Simply Made Local, a new and growing hybrid marketplace for selling hand-crafted products, started with three nurses. Abby Jacobs, Ryan French and Taylor Bedetti all worked together when they realized that they had more than their jobs in common; in their free time, they all made hand-craft products to sell. Sharing this passion, they formed their own group between the three of them to bounce crafting ideas off one another and empower one another in their side businesses. That is where the seeds of Simply Made Local were planted — three women forming a community to help one another.
“Each of us had different experiences to bring to the table. It actually helped us to come together and learn from each other’s successes,” Jacobs said.
However, while they were learning from each other’s successes, they also discovered they had similar difficulties, too. A common issue amongst them was figuring out what products made enough of a profit in the marketplaces that were available at the time.
“A common theme among the three of us was how do you choose a product where you can promote it in a digital marketplace, minus all the fees you can experience on some of the popular marketplaces that are available today, and still turn an income that is worth your time. It was one of the biggest challenges for us,” Jacobs said.
Between listing fees, commission charges, and competitive paid boosting to fight the changing algorithms, they felt their current stream of available options made it difficult to establish a profitable business.
“I feel, with some of the larger marketplaces, your products get buried very quickly if you don’t have that customer base already established,” Jacobs said.
The trio decided to switch gears and sell at the local level, since there’s less of the same product in the market space in comparison to trying to sell on a global or even national online platform.
“We tried it out together, selling our products, in one of the second-hand marketplaces available and we just felt that handmade quality art really didn’t belong next to somebody’s old bowling ball. It really wasn’t given that status that we felt it deserved,” said.
When they realized what they needed did not exist, they decided to create it themselves. They wanted an online marketplace where crafters could sell their handmade art, but also give customers the chance to shop from local vendors.
In June 2019, their first step was to launch a blog with weekly updates that provided crafters of all experience levels with tutorials, craft ideas, tips on how to switch up techniques and stories highlighting crafters in general.. Their goal was to promote all crafters and build community rather than competition.
The following month, Cari Shagena joined the team.
“In the beginning, it was interesting bringing four different backgrounds, education levels and personalities together,” Jacobs explained. They had all tried to know every aspect of the business, but realized it was better to focus on their strengths to maximize their effectiveness as a team. Their differences in knowledge of social media, marketing and technology allowed them to approach their business strategy with a divide and conquer mindset.
Simply Made Local is 100% self-funded by the four women. They raised $2,521 on Kickstarter, pledged by crafters to invest in themselves, which all went into large marketing campaigns to promote Simply Made Local . On Jan. 25, 2020, Simply Made Local went live.
“Our goal from the beginning is to really bring the handmade industry back to its roots. We just want to bring it back to delivering quality goods to real people — bringing back that more intimate experience of how buying and selling handmade art used to be,” Jacobs said.
While the team is based out of California, their local marketplace can be shopped nationwide. When crafters join Simply Made Local, they tag their location so customers know where they are based in the U.S. If customers are in the same area as the crafters, local delivery is an option.
As part of the efforts to make Simply Made Local a website for the crafters, they do not charge commission, listing fees or offer competitive paid boosting. They have a basic membership that is no charge, which allows crafters to list up to five products at a time on their page, giving newer shops the chance to get into the marketplace without having to financially invest before they are ready. A premium membership offers crafters account personalization features, product listings and access to premium Simply Made Local blog content.
“We are similar to a farmer’s market where you pay us for the space and for the advertising, and that is it. We have nothing to do with how you sell your products within your direct shop on Simply Made Local,” Jacobs said. “When someone is interested in purchasing a product, they contact the seller, very similar to second-hand marketplaces, where you are messaging with the artist and they give you their terms for sales. They let you know about delivery, and then they use a third-party payment processor.”
Unlike platforms like Etsy, where the entire business is run through the platform, Jacobs said Simply Made Local is a community created to help crafters get their work to buyers. “We are makers supporting makers. We are just another avenue of marketing and a community of support.”