How A 4th Generation Entrepreneur Took A Beloved Brick-And-Mortar To Online Success!
When it comes to art supplies online, RexArt.com is a well-known name that has been around for over 70 years.
Lonny Morris is the fourth generation owner of RexArt, and is bravely taking this beloved family-centered business forward into the digital future.
This is a great article that really highlights some of the unique challenges and opportunities of working in a family-run business. It also discusses how to grow beyond a local brick-and-mortar business model, and redefine and expand your brand into the online eCommerce world.
Lonny also discusses some of the ways that Shopper Approved has really helped their business to thrive online and stay competitive.
Tell Us About You and RexArt.com
Lonny Morris kitesurfing – one of his favorite pastimes.
Tell us about yourself
I have been married for 21 beautiful years to my wife and business partner Katrina Morris. I have worked in our family business since I was 8, and have always had an affinity for business, so running the day-to-day comes as second nature to me. My passion in life revolves around water sports. I am an active ambassador in kitesurfing for Cabrinha and Adventure Sports. I just completed a national virtual event where I kitesurfed 1120 miles in a single month and won the event with the most miles.
What does RexArt.com do?
Our family has provided a wide array of art supplies and creative materials to our customers all over the world since 1950.
How did you get your big business idea?
I returned from college in 1993 with a degree in Marketing from the University of Florida and a strong computer background. I had worked at the retail store since I was knee-high coming in with my dad and helping customers with art supplies as my family had since 1950. I realized that there was a big opportunity in on-line shopping very early on. At the same time I also foresaw the decline of traditional retail as our family had known it. Franchises and superstores had also substantially eroded our ability to be competitive in our retail landscape. We needed another way to do business through the 21st century. In 1995 I launched our first on-line store in a marketplace, which was the first on-line art supply store in existence and created our standalone site, rexart.com in 1997.
Sales and Marketing Insights
RexArt.com website. One of the best resources for art supplies online.
How would you describe RexArt.com vs. the competition?
We pride ourselves on old fashioned, family-run, face-to-face service, but with a 21st-century twist. We take our history, knowledge, and service mantra to the web. Our website is only a tool to help our clients, but we mainly rely on our experience and direct contact to take it to the next level. It is impossible to beat Amazon at what they do – they are breaking the digital and traditional retail landscape for a reason. So we go where they cannot. Our legacy, product knowledge, and ability to speak directly to the customer cannot be duplicated by Amazon or any other major commodity broker for that matter.
How do you successfully market your business?
We were lucky enough to get into the web game very early on and have been in business since 1950. We have some extremely good partnerships that cannot be easily reproduced, and we have a strong organic presence. Google advertising works well when managed effectively. Shopper Approved via reviews is a very important aspect of our overall marketing campaign, and really helps build trust with new clients. My wife does all of our web development in-house, and that is huge as it keeps our site fresh, consistent and extremely durable. Instagram is definitely starting to play a role in our marketing and we will put more emphasis on this in the future. Email is still an effective way to reach clients even though the returns have diminished over the years.
How do you attract customers to RexArt.com?
Our greatest source of marketing is word of mouth. Having clients that refer their friends and associates to us is huge. My wife does an amazing job of presenting a consistent web presence that is inviting to our clients, filled with inspiration, great products, and good values. We try to make a pleasant and happy work environment. Whether that is employees having their dogs around, listening to music they like, relaxed attire, etc. If our employees are happy that is likely to relate well to our clients and that is good for them and our business.
RexArt.com does an incredible job of responding to reviews. You can feel the sincerity.
Responding to reviews can be a very powerful conversion tool, and can significantly influence future potential buyers.
What do you do to ‘Wow’ your customers?
We are a hands-on company. We contact over 50% of our clients when they place their orders on-line sometimes just to say “Hi” and “thank you”, or maybe we notice something is missing in their order, or something was different than the last time they ordered. Some clients are caught off guard when we call, and they are like, “who is this, and why are you calling – aren’t you a web company?” It is true that it is odd, and getting even rarer to have phone conversations with customers when shopping on-line, but it is the only way we know how to do business. Our customers love it and we love our customers!
Our most important customer is the one we have. It doesn’t matter the value of their order, or the time it takes us. We do whatever we have to do to create an exceptional shopping experience, and our customers know it. We are a 4th generation family business. We run it like a family and we treat our customers like family. We do not try to be something we are not. We treat our customers with respect and the way we would want to be treated. It is not just words for us, or a slogan, but our way of life. No one likes to have something go wrong, but when a customer has a less than perfect shopping experience that is our opportunity to take it to the next level and not only make it right but leave an indelible positive lasting impression.
