Online shopping can help revitalise the high street

Mary Portas’s review of the future of our high streets highlights that online shopping has contributed to the demise of town centres.

But the work we have done with Makerhood shows that online sites can also help revitalise interest in buying locally.

Makerhood market stall
Photo by Andy Broomfield

Launched in July 2011, brixton.makerhood.com helps shoppers in Brixton and nearby areas of south London find local makers and producers.

Our website currently lists more than 540 items from local makers, ranging from biscuits and greetings cards to T-shirts, prints and bedside cabinets. Prices start at 80p for a Brixton postcard and go up to £1,400 for a piece of wall art.

But Makerhood is about more than selling online. We worked with the Brixton Market Traders Federation (BMTF) to help set up the monthly Brixton Makers’ Market on the second Saturday of every month. The success of this has encouraged the BMTF to launch themed markets on other Saturdays.

And Makerhood has collaborated with other venues in Brixton too, including:

  • an exhibition of Makerhood artists at the Lounge
  • a sell-out local makers’ forum at the Living Bar, offering business advice from experts in markets and small design businesses to help their makers establish sustainable business practices
  • pop-up stalls in Brixton Village in the run-up to Christmas.
Makerhood makers forum
Photo by Andy Broomfield

These events all contribute to the revitalisation of Brixton town centre and its reputation as a creative hub of south London.

Kristina Glushkova of Makerhood says: “Small creative businesses often can’t afford a high-street shop, especially when they’re just starting up. As well as offering them an opportunity to sell online, we’ve helped set up the monthly Makers’ Market and pop-up stalls in Brixton Village.

Photo by Andy Broomfield

“There’s a real creative buzz around Brixton at the moment and we’re proud that we’ve done our bit to help put it on the map.”

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Makerhood now live in beta!

As of Noon today, we are now live!

After lots of busy behind the scenes work, our new online local goods market for Brixton, Herne Hill, Camberwell, East Dulwich, Clapham and Stockwell, is up and running. On the website you’ll find over 20 fantastic local makers offering beautiful art, yummy food, pretty crafts and much much more!

You can visit the site here. We think it looks awesome (but then we would, wouldn’t we) but don’t just take our word for it, go and have a look yourselves!

Getting to this stage has been a huge collective effort from everyone involved with Makerhood, from the core team to lots of other people who have given us great advice, information and guidance. We could not have done it without you. Now the real work begins!

Here’s five things you can do right now on our website:

1) Add and find out about local workshops,
2) Set up stalls to sell goods you have made,
3) Read/Write in the forums, meeting and learning from people like you
4) Buy things to support local makers
5) Give us feedback – for us, the next few weeks are all about learning.

Don’t forget we’re in Beta – so do send us any bug reports, so we can fix any problems ASAP.

Similarly, if you’ve any questions, ideas, suggestions – email on hello@makerhood com or via our online contact form.  Alternatively, we’re at the Urban Art Fair and Lambeth Country Show this weekend, so do come and say hello!

In the meantime, happy shopping!

Love from everyone at Makerhood.

First Monday of the Month: Monthly update

As we rapidly approach the launch of our Beta site, this is an attempt to sum up what’s happened over the past month, and where possible look at what’s coming up.

Our intention is to provide this monthly update at the start of the month, with it in the form of a proper newsletter in due course. Until then, we’ll post the update on the blog. Happy Reading!

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Makers’ Meetings

We’ve held six Makers’ Meetings in the past month. These have offered us a great opportunity to explain the project to potential sellers and get their feedback on our emerging online marketplace. As a result of these sessions we’ve been able to fix lots of bugs and also identified questions and issues which we might have missed.

Feedback from the sessions about Makerhood has been great, and attendees also welcomed the chance to meet fellow Makers. A HUGE thank you to everyone who attended.

Due to popular demand, we’ve added one more session on Thursday 7 July, 6.30pm, Cafe Roha (103, Acre Lane). Please book in the form at the bottom of this page please

You can read what local photographer Laura Ward said about the session she attended on her blog.

