CHARLOTTE, N.C.— The Catholic Company begins each lunch hour the same way—In prayer.
“A year ago we had maybe 100 people post prayer requests on our site. Today, we get up to 600 different prayer requests,” said owner James Hetzel.
It’s a measure of how big the company’s online presence is growing. Each week, Hetzel says, he is gaining 2,000 new followers.
“We have everything. We have products imported from Ireland. We have children's products, we have bibles,” said Hetzel.
He stores more than 14,000 different items in his Charlotte warehouse, and at times employs up to 50 people, many of whom are solely dedicated to refreshing pages and posting on YouTube. Everything the Catholic Company sells is marketed on social media.
“Last week, for example, we interacted with 800,000 people on our Facebook page,” Hetzel said.
The father of nine founded the business in 1997. Back then, he explains, he sold through catalogues.
“Certainly I would have never envisioned Facebook. I never envisioned we’d have product videos. I never envisioned Pinterest or Twitter or how important they’d be to our business,” he said.
But today the world’s number one Catholic retailer is all about social media. James' wife Whitney will even launch a jewelry line exclusively on Facebook. It’s called New Lily.
“For this kind of thing, when you're launching a new brand, it’s a way to get out there that 10 years ago you didn't have,” she said.
To respond to quick demand, Hetzel bought video equipment and built a small studio. It’s paying off. On Monday, when Pope Benedict XVI resigned, the Catholic Company immediately designed a mug with his image on it, and created a t-shirt design as well. They sent word of the product to 100,000 people on their email list and will have the products ready to sell next week on Facebook.
And in April, the Catholic Company will have operators standing by 24/7 at their Charlotte offices, ready to take orders.
But Hetzel and his colleagues say they’ll continue to find time to do what their mission is…truly connect to their customers through prayer and intentions.
If you’d like to learn more about the Catholic Company, go to www.CatholicCompany.com.