June 13, 2022
Customer Spotlight: Furls Crochet | FlavorCloud
If you’re serious about your arts and crafts then you’re probably also serious about your tools. Furls Fiberarts is the perfect place for crochet fanatics to find real treasures: handmade, luxury fiber art tools and accessories. These tools are designed with both form and function in mind.
Beauty and Ergonomic Use
You’ll find hooks popping with more color than a candy store, all kinds of designs and finishes, beautiful natural woods, accessories, yarns and bowls—everything a crochet lover could want.
But the backbone of this business is the game-changing ergonomic design of the hooks. They enable those with painful conditions that would otherwise put a stop to their crocheting to carry on with what they love in comfort.
You need only look at the reviews on the Furls site to appreciate the huge difference it makes. This one of (very) many sums up the relief a Furls hook can bring:
“Just a short note to let you know that I LOVE my furls Odyssey hooks… I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, and have had both carpal tunnel releases done, but with these hooks I can crochet as long as I want with no fatigue or pain. THANK YOU SO MUCH for a spectacular product.”
The Furls Story
Based in Austin, Texas, Furls is an online ecommerce business that now partners with FlavorCloud to take care of its international shipping.
The company celebrates its 10th anniversary in June 2022, having grown from a small business in a parents’ garage to a global brand. It’s a cute story: Founder Harrison Richards, a trained woodworker, made a specialist hook for his girlfriend, who loved to crochet. She loved them, and soon her friends wanted to buy them too.
Making more and more hand-crafted hooks, an 18-year-old Harrison realized this could be a viable business. Now 28 years old, the company has grown both domestically and internationally, becoming a hugely successful global brand.
Furls CEO Lorene Eppolite
We spoke to Furls CEO Lorene Eppolite to learn more about the business and its growth journey. Lorene joined Furls six years ago as an assistant and has since gone on to be: Affiliate Coordinator, Creative Director, COO, and now CEO of the company.
Q. What makes Furls stand out?
A. It’s the luxury of our hooks. Crochet is a beautiful craft, and that beauty should extend to your tools as well. Our motto is “Life is Short, Use Pretty Tools”. It’s like accessorizing. Many customers collect our hooks: You want to collect them all, especially for the designers who use our products.
We’re definitely the leading manufacturer of ergonomic hooks. There are others, but they’re not made specifically for beauty as well as comfort, whereas ours combine form and function. We have all kinds of designs and colors, and we create special collections for individuality, like our Zodiac Resin line, and for representation as well as to show our solidarity, like Pride hooks to support the LGBTQ community. Our audience loves having a hook that represents them.
Q. How does the ergonomic design of the hook help?
A. There is a joint in your hand called the metacarpophalangeal—it’s right between your thumb and index finger. When you crochet, regardless of your grip, you hold your hook in that space. If it is a very narrow hook, you have to really hold on to the hook tightly, which can cause pain through your wrist, arm and shoulder, which can affect your whole body. Furls hooks have a wider handle and are tapered. We use a specific range of measurements for all of our handles so that they fit into that space ergonomically. You don’t have to grip the hook so you don’t get the same pain you would with a traditional crochet hook.
The International Appeal of Crochet
Q. What is it about crochet that people love?
A. I think it’s relaxing, like a mindful therapy, creative self-care if you will. You’re making something with your own hands, and it’s lovely to see your finished product. When you wear your creations, people say, “Oh, I love your hat!” and it’s a good feeling to say, “Thank you, I made it.” It’s also a hobby that’s often about giving and gifting.
It’s made a real comeback lately. I’ve seen it on fashion runways, and I see many celebrities pictured crocheting away—some of these celebrities like Krysten Ritter and Sutton Foster are really into crochet, they even use our hooks.
Q. Do you crochet?
A. Yes, that’s what brought me to the business. My grandmother taught me as a child, but I really took it up later because I wanted to make something special for my best friend’s first baby. I taught myself, then realized there were online tutorials and that I could make a living doing that on my own blog. I found Furls when I started experiencing chronic pain and needed to find crochet hooks that would help me.
Q. What do you like to make?
A. Mostly, clothing, sweaters, and tops, but I’ve done skirts, shorts—I’ll probably give crochet pants a go! I’ve even seen people crochet wedding dresses! My specialty is women’s clothing for all sizes, from extra small up to 5x. Furls also owns a digital crochet magazine, Crochet Foundry. All of our garment patterns are always inclusive of sizing.