 

Local People love the idea of Makerhood

During June we published the results of an online survey which asked people about the Makerhood concept and the philosophy behind it. From great quotes to five key conclusions, the input from 106 people who took part has been invaluable. If you don’t want to read the full post outlining the key conclusions, spend 30 seconds looking at some nice graphs which sum up your thoughts.

 

People who inspire us

We’ve started to produce irregular interviews with local people who have inspired us. These have proved to be very popular, so we’ll have more in future months. Check out previous interviews with artist Pam Williams, Urban Art Fair’s Tim Sutton and Stockwell based Sweet View.

Not to be out done, Kristina also did her own video with VisionOntv after the OpenTech conference at which she spoke. Click here to watch the five minute Makerhood OpenTech video.

 

Meet Us and Get Involved

Finally just a reminder of some pre launch meetings we have coming up, including drinks, which you are very welcome to join us at!

If you want to volunteer with Makerhood, as well as sell your wares, then our doors are always open. In the past month we’ve been very lucky to have Kim, Chris and Viv join us, but we’re always hungry for more help. So if you want to get involved in whatever way you can, email us: hello@makerhood.com – and let’s chat!

9 quotes about the ideas behind Makerhood

Some feedback from survey contributors we wanted to share:

“We need to bring back care in this world. I’d like to know that I’ve bought something with a bit of love in it rather than some cheap plastic machine made crap.”

“I love buying handmade goods that someone has put time, thought, effort and love into rather than buying mass-produced rubbish. It’s also really nice to have a one-of-a-kind item rather than something loads of other people own.”

 “I don’t want to end up living in a ‘Tesco clone-town’ where the only choice I have is to shop in chain stores. I want to support local businesses and keep money circulating in the local community.”

“In modern days, we’ve become a total throw-away generation, where everything is built to fail… I think it’s just a terrible waste.”

“I think to keep a vibrant local economy and prevent cloning on high streets and preserve character we should support local business and enterprise.”

“If food-related, it’s good to know exactly where the product has come from and how it has been sourced. If non-food related, it adds to the appeal of a product if you know the story behind it and who has made it.”

“Buying/selling locally is more environmentally sustainable and helps strengthen communities. It’s nice to know your neighbours/ who made your bread/who bought your tablecloth/who makes the best cheese.”

“I feel really passionate about buying locally-made products – it’s so much better for environment and community reasons and I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with buying from supermarkets.”

“Being able to chat directly to the person making the product is a great boon – shopping shouldn’t be a trial! Plus the obvious benefits of less food miles, fresher output, knowing what has gone into the product.”

Can you give us a tenth?

Two new Makers’ Meetings added

Due to popular demand we’ve added two new dates to the diary.

  • Saturday 18 June, 10am – 11.30am at Cafe Roha 103 Acre Lane, Brixton
  • Thursday 23 June, 6.30pm, also at Cafe Roha.

Each session lasts about 90 mins. They are very informal, and designed to give you an opportunity to explore the Makerhood (beta) website, find out more about the project, meet the team and see how you could be a part of this exciting new online – and offline – community.

We’ve had a great response from our first two Makers’ Meetings, including the fact that many local makers love the chance to meet people like them who are doing creative things.

So, as well as finding out more about Makerhood, these sessions are also a chance for you to grow your network and meet interesting local people with similar passions and interests to you.

We’ll post more about what we’ve learned from the sessions in due course. In the meantime, find out more these sessions – including the other dates available – here.

Do sign up, tell your friends, and come along!  We look forward to meeting you.

Makerhood survey – key conclusions

We recently ran a survey to ask people what they thought about the Makerhood concept and the ideas which underpin it. In this post, we’ll provide some of the key feedback we got from the 106 people who completed the online survey. You can also see some nice graphs / more detailed results here.

Why this mattered to us

The survey has helped to reinforce much of what we have learnt from previous offline research; reflecting attitudes which show a strong interest in local goods, local issues, handmade/crafts, and environmental concerns arising from how people shop – and what they buy.

But it has also given us a strong steer about how these attitudes might manifest themselves via a local website. Your feedback and ideas are therefore integral to refining the vision for Makerhood, as well as the features the full website (launching soon!) will offer.

