Makers have more choices than ever with selling, but they also have more competition than ever. The quest for an edge is always on. That’s why, when we talked with the founders of the new marketplace Simply Made Local (Ryan French, Taylor Bedetti, Cari Shagena, and Abby Jacobs), we asked them how makers can stand out in a crowded marketplace. They’re fellow makers too, so they understand the struggle. Which is why they got together to create a marketplace that *they* as makers wanted to see happen.
Hope you enjoy this chat with them!
Q: Tell us who you all are and what you do!
A: Simply Made Local is an online marketplace for buying and selling unique handmade goods and crafts locally. Created by makers for makers – our mission is to endorse the sustainability of the handmade industry. By choosing Simply Made Local, buyers can support their local community of artisans while shopping online. Moreover, makers can list products with no listing fee, connect with customers in person, and decrease their carbon footprint by delivering locally to avoid shipment hassles. Simply Made Local is working to bring the handmade industry back to its roots by connecting real people with quality goods.
Q: Why and how did you start Simply Made Local?
A: Simply Made Local was founded by three nurses with a long history and passion for all things crafty! In 2017, I [Abby] met fellow nurses Ryan and Taylor, and soon our love for arts and crafts took over, and a strong friendship developed. During that time, we each had a history of selling crafts, so we started getting together outside of work and formed what we called our “side hustle support group.” We were able to learn from each other and help each other with strategies to increase sales.
After leaving my job as a nurse to spend more time with my toddler, I wanted to focus on my small craft business to help bring in extra income. The problem was I struggled to find a product I could make that would be profitable minus all the fees associated with the leading handmade marketplaces. I didn’t feel a sense of community and I felt that my products were quickly buried. Seemingly, this meant paying for promotional listings, dealing with the complex and ever-changing algorithms, and most suggest that artists offer free shipping now as well. Since this was not optimal for my situation, my next thought was to sell on a marketplace where you can list second-hand goods and provide local delivery. However, after attempting this, I discovered that handmade art really doesn’t belong in a second-hand marketplace free-for-all.
That’s when I teamed up with Ryan and Taylor to create a new handmade marketplace. We wanted it to offer all the best features of current marketplaces, bundled nicely into an elite business-centered hub. We aimed to fill it with like-minded entrepreneurs empowering each other to find success.
It was at that moment that Simply Made Local was born. Soon after, we welcomed the addition of our fourth team member, Cari, and within nine months our online marketplace launched to the public in January of 2020. Simply Made Local has a robust platform to sell handmade items, a marketplace locator to find craft events in your area, and an expansive blog featuring the best of handmade products and business-centered articles to help enhance your small business.
Q: What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen when makers list their items?
A: In our own experience, we believe that the first impression and human connections are crucial when it comes to sales. Think of the first impression as the draw, and the connection is what drives the sale and keeps customers returning. This goes for selling at both physical and digital marketplaces.
If you’re selling a popular product, like a candle, for instance, what will make a customer choose yours over another? It’s the initial presentation. The biggest mistake we’ve seen and experienced is not having a quality feature photo to present the product accurately. Most people think you need to spend a lot of money to achieve those “wow factor” photos. But, it can be as simple as using proper lighting. If you are unable to utilize a light box, natural sunlight can also be very complimentary. Get outside and use the pops of color found in nature or use some inexpensive backdrops, like fabric or scrapbook paper, next to a window. These little adjustments can make a big difference in that first impression.
So now that the customer’s interest is piqued with your impressive photo, you have a tiny window of opportunity to apply a human connection. What sets your candle apart is what you bring to the table as an artist. This can easily be done when you’re in person, but accomplishing this in a digital marketplace can be a bit trickier and where we find some makers falling short. Bios are an excellent place to start, but more importantly, a strategic product description is going to be a significant marketing factor.
We find it best to be direct, share your personality, and communicate how your candle is unique. Using sensory imagery often allows the customer to connect even more. For example, describing the crispness of the citrusy lemon scent that will awaken your senses and ignite your energy allows for imagination and makes your candle more desirable. Lastly, finish with eloquently telling the customer why they need your candle.
Q: How can makers stand out in a crowded marketplace?
