magazine | Jul 15, 2021 |
The Instagram Merchants

Susan and William Brinson had a plan. It was the spring of 2020, and the pandemic was intensifying, slowly wiping away the slate of work the duo had lined up as a traveling photography and styling team. Their first pivot was to form a pod with a few fellow creatives, hole up in the “dilapidated mansion” they were renovating in upstate New York and crank out photo shoots for remote clients. Then, a team member got COVID. “We realized we probably weren’t going to work for a year,” says Susan Brinson. “It was: This is either going to be bad or real bad.” The situation called for another pivot.

The Instagram Merchants
William and Susan BrinsonWilliam and Susan Brinson

That summer, the couple invested in a Shopify site, designed it themselves, and scoured the internet for their favorite makers and artisan home brands. “We looked for things that were under $100, thinking gifts for the holidays,” says Susan. The resulting selection, full of vibey matchboxes, unique garden tools, stylish knives and delectable soaps, is the digital version of that out-of-the-way treasure cave of a shop you keep finding reasons to go back to.

The Brinsons bought small batches of product and stashed the goods on the 2,000-square-foot ground floor of their home. (Pro tip: It’s easier to run an e-commerce site if you happen to be slowly rehabbing a sprawling old estate.) Other than occasionally enlisting another couple from their pod to help with packing and shipping, they did everything themselves, using their own rooms as sets for styling and shooting the inventory.

Within five months, House of Brinson had processed thousands of orders and cleared $100,000 in sales. Their secret? “Instagram stories. That’s it,” Susan says with a laugh. “My husband has a joke. He says, ‘If you go on there and say this thing is cool, people want to buy it.’” 

Homepage photo: A selection of wares from the House of Brinson shop, photographed in their newly renovated home | Susan and William Brinson

This article originally appeared in Summer 2021 issue of Business of Home. Subscribe or become a BOH Insider for more.

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