Makers Market is a Bay Area based online retailer focused on finding the best handmade items and artisans from across the United States and sharing each their story. You'll notice that founder, Suzy Ekman, has an incredible eye for beautifully designed items and clearly loves working with small businesses. I met Suzy over a year ago around the time she launched Makers Market, and was thrilled to have Etta + Billie added to the site. Read on to find out a little more about Suzy and Makers Market.
Why did you decide to start Makers Market?
The idea for Makers Market has been percolating for quite a while… growing up in Alabama I spent hours with my dad in his workshop handing him tools, listening about his fishing trip, sweeping up the sawdust, handing him more tools, listening to him fantasize about his next bike, and receiving all of life’s lessons. When we were done, we’d ride through the countryside and discover potters, blacksmiths, textile weavers, and furniture makers. Watching these artisans create their products and chatting with them about their lives and how they learned their craft instilled a deep appreciation for those who design and make beautiful product with their hands. Many times, these trades had been passed down through many generations, and they were still using their grandparents’ tools. I met the most talented, authentic, and down to earth people I've ever met. There was a deep sense of home and belonging. And a need for help in promoting their talent and businesses. Throughout my career in business consulting and Manufacturing Executive Management, I'd always wanted to use my skills and return to my roots and my passion. I'd always been focused on helping small businesses thrive, supporting jobs in the USA, making things, and ethical sourcing of materials. I'd reached that point in my career when it was time to see all of my dreams come together. Makers Market is the perfect intersection of everything I love: resulting in the promotion and preservation of American Craft for future generations.
How do you find and decide which lines to carry?
In the beginning, we poured through over a thousand San Francisco based business to determine which artists/ makers best fit our aesthetic and shared our values of well-made, ethically /sustainably produced product, and used production techniques that honored the ideals of American craftsmanship. After our launch party in San Francisco, we searched the country for brands that matched this curation criteria in categories where we were still looking for makers. We find these makers either through our online application process, Instagram, Pinterest, and local craft events across the country. We look for makers who share our belief of the importance of keeping American craft alive. And to keep it authentic.
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
Seeing my dreams unfold and make an impact in "real life". Feeling like I'm making a lasting and important difference by doing my part to preserve and celebrate American craftsmanship. Feeling like I am doing my part, although a very small part, to keep jobs in American and help the US economy be healthier. By encouraging people to keep their $s in America, with American product and supporting their neighbors. As our tagline says, "Join Us in Rebuilding the Legacy of American Made!"
You've run a brick and mortar Pop Up along with an E-commerce site. What were the biggest challenges for each and how did you overcome them?
eCommmerce - the biggest challenge has been trying to compete online, in this crowded space, while being self-funded. So I look for ways to grow the eCommerce site that have immediate payoff. In order to compete with the big boys, I will need funding!
Brick and Mortar - this was actually much, much easier than the eCommerce, which was not my assumption going into it. The biggest challenge for our Holiday Pop Up in Union Square was that we had only three weeks from the time we signed the contract on the space to the time the store had to open. But we did it, and it was a success. Now, it is possible later this month that we will have one week to open a store from the time the contract is signed. But that is a challenge I am praying to be able to have! Long term, the challenge for brick and mortar will be to find affordable space in the heart of the city where tourists are likely to be shopping and looking for locally produced craft.
Ok, now for the really important question: What is your favorite beverage and/or beverage & food combination?
My absolutely favorite beverage, especially on a warm weekend like this is a Mojito made with coconut rum! My favorite beverage/food combo would have to be white wine with tuna tartar…