Lessons You’ve Learned
What are some obstacles you’ve overcome?
Hah, where do I start? Running a small business is not for the faint of heart, and just about every day you are going to run into some kind of obstacle. It seems kind of obvious that the pandemic was probably one of the toughest periods of time any of us will face in life let alone business over the last year, and we were lucky enough to be a web company to weather it better than other businesses. You have to be prepared to have an incredible willingness to adapt to ever-changing environments, keep an open mind, and an eye out for new opportunities, and never stop learning. The world is not going to stop evolving and it is going faster and faster. Plan for change and try to anticipate it the best you can, set goals, mind your financials and look for people and partnerships aligned with your ethos to allow you to grow together. And a little luck doesn’t hurt either!
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
Maybe I would have sold books and CDs and taken Wall Street money to run at a loss for 15 years until I broke my competitors? Seriously though, life has been good, and no regrets here at all…
What would you say is your secret to success?
I don’t think I have ever really felt successful – not at least by the traditional metrics. Quite frankly, we have never done this for the money, which is the normal measure of success when you run a company or work somewhere. We have managed to continue to have a company exist and thrive for over 70 years, and through 4 generations, which is no small achievement, but it was never for the money. We have created a working environment that we and our employees enjoy, and this is the greatest measure of success from our perspective. For the most part, we all enjoy working together, which certainly is meaningful to me, my wife, and our co-workers.
What’s your favorite all-time book?
The Hobbit – a fantastic journey against all odds vs. the greatest evil in the world – seems like some amazing parallels for business, right? The power and importance of friendship. Running a small business is hard, and it gets harder every day, and the great evil, Amazon, isn’t going away any time soon. Learn the value of partnerships, honesty, treating people well, and not taking the easy, less ethical road – follow that path and you will never fail.
Do you have any words of advice?
I always say find a way to enjoy what you are doing because life is a gift, and even when I am cleaning the floor at my office or doing a forecast that is less than fun, I always feel lucky to be alive, healthy, and happy. If you start there everything else is just gravy. Enjoy the ride!
Your Experience with Shopper Approved
RexArt has over 8,700 ratings, and boasts a 4.8 star average across multiple rating criteria, which takes a lot of hard work to do.
Why did you choose Shopper Approved as your rating and review provider?
On a sales call I was lucky enough to speak and meet with Cresta, one of the original Shopper Approved executives, and she took a real interest in what we did and how we did it. She understood who we were, how we did business, and understood how we could leverage the power of reviews via Shopper Approved to the betterment of our business. That relationship has only grown in trust and value for us over the many years of being a Shopper Approved client.
How has Shopper Approved helped RexArt.com?
Shopper Approved has always gone out of its way to include our company in programs and partnerships, that at our size we would never have the possibility of encountering. There are not a lot of companies that look out for anything much more than their bottom line. Shopper Approved has proven many times in the past that not only is what they do for us important, but that the overall success of our business is meaningful to them as well. I cannot recommend them more highly.
What advice do you have for someone considering using Shopper Approved?
Review marketing is an indispensable component in an overall on-line marketing plan. I have been with Shopper Approved almost since they launched their platform, which is effectively a lifetime in the web world. They are excellent partners, and have helped me grow my business by effectively managing our customer experience, which was always high level, but not leveraged in an effective manner through our site. Having a third-party company, acknowledged by Google as a premier partner can make a big difference in your bottom line. If you are doing a good job with your clients, Shopper Approved will make sure visitors to your site know it, and that you are trustworthy.
Miami, Florida is home to RexArt.com – the original online art supplier since 1995, and South Florida’s oldest art supply superstore. Our fourth-generation family-owned and operated business offers customers 21st-century convenience and technology, along with old fashioned, knowledgeable, fast, and friendly personal service. Founded in 1950, Rex Art has long been a pioneer in the art supplies community. In 1995, Rex Art launched the first online art supply store offering artists from all over the world access to a fantastic selection of quality brand name art supplies at discount prices. Today, our family-owned company’s mission is to continue to offer our customers the most convenient and secure means of purchasing brand name art supplies at an excellent value, while providing superior product information and individual support – just as if they were shopping in our store.