GA, Citizen Supply was founded by Phil Sanders, a creative entrepreneur who recognized the need for well-made products in his today's retail landscape. Citizen Supply was born out of a desire to connect makers and small brands with consumers — and provide a platform for creatives and artists. Community is central to the Citizen Supply brand and concept, and this year, we're all having to connect in new and different ways. We asked Phil Sanders a few questions about the inspiration behind Citizen Supply and how they are navigating this period of immense change for the retail industry.

What is the inspiration behind Citizen Supply?

The inspiration for Citizen Supply was always our local community. I started off in 2010 as a freelance photographer and that eventually led to me opening up Foster, a co-working space for artists and self-starter types. The co-working space had a studio in it and we started hosting maker pop-ups out of there every quarter or so. Those pop-ups really showed me how rewarding it was to be a platform that benefited others by inviting  the community into an experience. That little pop-up turned into Citizen Supply in just 1 year. 

How do you source the products and brands featured in the shop?

In the beginning, we simply sourced from our pop-up network and took on pretty much anyone who was willing to risk it with us. We launched the store in a little over 3 months and were really scrambling to try and fill it. Over the years sourcing has looked like everything from hunting through Instagram, attending trade shows, or getting referrals from other vendors. Our team is definitely figuring this out as we go and I’ve been lucky enough to have a Sally Diguette along on this ride with me since day one. She took over vendor and product curation in mid 2017 and has really created a consistent vendor program since then. Citizen Supply started with around 40 vendors and we’re now averaging about 180 vendors in the store at any given time. 

How do you feel about being a small business in 2020? And a resource for other small businesses? 

I’m a pretty big optimist, but 2020 definitely made that outlook hard to keep. 2020 has had a way of exposing all the cracks in businesses. Team trust, financial stability, customer loyalty…etc. I heard a saying that went something like “you go into a crisis with that cash you have in the bank.” Meaning that it’s incredibly hard to restructure core areas during a crisis. We were going into this year counting on it being a stabilizing year and it had all signs of being that before the March shutdown. I’m incredibly proud of our leadership team for doing the work needed to get us to this point in the year. It’s basically been a year of baby steps, but as of now our team culture is the best I’ve ever seen it and I truly am excited about what’s to come.  The vendors we work with are incredible and I think once we get our groove back, Citizen Supply will grow 5x what it would have without the lessons learned from this year. 

How do you foster a sense of community with your customers (especially right now)?

For the most part we just made everything about the community as best we could. It didn’t feel right to keep with the same messaging as always and we wanted to make sure everyone knew first and foremost we’re about our community. Likewise [our bar] did a daily Insta Live cocktail workshop called Quarantini Time which was really fun and slightly chaotic. Citizen Supply kept all messaging encouraging and focused on what was happening. Our community up until March 2020 has predominately been in the physical space so this has been an extremely new experience for us no navigate a virtual world, but it’s one that we look to continue to do better with even once customers start coming out to shop. 

What’s ahead for Citizen Supply? 

That’s always a dangerous question to ask me :) There are several scenarios but right now we are working on how to bring our in store model online. We’ve proven the concept in a physical store and I’m excited to take the next step to bring it to those located outside of the Atlanta area. We’re also doing our first pop-up this winter season in an effort to continually create more opportunities for the vendors we work with. It’s also a great practice run for when we open up in a new market [tbd]. However, the main thing we are working on is strengthening our team and culture internally so that when the external growth does come, we’re ready for it!

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