Former corporate finds niche in handmade resurgence
Fri 12 September 2014 - 4:45 pmEntrepreneur | Profiles
Between the demise of the Yellow Pages and the growth of mass-produced ‘cookie cutter’ furniture – it was only a matter of time before a backlash started.
Longing for a time when craftsmanship and bespoke design was king, former white-collar worker Fred Kimel decided to bridge the gap. Leaving behind a comfortable corporate salary, Kimel jokes he had been ‘planning his escape’, and used his accumulated savings to bootstrap his dream.
His online marketplace Handkrafted launched in February, and is quickly gaining momentum.
“We officially started building the site in November, and the idea had been running around in my head for a long time before that,” Kimel says.
“More and more people are dissatisfied with mass-produced goods that lack meaning and substance. And so, this is about what you could call consumption based on values, and it’s not just about the price. People want more of a connection – they want to know who made it, how it was made, what materials were used, and there’s a story behind it. It’s not just a table – it’s made by a craftsperson, perhaps they’re third generation, or it’s made from materials from a particular region. That’s the emotion I think more and more people are seeking.”
As such, Handkrafted brings together the fragmented community of craftspeople, ‘the makers’, with those who seek to buy their work. Already, Kimel has 140 craftspeople listing on Handkrafted, with the number growing rapidly.
Eventually, the goal is to take a commission of sales which are transacted via Handkrafted, but for the moment Kimel is waiving the service fee, and focusing purely on growing the site’s following.
As it stands, the site is geared towards woodwork, but in due course this will grow to include any number of handmade items.
“Metalwork, jewellery, leather goods, stone – really the list is endless. You can go to quite niche categories, which for so many years have been mass-produced but there has been resurgence in demand for things made by independent makers. It’s beautiful to see a maker take the raw materials, and produce quality and well-made items.”
Presently the key challenges for Kimel are to raise investment, manage the day-to-day, and balance the amount of work there is to do in building a business, particularly without the resources of a big team.
“Inevitably, things always do take longer than you’d like, and it is tough doing it on a budget in terms of when you’re trying to find a designer, or a developer, or anything. But fortunately, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to start a business given the abundance of cloud-based services, so many of which are free, or very low-priced.”
Word-of-mouth and particularly Instagram are also proving to be useful tools, and with more jobs being posted each day, Kimel says he is continually inspired by the passion and skills of the makers.