An e-Commerce Brand Taps into the Maker Movement
In 2011, I launched a retail concept that was inspired by the Maker/DIY movement. This was a branded lifestyle experience meant to inspire new homeowners, primarily in urban areas, who were fixing up older homes and building lives that were focused on quality over quantity and building community.
A Hardware Store Building the New Urban Renaissance
I created the brand in reaction to trends which I observed at the time: a population flow to urban centers rather than an exodus, urban homesteading, DIY, and the slowfood movements. The store, called Machen Supply, sold everything from galvanized stock tanks to power drills to cast iron pans to plumbing and yes, even the kitchen sink! Machen, meaning “To Make” in German and Supply seemed to best sum up the independent and active spirit of the brand. Recognized brands such as Toto, Kohler, and Porcher were sold on the site.
Taking a Stand Against the McMansion
With my background and interest in design and architecture, I curated all objects sold on the store. This was not your typical hardware store, this was place where one could search based on architectural style or era, find items made in the USA, and even sustainable and green products for your LEED approved project. Moreover, one could even find irrigation sets and chicken coops for your urban farm. Essentially, this was a store for the anti-McMansion set.
The business model was dropship, which meant I set up relationships with various distributors and manufacturers around the country and did not carry inventory. While I managed all the sourcing and buying of products, I worked with partners in India to build and populate the store, which carried over 300 items.
Elements of the design were inspired by Americana and artisan craftspeople. Colors and elements reflect an unpolished, raw and authentic aesthetic: factory blues and primary colors, burlap, plywood.
This was another successful launch, and I was delighted that the brand values resonated with my targeted demographic. I managed to leverage a few of my social media contacts from my Tikoli days and get some press online and in print media.
The challenge was by 2011, the nature of the Internet had changed, with big brands discovering the value of blogging, and bloggers wanting to monetize. The business model was strong as I carried no inventory and each item reflected a hearty profit. But in the end, with the climate of the Internet changing, I did not have the time or resources available to compete with Fortune 100 brands as this was a self-funded project.
All said and done, I learned a tremendous amount from this experience. How quickly a market changes, and the importance of being nimble and observant. With funding and co-founders, I would love to build another brand in this manner, knowing what I know today.