Conclusion 1: Lots of support towards buying and selling local goods

  • 100% respondents said they are interested in buying local goods
  • 39% were interested in selling things they made

The key reasons for wanting to “buy local” included:

  1. supporting the community
  2. reducing environmental impact
  3. supporting local economy
  4. encouraging creativity locally

There was also a widespread belief that local products were often more interesting, fresher, unique, and often had a strong story behind them. Respondents were also keen on the idea of having a face-to-face relationship with a real person, which they saw as the anti-thesis of department stores/supermarkets, mass production, and the “throw-away”
economy.

Conclusion 2: Local means different things to different people

  • 72% defined local as goods “made in their neighbourhood”
  • 72% also defined local as “goods made in your town”.  (People could choose more than one option.)
  • Only 18% agreed that “made in the UK” constituted local.

Where we gave people space to say more, some felt that local should be:

  • “within 1 mile of where I live”
  • all of Lambeth
  • London and its surrounding environs

Views varied for a number of reasons, including a recognition that some products are hard to make in London, such as dairy or certain agricultural items. But, generally speaking, the consensus seemed to be “buy local” or “as close to local” as you can.

Conclusion 3: Buying local can be difficult, and this prevents people from doing so (even when they want to)

Around 75% said they didn’t buy as much locally as they’d like to (only 6% said they do), primarily because of the problem of finding local products. This of course is where Makerhood comes in!

Main reasons for not buying local goods:

  • I don’t know where to look (55%)
  • Cost (38%)
  • Time (33%)
  • Choice (32%)

The results also suggested that many people try to shop from small local providers / shops but they are unsure about how much is actually made locally vs. simply being transported from other areas. It’s a moot point.

Conclusion 4: Makerhood Brixton can play a role in supporting local makers and community needs

When we asked users how they might use a local online marketplace, the overwhelming response was to buy gifts (84%).

One-off purchases such as furniture (65%)  and everyday necessities like food and toiletries (56%) were also popular.

However, it was clear that community and social relationships are also an important part of this mix.

  • 84% told us they would use Makerhood to find out what’s going on in the area
  • 57% wanted to find out about the people who make things (so descriptions and stories are important part of the marketplace)

Conclusion 5: Frequency of use will depend on products

What Makerhood offers, both in terms of choice and quality, are clearly key issues for potential buyers, but in principle the majority of respondents suggested that they would use the site once a month (38%) or once a week (31%).

What happens next

We are going to continue to pore over what you’ve told us, and of course we also have a number of upcoming sessions with potential sellers, which will offer us some great opportunities to garner further feedback and ideas.

We’re aware that the survey isn’t statistically representative due to small size and the likely bias among respondents towards supporting local goods compared to average population. But we think it’s a fascinating and useful snapshot nonetheless.

Thanks again to everyone who took part – and do keep those ideas coming!

If you are a maker, grower or artist and would like to join in, come to Makers’ Meetings

Making meets the web: the idea behind Makerhood

At this Wednesday’s Green Drinks, organised by Transition Town Brixton, Duncan Law and I got into a long conversation about community trading schemes. It was fascinating to find that we shared so many values and metaphors. It also made me realise that a longer post on the goals behind Makerhood is well overdue (if you’ve spent any time with us you’re likely to be very familiar with this!).

Karen wrote earlier about how the project came together last year. Many lovely, passionate and talented friends have since come on board to help. We are a diverse bunch – what unites us, I think, is the belief that buying things made locally can go a long way towards solving some of the biggest economic and social problems we face today.

We also share a paradoxical discovery: that the “new”, intangible, global medium of the web can help support “old” local cultures that deal in physical relationships and tangible things. Hyperlocal sites have demonstrated this time and time again (see a great map by OpenlyLocal here). Brixton’s very own Urban 75 – probably the oldest local web community in Britain – is a great example. If this works for our social habits, then why not also for our shopping habits?

d40_091203_002

The metaphor we often use when thinking about it is one of Traditional Village: a community where people rely on each other for their livelihoods. Where acquiring things is a meaningful social experience, not a purely economic transaction. Where our skills contribute to the community, and we derive a sense of identity and satisfaction from this. Where objects have a past and a future (as in, you know how they were made, and what happened to them once they were sold) – where stories of things are part of a broader web of local relationships. This is very different from how we often buy and sell today.

