An Interview with Mariah Brooks of Inland Northwest Trading Co.
I am so incredibly excited to share with you our latest Everyday Spokane local entrepreneur interview: Mariah Brooks (and Gary Bailey!) of Inland Northwest Trading Co.
Inland Northwest Trading Co. was created out of COVID - a way to highlight local makers and creators as well as the beauty and creativity of the Inland Northwest. It's a subscription box service that highlights the best the Inland NW has to offer!
Mariah and her husband are so passionate about our community, and ambitious - they are definitely going places! I can't wait for you to meet them and their family below.
Everyday Spokane: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Kalispell, MT, and grew up mostly in Missoula, MT. Gary, my fiance and co-owner of Inland Northwest Trading Co., grew up in Spokane, WA, where I moved when I was twelve. Although we both went to Lewis and Clark High School, he is a few years older than I am, and so our paths never crossed.
After high school, I moved to Portland, OR, for college. I attended Lewis & Clark College and graduated in 2016 with a degree in Rhetoric & Media Studies and Gender Studies. After living in Portland for a year after graduating, I was having a hard time finding any direction -- the city felt too big and too competitive. I decided to move back to Spokane, and in January of 2017, I made the move back home.
I have always loved Spokane, but felt especially proud of our community for developing into even more of a cultural hub while I was away. When I moved back, I discovered a whole new side of the city where I had spent half of my childhood. Living with my parents while I got on my feet, I briefly worked for a couple of non-profits in Spokane, as well as consistently working in restaurants such as Sante, Luna, and Rut.
I really wanted to connect and contribute to the greater sense of community in Spokane, but I was struggling to find an outlet. When I met Gary in 2018, I already knew that I wanted to work for myself -- I had toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant, or a delicatessen, or local-food market, since my experience was primarily in restaurant service. A series of events led me (and my chocolate labrador, Judy) to move in with Gary and his two daughters just four months after we met, which ended up being the best decision I have ever made.
Our new family finally began to gain a sense of normalcy after a few months, and I started getting used to being a step-mom. After a year, Gary was still working full-time for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and I had just started working at Rut Bar & Kitchen.
Although we were both happy with our day-jobs, we wanted something that was purely ours. Our first idea took shape on our living room floor, with a basket of markers and the help of the kiddos: we set to design our dream doggy daycare. Since we love our dogs so much, we thought it would be fun to open a dog kennel with a "dog bar" that would feature canine treats and snacks, as well as grooming, a doggy play center, and everything else a snoot might want. However, after some market research and a bout of kennel cough picked up at the South Hill dog park (all three of our dogs were hacking for weeks!), we decided that a dog kennel was not the golden-ticket idea.
On the recommendation of one of the owners of Rut, we began to plan for our next potential business venture: Spokane Specialty Foods, a specialty food distribution service for area restaurants. Thankfully, we were still in the early phases of planning and hadn't invested too much time and money into this business idea before COVID-19 and the stay-home order issued by Gov. Inslee that caused many restaurants (including Rut) to close their doors.
Like most people, we felt completely lost. We put our new business on hold, I got laid off, and the kids were out of school -- the future felt extremely uncertain. When Gary was also laid off, we decided it was time to take action. I had gotten used to being at home all the time with not much to do, but Gary definitely would have gone insane without something productive to keep him occupied.
So, we started from scratch. One day, off-hand, Gary suggested a subscription box service. I wanted to make sure that whatever it was, our business would emphasize the unique culture of the Inland Northwest, while also supporting other small businesses.
After a few days of talking things out, Inland Northwest Trading Co. was born, and we became an official LLC on May 15, 2020, less than 30 days after I said "Inland Northwest Trading Co." out loud for the first time.
Our business really is brand-new, and we are so excited to be part of the small business community in Spokane! Unlike other subscription box services, all of the items featured in Inland Northwest Trading Co. boxes are made right here, in the Inland Northwest. Our partners are at the forefront of our vision for a more connected and prosperous region, and together we hope to contribute to a greater sense of Inland Northwest pride and identity.
What sparked your interest in starting Inland Northwest Trading Co.?
In the midst of quarantine, Inland Northwest Trading Co. was conceived in response to a variety of roadblocks faced by our family, as well as the Spokane community as a whole.
