Terri S. Alpert, the founder and CEO of Uno Alla Volta, began her first company in 1993, Professional Cutlery Direct. In 2002, she launched Uno Alla Volta, a national direct to consumer brand, of exclusive handcrafted treasures. Alpert employs a full-time team of 38 in Connecticut who strive to bring the human connection into every interaction. All functions of the company are in-sourced, creating great jobs– from customer care, to fulfillment, from photography, to financial modeling, digital marketing, product development, IT, design and inventory management.
Working Mother Magazine named Alpert one of three Entrepreneur Mom’s of the Year in 2009. BusinessNewHaven Magazine named her the Small Business Person of the Year in 2001. This month she catches up with LionessMagazine.com as our Entrepreneur of the Day.
LIONESS: How long have you been in business?
ALPERT: Fourteen years or twenty-three years depending on how you count.
I founded Uno Alla Volta in 2002 but I used all of the infrastructure (people, technology, facility) from my first start up, Professional Cutlery Direct®, which I started in 1993 and for many years I ran them both together.
LIONESS: Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular industry?
ALPERT: If you define the industry, as data driven direct to consumer marketing, I chose it because learnings become repeatable, the business is scalable and it has no geographic risk.
If you define our industry as selling unique handcrafted treasures, I chose it because it is soulful. It facilitates human connections and enriches lives.
LIONESS: What makes business/product unique?
ALPERT: Our name means one at a time in Italian. We create unique handcrafted treasures with artisans throughout the US and around the world – jewelry, fashion accessories, home décor and collectibles. Every treasure is made uno alla volta and comes with a certificate of authenticity which shares a bit of the artisan’s human story. Most of our handcrafted treasures are available no where else in all the world but here at Uno Alla Volta.
LIONESS: You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
ALPERT: Some people look at a mountain and just have to climb it. I didn’t have a choice. I knew from a very young age that I had to do this.
LIONESS: What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?
ALPERT: Twenty-three years later, I still have those moments. Sometimes it is just so freekin’ hard. You finally get things right and then the world changes in a major way and all you’ve built is about to be wiped off the map. I feel like a Phoenix. We’ve risen from the near ashes three times now.
LIONESS: Every female professional should have __________.
ALPERT: Every entrepreneur, male or female, should have a supportive family. You need people who believe in you and people who will love and support you when you are at your worst. I have no question that my husband, my daughter, my parents, my sisters all help me be a better me.
LIONESS: If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
ALPERT: I wouldn’t. We each need our own mojo. I look to within to find the authentic me and then I live that!
LIONESS: What is your business motto?
ALPERT: The Uno Alla Volta vision: To bring the human connection into every interaction with every customer, every artisan, every co-worker and every supplier, thereby enriching their lives. By doing so, we each enrich our own lives as well.
LIONESS: If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
ALPERT: 1 – To achieve your vision, surround yourself only with those who share your values.
2 – Dream aggressively, while executing conservatively.
3 – Determine the right metrics and goal posts.
LIONESS: Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?
ALPERT: We’ve developed our own proprietary technology over the last twenty years for most of what we do. We’ve got many toolsets which give us a real competitive edge – starting with our merchandise analytics platform.
In terms of off the shelf, inexpensive, cloud based tools – FRESHDESK has been a wonderful email based ticket platform for customer care. It is a great way to manage group emails, online chat and more.
LIONESS: What is your goal for the next year?
ALPERT: To grow the number of customers who buy from us during a twelve month period from 60,000 to 72,000 (+ 20%).
To provide our best customers with more aspirational and one-of-a-kind creations.
To transition to a new ecommerce platform with can growth with us in the coming years.
LIONESS: When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
ALPERT: The human spirit infuses everything they do. I always feel special. And, the people I buy gifts for, they always tell me that these are amongst the greatest gifts they’ve ever received. That each comes with its human story, well… that’s just the icing on the cake.