The Celtic Marketplace has had its fair share of challenges over the past year. Things appear to be turning the corner, however. Recently we spoke with the Bob Heiney of Viking Celt Trading Company about his business.
What is your own background?
I have been an artist and maker all my adult life and had worked with the family jewelry business for several years. The time came when I wanted to create the type of jewelry that I wanted to wear myself but couldn’t find anywhere. That first design – my Celtic Wolf – eventually led to Celtic Knot Works, which is celebrating seven years in business. I am currently fascinated with early Viking-era history and the impact this culture had on the Celtic people. The work that came out of that – especially the rune sets and pendants – led me to launch Viking Celt Trading Company.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
In the course of designing new products for Celtic Knot Works, I found myself making more and more Viking designs that eventually needed a home of their own. So, the Viking Celt Trading Company was conceived to serve as a fun location to discover beautiful jewelry, authentic Elder Futhark Viking Rune sets, and unique gifts. As an artist and designer, I am using Viking Celt Trading Company to debut new products, present limited edition items, and collaborate with my most creative friends.
How has it evolved over time?
That remains to be seen. We are just getting launched and are starting to build a strong core audience of customers & fans who value and appreciate what we do. Viking Celt Trading Company is openly and explicitly inclusive, valuing all people, with no hateful agendas allowed. That is not going to change.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
We are a small family business. That means I do a lot, from creating designs, overseeing the hand-casting – which is done here in the United States to ensure high quality – packing and shipping orders, keeping the website up to date, and social media. I also have a great partner in my wife Suzie, a talented designer and entrepreneur, the support of my mom Micki, and our cat Raven who keeps us motivated by requiring incredible amounts of snacks at all times.
What are the challenges of the job?
I love designing and making, and that is when I am at my happiest. One of my greatest joys is bringing new products out and seeing our customers’ reactions. It is a very back and forth relationship. I like creating meaningful designs that make people happy. Keeping up with the flow of ideas is my biggest challenge. It takes time to turn a concept into a high-quality product, but that type of pressure is enjoyable in its own way. When people reach out to me and let me know how much they enjoy wearing or using the things I make, it brings me a lot of fulfillment. The challenging aspects of the job are definitely outweighed by the joys.
What are the rewards?
It is important that Celtic history isn’t lost entirely to myth and memory. By putting a modern twist on ancient symbols – and introducing them to a generation of people who can incorporate the strength and wisdom of the Viking Celts into their lives – I feel like I have done something important. The best part is when people take the time to give me feedback. There has been a phenomenal response and I love it when someone sends me an email letting me know how my work impacted them.
What are your core products?
Viking jewelry – our best-selling hand-crafted pewter pendants include Thor’s Hammer, Viking Compass, the Celtic Raven and more. Viking Rune Sets – we offer two sizes; full size and a convenient travel size that comes in a stainless-steel treasure box enhanced with Celtic knotwork. Runes are either hand-cast in fine American pewter or made from all-natural wood. We have also recently introduced Challenge Coins featuring the Viking Compass and the Celtic Tree of Life.
How do you differ from the competition?
We are unique in emphasizing the Viking Celt experience – the intersection of two strong, creative cultures who each – in their own way – changed the world. From a purely aesthetic perspective, there are not a lot of people doing what we do. We are highly committed to working with American small businesses. That is why all our pewter pieces are cast for us here in the United States. We use a higher quality pewter and for the price point a remarkable amount of fine detail and hand finishing. I personally create many of our products myself, with a focus on keeping the quality level exceptional.
How do you reach your potential clients?
We are primarily online, connecting with our customers via our website, Facebook, and Instagram. We also do some email marketing. When the situation safely allows for it, we are looking forward to getting back on the road and going to some shows and events.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
Optimistic. Given the year that the entire planet has just been through, the strength and vigor of the Celtic marketplace puts a smile on my face. The creativity is there, the passion is there, the products people are creating are beyond beautiful. Customer confidence will return as people feel safer – we are already seeing this start to happen. Brighter days are ahead because we have been strong so far. I can’t wait – I love the entire Celtic show experience. I love the people who come to the shows. I love the other vendors. I love being part of this tight-knit, friendly community.
What are your future plans for the business?
There are a couple of new products in development that I am excited about and should have in time for the holidays, but I am under strict orders not to spill the beans just yet. Until then, we are going to keep doing what we can do to keep a smile on people’s faces.
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