Maker Market is partnering with aftcra to bring a new element of handmade into our marketplace: we want to encourage everyone to create. We know it is important to support these budding small businesses, but what about creating a spark in our audience too? What about spreading a feeling of “I can do that!” through the people who already love handmade? This market season, you can come to Maker Market and make something for free at our Make and Take booth and unbelievably enough, chat with the CEO and founder of aftcra while you do it.
Haven’t heard of aftcra yet? Well, this Milwaukee-based business is hitting their stride in supporting American made handmade online-- continue reading to learn more!
Negative changes in how large handmade selling platforms conduct business have opened the eyes to many American makers across the nation. With manufactured goods made overseas crowding most search results it has become obvious that purchasing handmade items online needs a new champion. Aftcra is such a company. Based out of our great city of Milwaukee, aftcra’s Erica Reigelman took some time to explain her business and the future of buying handmade online.
Maker Market- When did the idea for an alternative selling platform, now aftcra, start forming and what inspired it?
aftcra-When I was younger, my mom was an incredible artisan and would always be painting, or crafting or sculpting. She had a talent that I had wished I had (and I'm convinced skipped a generation in my case) - the skill of making. And after several years of taking a break, my mom started making again in the summer of 2011. Unfortunately she was getting frustrated trying to sell her life-size wooden witch silhouettes - all of the local boutiques up in Northern Wisconsin wanted to take a huge fee.
That same summer I was shopping on another major handmade platform and was struggling trying to find leather totes made in America. These two incidences led me to think of creating a handmade marketplace dedicated to American makers. aftcra was my solution to help my mom and any other artisans who were looking for a different venue to sell their handmade goods, while also helping any shoppers who wanted to buy from local artisans and support the American made movement.
We ended up launching aftcra in October of 2013 and made a major site revamp in August of 2014. It's been growing ever since - and we couldn't be more appreciative and grateful to all of our supporters!
MM- Can you explain the name and mission of aftcra?
aftcra- We ended up selecting aftcra as the name because it is an anagram for "a craft" - or the skill it takes to create something out of nothing. We think it's a good representation of our talented artisans.
Our mission is to support local artists and artisans living in America by connecting them with handmade admirers across the globe.
MM- aftcra offers no listing fees! How else does aftcra have a leg up on the bigger competition?
aftcra- At aftcra we have four main differentiators from other handmade platforms:
1. aftcra only charges a transaction fee when a product is sold. Setting up a shop or listing products is free.
2. aftcra only features artisans around the USA, so there is a smaller base of local artisans.
3. We only permit the selling of handmade goods, unlike our biggest competitor who recently started to allow manufactured goods.
4. We are a family-owned business right here in Milwaukee, WI, so when you get in touch with us you'll be contacted by an actual person. Talk about some customer service!
MM- How have you seen aftcra grow and change in its short existence?
aftcra- Watching our growth over the past year and a half has been incredible. When we first launched, we struggled to get artisans to sign up with us - we were brand new with no track record and people were weary to register with us. Now we are more established with features in major publications like ABC News, Bloomberg, and the Huffington Post. We may be the youngest kid in the handmade marketplace arena, but we're growing. With handmade supporters like you and the Maker Market, we've been able to keep on this awesome path.
MM- How do you think buying American handmade makes an impact on a society that has been conditioned to value the lowest price over quality?
aftcra- I think there is a movement that is two-pronged - to support local and to find unique products. If you're looking to find something cheap that your neighbor has, then shopping at a big box store is probably the right fit for you. But if you're interested in something unique, that was made by someone in your local community, then shopping handmade is the route for you. Supporting local truly improves your community, and we believe that supporting local artisans across the USA can only do good for all of us.
MM- Could you name drop some current aftcra sellers that are really exciting you?
aftcra- It's so hard to pick! Natalie V Mason (http://www.aftcra.com/natalievmason) is a new seller that has some really fun and exciting prints all the way from Oregon. We especially love her elephant pillows.
We also love Forgotten Cotten from Wyoming (http://www.aftcra.com/forgottencotton). She has some beautiful fashion accessories and really knows how to showcase her wares in her pictures.
But we have a special place in our heart for some of our original sellers - iheartfink (http://www.aftcra.com/iheartfink), OnceAgainSam (http://www.aftcra.com/onceagainsam), and NatureLook (http://www.aftcra.com/naturelook). NatureLook is also from Wisconsin, so we have some home-state love we share with her. These three have been great supporters of aftcra and we love working with them!
MM- What was your last aftcra purchase?
aftcra- I recently bought some wooden toys from McCoy's Toys. They sell handcrafted old-fashioned toys, like trucks and cars. There's nothing better than a well-built American made toy that was made with love. And the owners behind this shop are the sweetest couple ever.
MM- aftcra is partnering with this season of Maker Market in a hands on way. What shall we expect from the upcoming markets?
aftcra-We're so excited to be hosting Maker Market's "Make and Take" booth this summer. We'll be providing some fun arts and craft activities fit for all ages, starting with a special gift for Mother's Day. We can't wait to get to meet so many local makers and supporters!
MM- What is currently inspiring you? Artists? Makers? IG accounts? Blogs? Music? What’s getting you going at the moment?
aftcra- I'm totally addicted to Instagram right now, so looking at gorgeous pictures really revs my engine. I especially love beautifully designed spaces or creative artwork. Some of my favorite Instagram accounts are @SycamoreStreetPress, @InHonorOfDesign, @Brittnimehlhoff and @StudioDIY. @StudioDIY is seriously the most colorful and fun Instagram account out there - you must check it out!
To meet Erica in person check out Maker Market the first Sunday of every month May-Sept in the parking lot of Colectivo Bay View. For more information on aftcra and it’s policies check out http://www.aftcra.com/