Paying no heed to those repeated warnings, Maggie Fox is running with scissors. The Toronto marketer and entrepreneur has launched a new online venture called Ciselier Company that specializes in high-quality, handmade scissors.
The inspiration for the new business stemmed from a realization that scissors are often treated as the ugly stepchild of household utensils, says Fox—who first made a name for herself building one of Canada’s first social media agencies in the early 2000s, before moving on to take senior brand side roles with companies including SAP and Aeroplan.
“You could have a $150 knife, and you’re probably buying a $4 pair of scissors at Canadian Tire,” she says. “We’re using [the equivalent of] butter knives for scissors, instead of a gorgeous chef’s knife.”
Fox has no idea why knives have become so revered, while scissors seldom make the cut. She does, however, put forth the theory that they have historically been regarded as a woman’s tool (which is supported by casually sexist ads like this, this and this) and therefore not treated with the same respect.
Ciselier’s scissors are designed to never see the inside of a junk drawer. While not a radical departure from those $4 scissors in appearance—they are still scissors, after all—some products, like embroidery scissors in the shape of a stork, are designed to be as visually appealing as they are functional.
Fox’s quest to up North America’s collective scissor game started last fall, when she realized she felt ready to return to the entrepreneurial grind. She launched Social Media Group in 2006, and spent most of the last decade in executive roles with large corporations, but most recently had been helping to build loyalty program provider Smile.io.
“Being an entrepreneur and launching your own start-up takes an enormous amount of effort, but for the first time in a while I said, ‘I’m really getting the itch to build again,'” she says.
A product that traces its origins back to 800 B.C. might feel a long way away from the cutting-edge technology that Fox championed with Social Media Group and in subsequent marketing roles, but she has a different perspective. “It’s still technology. It’s just really, really old technology,” she says. Plus, just like Social Media Group in the earliest days of social, Ciselier is filling a white space in the market.
Most of Ciselier’s suppliers are small, multi-generational family businesses that have been making scissors for more than a century. One supplier, Friedrich Herder, has been making knives and scissors since 1727. “There are a very small number of makers, and the quantities they produce are very small because it takes time to make them,” says Fox. Solingen, Germany-based scissor-maker Robuso, for example, uses an 18-step process in its manufacturing.
Ciselier (the French word for scissor maker) is currently working with about seven manufacturers from across Western Europe and Japan, sourcing product including kitchen scissors, paper and craft scissors, and embroidery scissors.
As with any high-quality product versus cheaper equivalents, the difference with quality scissors is both immediate and palpable, says Fox. The weight, the feel, the satisfying “snick” of two hand-forged blades coming together—these are scissors created with the expectation that they will outlive their owner. “Your children are going to fight over them,” says Fox.
And while not everyone is going to be willing to pony up $145 for, say, a pair of Whiteley 8.5″ Classic British Kitchen scissors, Ciselier is targeting a customer base that appreciates quality and heritage. “Whatever they buy, it’s like an ethos: They want a product for life,” says Fox.
“They appreciate that in order to have something that lasts a lifetime, it has to be very high-quality and it takes time to produce. Every pair of scissors should be a delight to use, and should last a lifetime,” she adds.
And in a world where built-in disposability applies to everything from our clothes to our phones, often with a negative impact on the environment, Fox senses increased consumer desire for quality products that are built to last. “There’s a growing awareness that disposable culture and disposable things are contributing to our destruction,” she says. “You should be buying heirlooms that your children, and maybe even your children’s children, could enjoy.”
She expects to sell between $50,000 and $100,00 worth of product in the next six months, and says the short-term plan is to dominate the SEO space with high-quality content about scissors (created by Fox’s husband and former Marketing magazine editor-in-chief David Thomas). “If you have any curiosity about scissors, you will find us almost immediately,” she says.
Beyond that, she has set ambitious goals for Ciselier. “I am intending to grow a viable business that can have a meaningful impact on the business of our makers,” she says. “My goal is to dominate this category, because we do have the best [scissors], and hopefully have enough volume that it will make a difference to the people making these products.”
And for all those people who might still be content to use that $4 pair of scissors, Fox immediately cuts to the chase. “You should have no cold-stamped, rubber-handled scissors in your house,” she says. “They are garbage. Throw them away right now.”