First, we wanted to create a way for consumers to support local makers without ever leaving their house. Spokane is such a "support local" place to live, and we felt really disheartened to see so many small businesses begin to shutter due to stay-home restrictions.
Second, we quickly realized that logistically, supporting a number of small businesses online was complicated. Placing multiple orders with multiple vendors online meant that we had to pay for shipping for each individual item, as well as the uncertainty of when each product would arrive.
Similarly, many of the makers we would see at craft fairs (like Bazar), or in retail locations (like From Here), didn't have their own websites, and were pretty difficult to track down. We thought it would be more convenient and enjoyable to receive a single, delightful package filled with our favorite items each month.
Third, we wanted to create a way to support a number of small businesses at once! Some of the brands will be familiar, but we anticipate that our boxes will introduce the majority of consumers to unfamiliar makers and products. You never know, you might find your new favorite item in one of our subscription boxes!
Finally, the beauty of a subscription service is that the items are different each month! If you don't love every single item in your box, all you have to do is wait a month, and a new box filled with unique products from all around the Inland Northwest will simply arrive at your door.
Tell us about what you offer!
We wanted to keep our boxes as approachable as possible, and so we decided to offer three different price points:
- $29.99/mo. (Basic Box)
- $39.99/mo. (Standard Box)
- and $49.99/mo. (Big Box)
Each price point determines how many items will come in the box: our Basic Box will contain 5-7 items, our Standard Box will contain 7-10 items, and our Big Box will contain 12+ items.
Our subscription boxes will feature a variety of new items each month, but the approximate number of items in the boxes will remain the same. Value-wise, it's a great deal at any price point -- the retail value of our Basic Box is about $40.00, our Standard Box would retail for about $50.00, and our Big Box retail cost is about $70.00.
Of course, the exact cost of the items will vary a little each month, but the value will be roughly the same!
Subscriptions may be cancelled at any time, and we hope to offer subscription bundles in the near future, where people can subscribe and pay for either three, six, or twelve months of subscriptions at a reduced rate.
We think our subscription boxes are a great way to support local businesses, as well as a fun way to try new and unique products from makers all over the Inland Northwest region!
Will people be able to purchase the products one off from Inland Northwest Trading Co.?
Eventually, yes! We are currently working on this function for our website, and hope to have the ability to add individual items to subscription boxes each month. We are thinking something along the lines of what Grove Collaborative does: each month, a box will arrive, so it's up to the consumer to decide what will be in it.
For now, we wanted to make sure that we got really good at the most basic elements of a subscription service before we made our business model more complicated. But the short answer is, yes!
We think that this will be a great way for people to be able to get the products they loved from their last month's box in addition to the bundle of new items that will automatically arrive! In a sense, we hope to provide consumers with an alternative to giant e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Etsy.
Eventually, we want to be THE place to shop for products and items made in the Inland Northwest!
What is one thing you love about Spokane?
My favorite part about Spokane is the sense of community -- especially after COVID-19, seeing the community rally around small businesses and local producers has been a heartening experience. There is such a sense of camaraderie in our city, and the amount of support that has been expressed in the past three months has been astonishing.
We are certainly proud to be members of the Spokane community, and it is our goal to continue to make the Inland Northwest the best place on earth to live.
Is there anything else you'd like people to know about you/your business?
When you subscribe to Inland Northwest Trading Co., you're not only supporting our family and our business, but also a number of makers all around the Inland Northwest region.
We truly believe that the betterment of the Inland Northwest relies on the support of our communities and the determination to support as many local businesses as possible.
Our subscription boxes are a fun, convenient, delightful way to consistently contribute to our local and regional economies. Consumers can feel good about their purchase, and also receive a box filled with unique items, made right here in the Inland Northwest.
Where can people learn more about Inland Northwest Trading Co. and sign up for a subscription box themselves?
On our website, Inland Northwest Trading Co., on Facebook and on our Instagram page.
Thank you so much to Mariah Brooks for sharing her Spokane story and more information about her business! We are so impressed by the amount of work Mariah and Gary have put in in such a short amount of time - they've taken an idea and made a complete business out of it in less than a few months.
We can't wait to see what they achieve going forward - make sure to sign up for a subscription box now so you can say you were an early supporter of this incredible company!
Want to be featured on Everyday Spokane? Reach out to us via email here or contact us through Instagram here!
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