The Makery: Three Sisters form Online Marketplace for Local Artists
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The Makery: Three Sisters form Online Marketplace for Local Artists

October, 03, 2012, by Marc Lewis

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If you read the coverage The Makery and its recent Kickstarter campaign garnered, you would probably think it’s just another flash-sale site for handmade crafts. Sitting with one of the site’s founders, Krista Nordgren, 22, at Capital Club 16 in Downtown Raleigh, the Durham native tells me how The Makery is different.

Every Tuesday morning, an email goes out to The Makery’s members featuring four to six items made by different artists. Each deal is available for 60 hours. Items are handpicked by Krista and her sisters, Brita, 28, and Sarah Rose, 30, who co-founded the company with her. The products vary each week so, unlike other sites, an artist will not compete with similar items. The Makery’s format allows each item an opportunity to stand out and it reduces the product saturation that’s common among other online retailers selling artistic products, places like The company also educates artists on the value of their work and helps vendors market their products.

“There are a lot of problems with pricing crafts,” Krista said. “With a lot of artists we worked with, we realized they are not pricing appropriately or giving themselves enough credit or taking into account the cost and labor. We’re trying to make everyone understand the real value of the things they are making and buying.”

The Makery helps establish price points and informs shoppers as to the value of what is being sold. The site advises artists on marketing initiatives as well — from advising on the best way to photograph products to crafting the most effective product descriptions. The Makery’s goal is to “take the selling out of making,” as Krista puts it, so artists can focus on what they do best.

“This has given me a whole new appreciation for how hard these crafters are working and it’s an amazing combination of trying to be an entrepreneur and an artist,” she said. “The Makery is trying to create better awareness for people who are making wonderful things.”

The three sisters bring a variety of experience to the business, each maintaining a keen appreciation for the creative process and what goes into the original work they sell. Sara Rose, a poet, has public relations experience and lends an eye for organization. Brita is a crafter and has sold work on other online marketplaces and advises the Makery on best practices and how to select items with the greatest sales potential. While Krista, a recent graduate with a degree in creative writing, studied business and imparts an entrepreneurial spirit and commercial acumen.

I asked Krista how three sisters with artists’ hearts found themselves turning their passion into a business and she smiled, mentioning her father who teaches entrepreneurship at Duke. She said dinner conversations often landed on topics like “customer involvement,” which, at the time, she admits were boring, but realizes how things have come full circle and how the three sisters now credit their father as a trusted resource.

The Makery is based in Durham at The Smoffice, “the world’s smallest office,” in the Beyu Caffé. The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham, Inc. joined forces to award The Makery the 30-square-foot space on Main Street, and, in addition to six months of free office space, they receive marketing and legal support, access to local business leaders and entrepreneurs and a luxurious downtown condo. Krista works at a desk in the front window where, she said, people wave and sometimes stop to stare.

Currently, The Makery remains North Carolina-focused, but the long-term goal is to have a Makery in every state. The expansion will require customers enter their zip code to receive deals, like on Groupon, in order to keep sales geographically confined.

In some ways, the Makery is like many online outlets that sell handmade goods. But the sisters’ decision to maintain the local focus and support artists with pricing and marketing guidance is how they see themselves separating from the competition. Their goal, as Krista puts it, is truly “community-supported commerce.” 

The Makery sisters want people to look for specialty goods at home first. They believe all a person needs is at home, and, in their case, the proof is in the dinner conversations years ago, where a father talked about how to start a business correctly and three future business partners, pretending they weren’t bored, listened.

Check out The Makery and Become a Member over at their website.

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