At Makerhood we are building a website to help people in Brixton, Herne Hill, Camberwell and Stockwell to buy things made in these areas. When designing it, we’ve been thinking of a Village Market – the ones you used to have on the main square. Local makers will have their own Stalls where people can shop, chat, and share stories. This is work in progress, so any ideas for features are very welcome!

We would love it if, once launched in a couple of months, the site brought benefits to people who live in our communities:

  • For customers, a fun and meaningful experience whereby they get unique local things
  • For makers, an easy way to sell online locally without having to set up a shop while benefiting from a greater pool of customers
  • For new entrepreneurs, a way to try out a new skill or set up a new business in a low risk environment.
  • For everyone, a great way to meet people locally, and to enjoy making things – one of the most fun and creative activities there are!

If this takes off, there could be great benefits:

  • economic, as our communities become mored40_101202_003resilient in the face of global recession
  • environmental, because no long-haul delivery is involved – we are hoping most will be by foot, bike or environmentally-friendly transport like Brixton’s forthcoming low carbon delivery scheme
  • digital inclusion, as those currently not doing e-commerce could benefit from local support networks to help them get online.  This could be particularly relevant for older people, many of whom have traditional crafts skills.

If the idea proves to work in South London it could be taken up elsewhere. In the long term it could help change our consumption habits all together.  This may seem a long way away, but if you have a plan, it might just happen 🙂

In working towards these goals, it’s been wonderful to be part of a long-standing community movement in Brixton. We are learning a lot from projects such as Remade in Brixton, the TTB Food and Growing Group, London Creative Labs, The Brixton Pound, and Spacemakers, among many others. It is also fantastic to see new initiatives springing up in South London, like the SW Crafts Club and the Crafty Fox market, doing great work promoting skill-sharing and handmade goods.

It is going to be a busy few months for us as we are starting to build and test the website. Next week we’ll talk about volunteering opportunities if you’d like to help. Meanwhile, keep in touch! We’re always happy to get feedback, suggestions and questions.

Images by Emily Wilkinson and Lostwithoutwords – thank you!

What we’ve been up to in 2011… That’s right :)

It’s been a busy start to the year here at Makerhood, so we thought to update you on what’s been going on.

Building on all the great input and feedback we got last year, our lovely developer Andy Broomfield is about to start putting together the first bits of the Makerhood pilot site. We always wanted it to be open source, but there was some debate as to whether we should use Drupal, Ruby on Rails or another platform. Drupal won in the end as we felt it was best suited for building a simple user-friendly interface for the pilot. Andy will be using blocks made by other developers (the beauty of open source!) as well as write custom software for features that are unique to Makerhood.

We have also been working on the legal aspects of the site. Granted, it might not be the most exciting bit. But it is really very important as it defines relationships between users, and also the things one can do on the site, like buying and selling, creating groups and taking part in discussions. We are drafting the User Agreement ourselves (thank internet gods for its collective goodness!) and have had the benefit of some excellent pro-bono advice.

This exercise reminded me of my work at the London School of Economics in 2004 on Digital Business Ecosystems. It was experiment to help small businesses start doing e-commerce – we found that legal issues were a huge barrier for many. Speaking of which, we do not have a legal expert on the team yet, so if you are one and would like to get involved, please let us know.

But, really, isn’t what matters most *what the site will look like* ?  🙂 On that front we are so very lucky to have two wonderful Brixton-based artists making sure that makerhood.com is as pretty as possible. Carolina Valleijo, a wonderful interaction designer, writer and globe-trotter with wealth of digital experience is looking after site design. And the fantastic Emily Wilkinson, an illustrator and graphic facilitator (among many other things) is coming up with great ideas for our logo. We can’t wait to pick one!

We will be writing more about all of this in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, get in touch if you have questions or tips for us – all will be gratefully received