When founding partners Carlene Hunt and Robin Smith launched their virtual handcraft market, The Handcrafted Shop, in September 2013, their vision was multi-faceted.
What began as a discussion on the important role handcrafts had played in both their lives, with skills passed down through generations, quickly turned to issues and challenges that handcrafters and designers face today. The Handcrafted Shop's concept is underpinned by the need for handcrafters to have their own online marketplace – where they could earn money from their products for income, or cash flow to buy more crafting supplies; somewhere they could showcase their range to an international market; and the opportunity for them to operate their own small business for a minimal outlay.
Eighteen months on Carlene and Robin have retired from their business and teaching careers to focus full time on The Handcrafted Shop. Proving successful from launch day, the online marketplace is now home to 180+ stores, offering an eclectic mix of crafts and giftware. Every product is handmade and unique, and many items can be personalised to buyer's specifications.
The online stores can be filtered via an impressive number of categories, with shoppers in search of craft supplies or unique gifts able to browse jewellery, quilts, clothing, art, cards, mosaics, recycled and vintage items, and much more, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere around the world. Says Carlene of the handcrafts available, 'Each is made with a lot of love and care; and can be passed on with love as a gift."
It is ideals like this, along with Carlene and Robin's passion for their business and that of their store holders that set The Handcrafted Shop apart from other online stores. From the start, the partners decided their marketplace would be affordable, accessible and user friendly to both buyers and sellers. As such, unlike their competitors, they charge only a small monthly rental to store holders, with no other fees. Sellers can list an unlimited number of goods, with no charge for uploading pictures. 'It costs less than a cappuccino per week to rent one of our sites," says Carlene, 'and once people get to know a product, it really starts rolling over."
The website also acts as a full shopping centre for anyone in the handcraft / design industry, with Suppliers of art and crafting materials also taking advantage of the opportunities to promote their wares to crafting professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts.
To align with their original vision, Carlene and Robin not only are on hand to talk their retailers through any technical or functional issues; they actively seek to empower their customers to operate and grow the most successful business they can. They market assertively, appearing at trade shows and promotional expos, and utilise various social media streams, putting different store holder profiles in the spotlight each week. At no extra fee, they distribute regular newsletters offering hints and tips on marketing and business strategy, and are happy to touch base on a personal level with anyone that feels they need some extra coaching to optimise their store's turnover.
The partners see 2015 as a year of growth, and are enthusiastic about the opportunities available to both buyers and sellers. Proudly supporting Australian suppliers and products, they are goal oriented and have deliberately set the bar high with a focus on growing store numbers while retaining their trademark client focus. 'We aim to build a forum that assists handcrafters to earn an income, no matter their age or demographic," says Carlene.
It is this commitment to ethical business practice and customer service – as traditional and enduring as the handcrafts they love - that recently earned The Handcrafted Shop the title Entrant of Merit at the 2104 Gold Coast Women's Business Awards, ranking in the final forty entrants, along with nominations in the 2104 Aus Mumpreneuer Awards.
Whether you're a handcrafter who has been seeking a platform to showcase your range, or a buyer in the market for quality handmade products and unique gifts, The Hand crafted Shop is your one-stop shop.
For more information about registering an online store, or to browse stores and product lines, visit The Handcrafted Shop www.handcraftedshop.com