Well Made

Ep. 132 Creating future nostalgia with Sara Fritsch

October 28, 2020 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

By definition, an heirloom has proved that it's resilient, timeless, and special enough to have been passed down for generations. That's how Schoolhouse started, with the discovery of a collection of cast-iron molds that stood the test of time. For the past 18 years, Schoolhouse has designed and manufactured high quality home goods with "heirloom quality" as the guiding light. 

As President, Sara Fritsch works across teams to lead the company mindfully without wavering on quality. Their supply chain is a big part of their value statement and their competitive advantage. They manufacture as much as they can in the US, with the majority of their wares being manufactured and shipped from their very own factory in Portland. 

With transparency and control over their supply chain, and a high mix / low volume approach to their catalog, Schoolhouse stays true to the task of making modern heirlooms. 

In this episode, hear how Sara defines the criteria of making an heirloom, why employee engagement is their most important driver of success, and how — in a socially distanced era — home is more valuable than ever.

“As we're making these products, we're thinking to ourselves — if it's worth it for somebody to own this now, it should last forever.”

 Creating future nostalgia
 Creating future nostalgia
 Creating future nostalgia
 Creating future nostalgia
 Creating future nostalgia

The episode starts with a discussion around details — pull chains, handles, door knobs — and how they're a critical part of the heirloom litmus test. Then, Sara talks about why "made in America" is so important to not only their ethos but their operations. Eighty percent of the Schoolhouse product lineup is manufactured domestically — 60%, right in their factory (3:30).

Sara defines the qualities of an heirloom — timelessness, quality, emotional — and the design decisions that help the Schoolhouse team determine if they're creating a product that will last generations (11:00). She also talks about how the team reconciles decades of design history into four styles to avoid trends and design for longevity (15:00).

Calling back to our episode with Emily Singer, Giving your brand a soul, Sara defines the soul of Schoolhouse and reflects on how her 15 years with the business is just the beginning (19:00). Even though it's not the best fit for all businesses, Sara shares why the "high mix / low volume" strategy is the right fit for Schoolhouse (31:00).

Finally, Sara walks us through her roles at Schoolhouse, and shares two of her favorite Schoolhouse frameworks — Ground Rules (below) and the four drivers of success: employee engagement, customer experience, radical simplicity, and deliberate financials (9:30).


Also mentioned in this episode:

The Schoolhouse framework for employee engagement — their most important driver of success. Creating future nostalgia

The Schoolhouse framework for employee engagement — their most important driver of success.


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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