A: One of the biggest hurdles we have found with selling artwork in a digital space is the inundation of products in one marketplace. To stand out, you need to come out of the gates running with a strong presence and always bring your “A” game. Start with the basics: excellent pictures, relevant keywords, direct descriptions.
Next, you have to market your product. Just because you are using a marketplace, you can’t rely on them to advertise for you. You have to drive traffic to your listings. This can be done through social media and paid promotions, google ads or email marketing. This process can take time to collect data and analyze the results that work best for your products, so be patient and trust the process.
Also, staying current with trends and seasonal needs per demographic can be beneficial. If you crochet, you may not want to be pushing your crop-tops in the winter unless you’re marketing to a year-round sunny area, like Florida or California. During the winter months, instead, put your effort into beanies and scarfs. Once you start to increase traffic and sales to your shop, algorithms will kick in and possibly assist with product awareness.
Q: How does Simply Made Local help them do that?
A: Simply Made Locall’s solution for the overcrowded marketplace is to provide a hybrid space unlike anything else available in the industry. We offer a site committed to handmade art only, where consumers can shop local artisans and request possible same day local delivery or pick up. Giving consumers the ability to shop local artisans according to their location or willingness to travel will solve overcrowding and the complication of having too many choices.
When we first started mapping out the blueprint for the Simply Made Local Marketplace, we kept the maker in mind at all times. We also traveled to many different craft shows. We asked artists and crafters what was important to them when it came to a digital marketplace. Keeping their feedback in mind, we created a new and innovative space where makers can sell and advertise their products. We made sure that when it came to uploading a product it was as seamless and straightforward as possible. We included minimum size requirements and lightening tips to assist with presentation. We also included suggestions and examples to help with writing titles and descriptions.
Q: What can makers do to set themselves up for success online?
A: So first, however you feel comfortable, get connected with a community of crafters. Then we recommend trying multiple avenues for marketing and advertising. Analyze the results and mold your business accordingly to your niche audience. Lastly, be flexible and available on various platforms. The crafting world is not a one-size-fits-all model. Even if you have your own website, be available in different marketplaces for product exposure. Also, Simply Made Local keeps you connected with our growing marketplace locator where you can stay up to date with the latest craft shows and expos. This can also be a great way to get more exposure for your upcoming event, absolutely free.
Q: There are a lot of online marketplaces out there, what makes Simply Made Local different?
What makes Simply Made Local so great is our hybrid features. We bundled all the best features we thought were beneficial for crafters into one business-centered approach. At Simply Made Local, you won’t encounter listing or commission fees, or competitive paid boosting. We have a free basic membership for novice crafters, or you can purchase a monthly premium membership geared toward small businesses. With our most popular membership, premium members can expect unlimited product listings, unlimited open conversations over our convenient messaging service, and access to private business-enhancing articles. You also have access and ability to list craft shows and events, craft parties or classes in your town, and big conventions or expos.
Coming soon, you will have the ability to browse and save your favorite products and makers to your “Favorites Gallery Boards.” You’ll earn badges for outstanding performance to increase ranking and contribute to an overall elite experience for your customers. As a maker at Simply Made Local, you can decide to be available for local delivery or offer to ship. You are in complete control of your business! Similar to a physical marketplace, we are the focal point connecting real people, and all sales are carried out on your terms. Transactions are discussed through our messaging services and completed using cash in person or use of a third-party payment processor upon delivery or when shipping.
Q: If someone wanted to start selling on Simply Made Local, how would they go about doing that?
A: Makers can easily register for an account, and in a couple of simple steps they can list handmade products for sale, absolutely free. You can upgrade your monthly membership for exclusive benefits that fit the needs of your small business whenever you want. Customers will then message the artist when interested in a product, and both parties agree on local delivery or shipping, and payment. It’s that easy.
We believe in a community of makers supporting makers at Simply Made Local. We have set our marketplace, blog, and social media to be a business hub for like-minded creative entrepreneurs. We welcome questions and feedback and strive every day to bring our audience helpful business tips, and ways to expand their creativity with our DIY tutorials. We also have a place to post questions in our Simply Made Local: All Things Crafty Facebook group. We hope you’ll join us!