Erica Giroux, Founder of The Playful Peacock, told Innovation Destination Hartford about how she launched her startup and her plans for creating an artisan community in downtown Windsor Locks.
IDH: How did you come up with the idea for The Playful Peacock?
GIROUX: I started floating around the idea for The Playful Peacock after my mother and I attended an earring making class together while I was in college. I was instantly hooked! I would find items lying around and make jewelry out of them for fun. It is such a fun and fluid hobby because it’s a constant learning process. You can never run out of skills to learn.
I am completely self-taught jewelry artist—other than the very basics I learned that night in the earring class. I have spent many hours on YouTube researching and learning everything I can. Crafting has always been very relaxing and necessary for me. Some people do yoga; I retreat down to my lady lair to create and unwind.
IDH: How has your background prepared you to launch a startup?
GIROUX: I graduated from Westfield State University in 2011 at the age of 21 with a business management/marketing degree. The Playful Peacock has really been years of trial and error and learning about managing a small business. I have always learned best by doing, so the knowledge I gained by throwing myself into the local farmers market and craft fair scene has been my biggest guide moving forward. I have met so many talented artisans and vendors who have been kind enough to share their experiences with me. It has really helped to shape what we are looking to do with the new storefront moving forward.
IDH: When did you start the business?
GIROUX: The Playful Peacock officially started in Texas 2012 while my husband was stationed at Fort Hood. Having just uprooted our life to Texas, I jumped at the first chance to join local farmers markets and events to meet people and make connections. I also officially began to sell my items to consumers on a regular basis.
Since moving back to Connecticut last summer, I have continued to attend local markets and festivals. Having a one-and-a-half year old; however, it began to get quite tedious trying to do multiple events setting up and tearing down with a toddler in tow.
IDH: Is this when you came up with the idea to rent space and start creating an artisan community in downtown Windsor Locks?
GIROUX: Yes. When the opportunity presented itself to lease out a storefront I dove at the idea! I have met so many wonderful artists and crafters along this journey I reached out to see if any would be interested in the idea of showcasing their work within the store.
When events slow down after the holiday season, it can be hard to keep the momentum going as a craft fair type vendor. I wanted to give others the opportunity to share in this experience. The space I am renting is large enough to hold classes. I really want to make the space super interactive and fun for artists and crafters of all ages! I was shocked at the amazing positive feedback I received from artists and the community and cannot wait to see what we can turn this idea into! The possibilities are really endless.
IDH: When do you anticipate the space will be open for business?
GIROUX: The space we are in has been vacant for an extended period of time. We will be doing some work within the building to freshen it up and hope to be open early November. This is assuming we don’t hit any major road bumps!
IDH: What types of artists are involved?
GIROUX: Let me start by saying I love every type of art or craft. With this project, we had to look at what is currently available for artists in the community and see if we could add onto the current art scene with something different. I am a frequent visitor to the many local vintage and antique-type shops so I wanted to come up with an idea that would not be in direct competition with any of them.
My slogan since the start of the Playful Peacock has been “perfectly playful.” When coming up with the concept for the Playful Peacock & Friends store, I kept coming back to that idea. I really wanted to make this a fun and funky playful space where artists could come together as friends with the common goal of promoting the importance of buying local handmade items. Any artist is welcome to inquire or stop in!
My main point with this was to provide a space that would cater to artists whose items do not fit into mainstream shops. For example, I know a few tattoo artists who also do fantastic sketches and paintings. Just something fun and different that would give some of the little guys like myself a place to shine and join in the conversation about art. We will have tons of unique items I can promise you will not find in other local stores.
IDH: How do artists and artisans become involved?
I am accepting as many non-competing artists as we can to share the space at one time without getting crowded. We are also looking for anyone who would like to teach classes.
IDH: Why Windsor Locks?
GIROUX: My husband’s family is from Windsor Locks. His mother owns a bakery in the same plaza I will be moving into. This town is going through an exciting revitalization on Main Street, where The Playful Peacock & Friends will be located.
It has been so inspiring to watch how tirelessly the town has worked behind the scenes to get all the projects for Main Street moving along. There is such a buzz in the air about it! From local politicians to store owners, city officials, and residents, everyone is so sincerely excited!
I wanted to be a part of that. It just felt right. I wanted this business to be surrounded by consumers who would appreciate and understand the concept. I have received such a tremendous reaction from residents of Windsor Locks. I knew it was the perfect fit.
IDH: There is a strong community focus—why is this important to you?
GIROUX: Small businesses depend on a strong community backing. A small business cannot survive without the support of its community and the residents within the community. The Playful Peacock & Friends’ mission is to get our local community excited about art by putting a face and story behind the items customers buy.
We plan to hold fun artist meet-and-greets as well as provide local artisans with a space to teach classes if desired or simply come and hang out and craft while selling one-of-a-kind handmade art to the community. I want this concept to be very interactive for both artists and customers—a safe place to learn and be creative. I think it is incredibly important for people of all ages to have a place they can go to where they feel supported and can support others.
IDH: What has been your biggest challenge getting the artisan community up and running?
GIROUX: An idea like this has so many small components that need to come together to create a cohesive idea that will be successful for an extended period of time. It can become overwhelming. Honestly, this entire process has gone smoothly so far because we have had such an amazing outreach of support from the Town of Windsor Locks and its residents—so thank you!
IDH: What are your future goals?
GIROUX: My one major goal with this is to be an inspiration to my son. I have worked so hard over the years making items to share with others. It’s been such a joy and really has touched my heart. There is no better feeling than to make something you put your heart and soul into and have someone love it so much they want to have it. It never gets old to me. I hope to show my son and anyone else who wanders into the store that hard work and determination can lead to incredible opportunities!
Learn more about The Playful Peacock & Friends by visiting playfulpeacockct.com.