Makers, artisans, crafters, solopreneurs… call them what you want, but these independent small businesses are becoming a growing part of the economy.
In Cleveland alone there is an unbelievable wealth of groups and showcases dedicated to makers and the maker economy, including Case Western Reserve University’s think[box], Cleveland Public Library’s TechCentral Maker Space, Ingenuity Cleveland, the Cleveland Flea and Cleveland Bazaar, and many more.
The typical maker’s business path, if there is a “typical path,” starts with a talent and passion for creating. There is no lack of depth to the range of products being developed, including art, technology, food, health and beauty, home goods, and more. There seems to be a moment of inspiration where talented creators think to themselves, “I think I could sell this.” But what’s next?
For Cleveland-based makers, there is no shortage of in-person opportunities to sell goods, including the aforementioned Cleveland Flea and Cleveland Bazaars. Many entrepreneurs take the route of placing goods for sale on some of the web’s top handmade goods websites like Etsy, and branch out to other platforms like eBay and even Craigslist.
“For many passionate Cleveland entrepreneurs, making the right decisions can be the difference between “just an idea” and long-term success.”
But at a certain point, entrepreneurs can be met with the growing pains of these avenues. Selling locally means you’re only reaching a small market and potentially missing out on a huge opportunity to sell to larger markets. While established sites like Etsy, eBay, and Craigslist can offer a great kick-start to a young business, high fees can eventually erode profits, and dealing with Craigslist means dealing with inconsistent and, dare I say, “flaky” customers at times.
This is the point that entrepreneurs either accept these limitations or get serious about the growth of their business. The decision to make the leap typically means creating a strong web presence that has a consistent and strong brand. For entrepreneurs building a website on which to sell goods, there are important things to consider. Is it easy to add products, pricing, and inventory to the site? Does the site experience make it easy for buyers to find products and checkout quickly?
Driving customers and building customer loyalty is the next challenge. Digital marketing efforts, including paid digital advertising, search engine optimization, and developing compelling content will help the right customers find the right products.
“The typical maker’s business path, if there is a “typical path,” starts with a talent and passion for creating.”
Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to show their brand’s personality. Remember, this journey started with passion, and a good web presence is the opportunity to showcase that passion. For successful businesses, creating armies of loyal customers through social media, email marketing, rewards, and referral programs can magnify the efforts of selling online.
I won’t say it’s not a long journey from dimly-lit basement workshop to successful online business, but for many passionate Cleveland entrepreneurs, making the right decisions at each stage can be the difference between “just an idea” and long-term success.