The handmade wholesale marketplace IndieMe will be holding a virtual trade show in June. Owner and president of IndieMe, Jackie Adamany, explains, “I talked to many IndieMe members and heard their stories. I saw the trade shows canceling and felt we had to do something for the industry.”
What she’s planned is a week-long online event, June 3-9, 2020, that will feature artisans offering new products and show specials just as they would at an in-person show.
“I know this is a scary time, but it’s going to pass. Consumers want to shop, we need to give them something,” Adamany says.
Adamany hopes that retailers will come to IndieMe to source unique artisan goods to stock their shops for the summer and fall. She also wants to give the artists who sell on the site something to work towards. “We want to give people hope for the future.”
Adamany realized that even if there were trade shows in the summer and early fall, many wouldn’t feel comfortable traveling. “People don’t want to get on an airplane. They don’t want to be in a crowd. It’s too much unknown for them to put money into an airplane ticket or to get a hotel.” An online wholesale event felt like the perfect solution and she feels IndieMe, as a company, is uniquely positioned to fill this role at this moment.
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A marketplace ahead of its time
IndieMe was founded in 1998 as Wholesalecrafts.com by Nancy Vince, an enthusiastic supporter of artisan makers. Vince was a member of an association for crafters in Columbus, Ohio where she had the realization that artists needed a portal to sell their work online. “She was one of the very first. You look at the timeline, she came before eBay was even around,” says Adamany. “She was there, a visionary with very broad skills to make this happen.” Vince also founded the American Craft Retailers Expo (ACRE) trade shows.
Adamany came into the business as a handmade seller. She’d spent years as an auditor at a major hotel chain, then worked as a paralegal, before launching a craft business making fabric handbags. She wholesaled the bags to shops all over the country for a decade doing trade shows and selling on Wholesalecrafts.com.
“During that time I learned a lot about the industry and I knew there wasn’t a lot of information out there,” she says. So she wrote a book for artists about how to sell wholesale, Going Wholesale: A Step-By-Step Approach for Artists and Craftspeople, which she self-published in 2013. Next, she started a consulting business helping artists with their wholesale businesses and she wrote for Handmade Business and Smart Retailer magazines. In 2014 she had the opportunity to interview Nancy Vince for an article. Vince offered Adamany a job during the interview.
Adamany has been working with the company ever since, first part-time, then full-time. She became Vice President a few years ago and in November 2019, Vince asked if she might be interested in buying the company. The sale closed in January 2020. “It was really a no brainer for me,” says Adamany.
In 2016 the company sold the ACRE shows (which were held in Las Vegas and Philadelphia) to Emerald Expositions. And in the same year she and Vince, then semi-retired, made the decision to rebrand Wholesalecrafts.com in order to better appeal to a younger generation. The .com in the name felt dated, and the overall branding needed an update. “The new, younger buyers and younger artists, they’re all independent and it’s all about them, “Adamany explains. “So we shortened it to IndieMe, meaning ‘independent me.’” The IndieMe site runs on a custom-built content management system and Adamany has a team of programmers who create and maintain the site with her.
Today, the IndieMe marketplace serves American and Canadian designers. Categories include handmade gifts and accessories, jewelry, wearable art, body and aromatics, prints, fine crafts, and emerging artists. 675 artists sell on the platform and there are 22,000 registered buyers. According to Adamany, the type of work that sells best on IndieMe is art and craft that has panache. “It’s got to be more personalized,” she says. “It should be an extension of the maker.”
When asked about competing with venture capital-funded wholesale marketplace Faire, Adamany isn’t worried. “At first we were running simultaneously together down the road, but now I think they’ve started to wander off into more of an Amazon look and feel,” she says.
“They’ve grown into a different model where they sell different kinds of products, not just handcrafted. We’re always going to be handcrafted. Period.”
Plus, she says Faire’s fee model is harsh for artists as is their control of the relationship between the artist and the buyer. IndieMe’s flat monthly fee of $39 is easier for artists to handle, and they don’t get in the way of the relationship between buyers and sellers. “Your order is your order. Your buyer is your buyer. We don’t get involved. If you want to connect with them off the platform we give you their information. You’re the business owner and we’ll support you,” say Adamany.
To sell on IndieMe, artists go through a two-step jurying process. First, the staff at IndieMe review the application to ensure that the artistic ability meets various standards including marketability, craftsmanship, creativity, design, originality, and photography. Next, the application is sent to a jury of 50 members including artists and buyers who sell that type of work. “I typically go with what the jury says because they’ve been around for a long time. They know the business and they know what will sell,” Adamany says.
The goal is to provide a reliable wholesale marketplace for makers. “It’s a great tool for someone who’s an artist and wants to sell wholesale, period,” Adamany explains. “You don’t have to worry about having your own website. With IndieMe you know you’re paying $39 a month and that’s it. Your site is going to be running every day and you’re surrounded by handcrafted wholesale artists. I think it’s a great asset for people to have in their arsenal.”
Details for the virtual expo
The Virtual Expo is currently scheduled for June 3-9, 2020, but the date can change as needed.
“The beauty of having a virtual show is that if we find out mid-May that stores won’t be opening soon, we can just move it and it’s no problem,” Adamany says.
Artists who are already members of IndieMe and wish to participate in the Virtual Expo pay $195. After the event, they receive a three-month credit to cover the cost of selling on the platform. New artists who aren’t yet selling on IndieMe pay $295 and then received a year’s credit to sell on the site. Buyers will register to attend the virtual expo so that they can peruse just the artists who are participating.
“At some point during the summer our buyers are going to start thinking about the fourth quarter,” Adamany says. One goal of the virtual event is to help with that. “How are they going to fill their shops for Christmas? A lot of artists right now are busy making. They’re creating new lines and new products they’re planning to debut at the Expo.”
Offering this kind of virtual special event is something Adamany has been thinking about for a long time. If it goes well, she’s hoping to do it again, making these events a regular part of the IndieMe schedule.
“We’re virtual. We have 22 years of virtual experience, and we’ve produced over 28 physical trade shows. We know this industry,” Adamany says. “Handcrafted is all we do.”
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. Abby has an undergraduate degree in history from Johns Hopkins University and a masters degree in education from Harvard. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts with her family.