A Little History
Versatile was started a little over 7 years ago in February of 2012. At that time, we were buying travertine tiles from Home Depot and using mod-podge to glue images onto the tiles in our basement. It was a terribly labour intensive process but these humble beginnings allowed us to prove that people wanted a quality coaster.
We quickly grew and graduated to our current method of image transfer, investing in specialized printing equipment - which allows direct to substrate UV printing. Now that I had the capacity to scale the business, I quit my job in the government to work on Versatile full time. It is at this time we also switched from travertine, to marble tiles for our coasters.
Unsustainable Tile Troubles
Tile supply has always been a headache behind the scenes for us. Over the years I have gone through a few different marble suppliers. I have always sought out to source as similar a stone as I can to keep things consistent, in fact most of you never noticed when we switched from one marble supplier (Italian marble) to another in 2015 (Turkish marble) that we use today. While marble is a beautiful and natural stone, it is also quite expensive and unsustainable. You may recall in 2018 we had to increase our prices, that increase was a direct result of our marble price going up. Marble is also a finite natural resource, once all the quarries and mines that excavate marble are exhausted, that's it, no more - it's gone. And while that will not happen any time soon, these are things that as a business we have been keeping in the back of our mind.
Time for a New, Sustainable Versatile
For the past few years, we have been experimenting and testing with different tiles and materials in the hopes of finding a more sustainable and affordable tile to make our coasters from. Over the past six months, that effort has been our number one priority, as it has become abundantly clear that is vital to the success of Versatile as a viable business. I'm happy to tell you today that we have found our new coaster tile... or more appropriately, we've made our own!
A New Coaster Tile Is Born
We've partnered with a premium ceramic tile manufacturer to create 1:1 replicas of our current Turkish marble tiles. We used a batch of our Turkish marble tiles as the basis and actually 3D modelled the exact size and shape to create our casting molds. We did this so that the tumbled "imperfect" edges of our current marble tiles are maintained in our new ceramic tiles. To match the look, we've performed ultra high resolution scans of a selection of our current natural marble tiles and used those scanned images of marbling and textures to print as the background of our new tiles. Also very exciting is that we've received incredible feedback from beta testers who have seen and used our prototypes, and love the new tile material.
Another incredibly exciting feature of our new material is that it is absorbent. The number one question I've received over the years about Versatile is "Are your coasters the absorbent kind?" Up until now, I've had to say, NO. But not any more, soon Versatile coasters will soak up the condensation and sweat from glasses!
What about print quality you might be wondering. It's actually better! Because the ceramic is absorbent, the ink soaks into the material yielding a sharper image. The print is actually more durable too, since the ink now gets soaked into the ceramic before it is cured, while with our current coasters, the ink sits on top of the marble surface of the tile and can be susceptible to scratching/wearing off over a long period of time.
The "Eye Test"
Passively, to the naked eye one could not tell the difference between a Turkish marble Versatile coaster and a new coaster made from ceramic. Same shape, same size, same thickness, same edges, same marbling, same cork back. The difference really just is the weight, since ceramic is slightly lighter (6oz per coaster) than natural marble (9oz per coaster) -and as someone who lifts these boxes daily, it is a welcome change by me!
Printed In Canada
This has not changed. Just as before, we do import our blank raw tile material into Canada, BUT as always, we are proud that Versatile coasters are PRINTED IN CANADA. This is done in our workshop in Almonte, Ontario either by myself, or our production assistant Zach.
So you're probably wondering about pricing. The good news is that nothing is changing in terms of pricing for 2019. A set of 4 premium ceramic Versatile coasters will still wholesale for $17, and have an MSRP of $34.
What we are going to do with the marginal cost savings is explore making some overdue investments to our packaging. Once we officially switch to ceramic we are looking to offer a custom printed, self folding Versatile branded gift box. These would ship flat, and come with your wholesale orders. The second packaging improvement is a revised info card, redesigned and made from higher quality, thick card stock and featuring embossed graphics. Our logo will also now be printed on the cork on the bottom of every coaster to add to a more polished and professional look. And finally, sets of coasters will be bundled together with a custom Versatile logo branded stretch band that will firmly hold the coaster set together corner to corner. We are also looking into the possibility of custom boxes for sets of 2, and individual coasters too as well as offering a stand/holder.
Save 4% On Orders with QuickPay
Our standard terms are NET 21 days. For any stockist that wishes to save a little bit of money, you can pay for orders up front and receive a 4% discount on your PO. You just need to indicate that to me when you place your order. This is effective right now.
New Designs, Better Organization
We are also dedicated to investing time to revamp our catalog of designs. Some are long overdue to be retired or updated while some are still best sellers 7 years later. We will work to categorize our library of designs and reboot our SKUs and naming conventions to make ordering easier. I'm also pledging to introduce new designs on a regular basis (quarterly) to keep things current and fresh for our stockists (feel free to send suggestions). We will also work to provide better service as a wholesaler. Packing slips and printed invoices will soon accompany all shipments.
Since VersaTile is going through these changes, we are also taking this opportunity to rebrand. Our new logo will be launched publicly soon, and will adorn our new gift boxes, info cards, and stretch bands as mentioned. We will also launch a newly designed website and new URL versatilecoasters.com
. With any luck, we'll also have wholesale ordering functionality online by the end of 2019 too.
So When Does All This Happen?
Pretty soon. We expect to transition to coasters made from premium ceramic in July 2019, and with any luck the new website will be live by then too!
Our Current Marble Supply Is Limited!
The important thing to note, is that we only have about 4,000 blank Turkish marble tiles left to get us through until this transition. We do not anticipate having enough to get us to the end of June, so there could be a period of time where we are unable to fill orders. It is with that in mind that I implore any stockist who needs coasters this Spring/Summer to place an order ASAP. We will fill them in the order in which we receive them and until we run out of the last of our blank marble tiles. At that point orders will be on hold until our batch of premium ceramic tiles arrives from manufacturing.
Questions or Concerns
If anyone has any questions or concerns at all about these changes and developments, please reach out to me, I am more than happy to have a conversation with you!
This is a big change, and one we do not take lightly but one we are very excited about. In the end, we did this because it made sense as the next logical step in the evolution of the Versatile brand. We're extremely thankful for all our stockists support up until now, and hope that it continues into this next phase of the brand!