Q. What are your biggest sellers?
A. Our Odyssey hooks, because they’re so different to what you get anywhere else, and our streamlined hooks, which are our most affordable. Our hooks are streamlined, very sleek and come in beautiful and fun colors. Some collectors have spent thousands of dollars with us because any time we release a new hook, they have to have it!
Domestic to International Growth
Q. What changes have you seen since you’ve been with Furls?
A. There’s been tremendous growth. First, domestically, then we started hearing from customers in other parts of the world, saying, “I really want to order.” But the cost of shipping internationally was prohibitive. We could only offer free shipping outside the US for a minimum $150 order value or higher. We were always looking for a solution, so when FlavorCloud reached out, it was perfect timing.
Q. How would you describe your growth?
A. I’d say it’s been over 100% year on year over the last few years. With COVID, 2020 and 2021 were an anomaly. Everybody was home, everybody wanted to find some sort of craft to keep occupied. At first we were afraid it would hurt our business, but we actually had our best ever year for sales.
Q. Outside of the US, which countries do you ship to?
A. Canada, the UK and Australia are the biggest; international sales to these countries represent around 10% total orders. It’s gone up significantly since we partnered with FlavorCloud, because it makes cross-border shipping more affordable.
A big factor is that with FlavorCloud all international shipping is DDP (Delivery Duties Paid), so customers know the full cost up front; prior to that, a lot of our customers were afraid to order in case they’d get hit with all these extra surprise taxes and duties. People would say, “I went to go get my package and I had to pay an extra $20 or $30 for customs.” Unfortunately we had no control over that or could even know ahead of time what the customs fees would be. FlavorCloud has solved that problem for us.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges?
A. We opened a warehouse in the UK, but after Brexit uncertainties and other tax liabilities it became prohibitive, so we closed our UK warehouse. Our customers in the UK and across Europe were disappointed, but between a new wholesale partnership with YarnWorx, who are located in the UK, and FlavorCloud there has been a huge benefit with better international shipping costs and speed as well as our customers being able to pay duties upfront on shipments from the US warehouse.
Before, we were acquiring the costs associated with shipping internationally, and it took a very long time for international customers to get their orders and, of course, UPS and FedEx costs were enormous. We had no oversight once they left our facility, especially once it left the US. After a package was sent it was a case of crossing your fingers and hope it gets there in time.
Furls: The Future
Q. What’s next for Furls?
A. Naturally, our plan is global domination! Just kidding (kind of). Actually, we’re focused on continuing to be the market leader for luxury and ergonomic crochet hooks and expanding our range to do more knit products as well as creating other innovations in crochet. We are also planning to bring in other types of fiber arts; like weaving, macrame, needle punch, loom work and more, basically anything that is fiber related.
Having confidence in our ability to provide international customers the best price and knowing the whole shipping process costs are upfront with DDP, it’s made a big difference. With FlavorCloud, we’ll be looking to make the most of opportunities to provide our hooks to even more crochet lovers all over the world.
Summary: Furls + FlavorCloud
When shipping internationally, Furls has faced several common challenges that we see ecommerce merchants struggle with.
As an online store grows, there’s a great opportunity to optimize international traffic by shipping internationally, wherever your customers are. Managing cross-border shipping in-house presents a lot of complexities and problems for merchants. Different customs rules for other countries, variations in fees and tariffs—not to mention prohibitive shipping costs when you’re dealing with a single carrier.
By integrating with FlavorCloud, we take care of the whole process. Because we negotiate huge discounts with our 300+ global network of carriers. Businesses like Furls can offer customers the best international shipping rates and the most optimized delivery routes for faster delivery.
Customers see the whole international shipping cost upfront
All international shipping options are DDP (Delivery Duty Paid), so customers also have the reassurance that the cost they see is the full landed cost. All duties and fees are included, and there won’t be any surprise extra customs costs.
With FlavorCloud’s unique algorithm, it all happens automatically. Anywhere to anywhere, with all customs requirements taken care of. The result: Furls can leave the cross-border shipping process to us, leaving Lorene free to concentrate on growing the business
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Head of Content & PR at FlavorCloud, with a passion for combining creativity and data. Please get in touch with any PR requests, relevant guest post pitches, and collaboration ideas at trilby.rajna[at]favorcloud[dot]com.