April Smith doesn’t consider herself a monkey fanatic, but she is on her way to becoming a monkey magnate with the launch of a small office and showroom in Redmond that’s an extension of her online business, Everything Monkeys.
Smith got the idea of opening a monkey-themed online store back in 2007 when a gift basket full of monkey items caught her eye in a West Seattle gift shop. Smith acknowledges that she already had an affinity for apes, having gotten up close and personal with them on her travels to Thailand and Cambodia.
“I’ve always liked monkeys, but they are like squirrels there,” she says. She wasn’t a big monkey collector, however, and now that she’s moved her retail stock out of her Duvall home to her new warehouse, office, and showroom at 4176 148th Ave. NE, she says she doesn’t really have any monkeys at home.
In fact, she doesn't have real monkeys anywhere.
"The first thing people ask is 'Do you sell real monkeys?'" she said, noting that her unique business draws quite a bit of curiosity.
She thought of starting the business on the side, but says she never really had time to pursue it until she was laid off from her full-time web development job in 2009.
“I decided to go for it,” Smith said, following a desire to see the idea through and to be her own boss.
The online store was officially launched in March of 2010. Smith says that even though she is herself a web developer, she hired out the development of the site so she could concentrate on finding merchandise and handling the day-to-day business. Now she says, she is able to do the maintenance of the site herself.
Smith had previously worked on a small original clothing design business with a friend, so she had some knowledge of small-business operations. She said one of her favorites aspects of the job is selecting Everything Monkeys' merchandise, which ranges from classic sock monkeys and Curious George plush toys, to locally made monkey shoes for infants and even monkey-themed key covers.
Smith started out promoting her business by setting up booths at local events, such as consignment events for parents and last year’s Monkey Run 5k in Snohomish. She says runners eagerly bought the sock monkeys that hug your neck to use as scarves before the race, and she donated prizes for the winners.
Smith said her online business really took off, however, before Christmas, when she started using Google AdWords to advertise.
“That really increased traffic,” she said, and sales were so brisk she ran out of Curious George plush animals. Other highly popular items are the traditional sock monkeys and the classic Barrel of Monkeys game. Meanwhile, a lot of online customers asked if they could come in and shop. With her garage becoming overrun with merchandise, when Smith came across the space at Overlake Business Park, she went ape for the space.
“I could really just envision myself here. I needed an office and a warehouse, and it’s nice to have a showroom,” she says. Now, if local customers wish to shop in person or to save on shipping by picking up their orders at the store, she can offer them that option.
The business has grown so well—sales so far this year to date have already outpaced sales from the business’ launch last March to December 2010—that Smith is contemplating eventually adding other similar themed online stores. For now, however, she’s concentrating on keeping her customers in chimpanzees.
“I’d like to keep doubling,” she says. “I’d like to get Everything Monkeys efficient, then I might get started on other websites.”