Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The CraftStar Press Kit: A Handmade Boutique

https://thecraftstar.com

A Handmade Boutique ‐ Where Every Piece Is A Story

Press Kit
April, 2013 




TheCraftStar Story

The CraftStar has recently been referred to as the “heir apparent” for handmade goods, and is a crafting/handmade community that is dreamed of, devised by, and led by crafters. Community is strongly emphasized at The CraftStar, who believes strongly in the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”.

You are not going to find mass-made goods at The CraftStar, but you will find a passionate, ever growing group of artisans, an amazing selection of handmade items ranging from kitchen goods to wedding jewelry and a fun and lively atmosphere. There isn't much you can’t find on The CraftStar. Think of it as a handmade department boutique with products for everyone in your life: kids, pets, parents, spouses, gifts for your friends, and of course, treats for yourself!

The CraftStar is committed to handmade artisans, and works closely with their sellers to create the ultimate handmade shopping experience. The CraftStar understands how important social media is in today’s online shopping environment, and they have a team that is dedicated to getting products visibility.

About the Founder and The Craftstar

My name is Bethan Davies. I'm a life-long crafter and a producer in the entertainment industry for over 25 years. A couple of years ago, I was working for Ryan Seacrest, and in a case of bad timing (it was a great job), I got very ill which forced me to leave the job. Not one to sit around doing nothing, I got out the crafting supplies! After I felt a bit better, I went back to work and set up another show for an 80’s rock star, but I was getting increasingly sick as time went on. Again, I had to leave. I spent months on the couch while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me, and with no energy to do anything else, I became totally engaged in crafting again. As time went on, I got better and started consulting for a premiere TV commerce channel (HSN), where I learned about tele-commerce and e-commerce.

I threw myself into my love for crafting. I set up shop on a major site (Etsy) but became more and more disheartened by the amount of resellers allowed and Etsy’s dismantling of the "community" aspects of the site. These resellers were drowning out the handmade sellers and undercutting our prices. And I believe a community environment is crucial for hand makers, which was missing from Etsy. Also, something else boggled me, the site also featured vintage. While I think vintage is lovely, a dress made in a factory in 1980 and being resold is not handmade! Fortunately, I knew I wasn't alone. Other handmade sellers were tired of going unnoticed in a sea of resellers and vintage, too. I decided to do something about it and Ta- dah! The idea of The CraftStar was born!

We have LOTS of plans up our sleeves for The CraftStar that we will introduce as the site matures. *Very exciting and totally unique plans* that will only enhance the handmade community and your ability to get your shop noticed! With my background in crafting and production, and a great tech and marketing team, we believe The CraftStar is going to help you be a SHINING STAR!

Q&A With Founder Bethan Davies by The Craftstar Seller Rustic Design 

What was the inspiration to start your own eCommerce website?

I'm a lifelong crafter, and have tried pretty much everything you can think of at some point! I go through creative phases, right now it's encaustic art and jewelry, but my cupboards are full of (mostly half-finished) pieces of quilting, sewing, stamping, embroidery, watercolors, you name it, you'll probably find it in there somewhere. When I went through my mosaic phase, it was quite funny, as I basically mosaiced anything in the house that stood still long enough. It was a VERY colorful place!

I was selling on Etsy a couple of years ago and was ill at the time and unable to work, so I spent A LOT of time in the chat rooms, making friends, and to be honest, making most of my sales. My background is entertainment production and business, so when I saw Etsy slowly dismantling the community features on site, a bell went off in my head. I truly believe that community is very important to crafters. Crafters / hand makers have a tribal nature, as we would say in the biz. Soon after that bell, I was asked to do some consulting for the Home Shopping Network. I learned a lot about tele-commerce, e-commerce there and another bell went off in my head! To get on a platform like HSN or QVC, you need at least 10,000 of any one item. There's no way a real crafter is going to pull that off. So, it got me thinking of starting a community based crafting site, based on a broadcasting model. Which is what we have done. We have

the ability to go LIVE on site to sell, to do tutorials, to do anything we want! While we're focusing on recruiting sellers and attracting buyers at the moment, there are plans in place, and a calendar being solidified to really kick the LIVE element into action. As a crafter and a producer, this is my dream. I REALLY believe we can achieve something very unique here at The CraftStar.

What makes your site different from Etsy? How is your site an improvement?

I think the biggest difference, besides the obvious size, is that we're a site built by crafters and run by crafters. We understand the handmade community, which leads us again to the "community" word. As a whole, The CraftStar community is very important to us, as we believe in the old adage "it takes a village to raise a child." We're new, the shops are new, but together we have the opportunity of creating a hugely successful site, which someone recently referred to as the "heir apparent" last week. The other main differentiator is we're handmade and handmade supplies only - we don't carry vintage. I never could understand what vintage was doing on a site dedicated to HANDMADE. Another is our LIVE broadcast ability. I believe this is a winner. And our use of social media that I’ll go into more detail below.

What are your plans for the future of the site? 

A better question: what AREN'T our plans? We have a few unique features being built right now that we've already hinted about, some we haven't, and some I don't want to mention until we're ready to go with them. Right now, the techs are building "The Trading Post" and it's awesome! If you have an item you are interested in trading for something else, you can put it on the Trading Post. You can also request a trade with someone else for a particular item. It's a very unique and quite complex system technology wise, so I'm very excited watching it being built. Items will be able to be traded directly, and The CraftStar won't consider these, as "sales" so won't take a commission fee. Added to this will be a form of Etsy's old Alchemy. They dropped it, promised to bring it back, but haven't. We ARE bringing it back, just with a different name.

We are also launching "Rising Stars" which is aimed at kids, tweens, and teens. I believe we (as a group of handmakers) are responsible for introducing and / or instilling the passion of our work to the next generation. We will be doing LIVE tutorials with both professionals and the kids themselves hosting these throughout the summer. If people can't catch them live, they will be able to view them from a video library. I think we're all going to have so much fun with this, because really, all ages can participate. While we'll be breaking it down into kids, teens, and tweens - it is equivalent to Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. So for instance, I would be interested in watching Level 1 of crochet because I never could get the hang of that! Added to this is my passion for history. We're going to sneak some history lessons into some of the tutorials. As an example, we might do a Digital Art tutorial based on Leonardo da Vinci. Shhh…we don't want the kids to know we're going to teach them something while they're having fun!

A common complaint with Etsy is their lack of Customer Service - how does your site improve upon this? If you grow to the size and scale of Etsy, how do you plan to adapt your customer service to still meet a high standard of quality?

Our biggest compliment by far is our customer service. But before I get into that, I want to be clear, that I don't want The CraftStar to become Etsy. It drives our money people crazy, but there's no way around the huge investment issue. If you want to grow a huge company, you have to get huge investment. At that point the company is run by investors, which means your passion means nothing. That is not going to happen here at The CraftStar. I am way too focused on what I want to do and where I want us headed to be told by some banker in New York that we have to add vintage to the site to get the numbers up. Nope.

I would rather continue to spend (literally) every penny I have saved through my life in making The CraftStar the best selling and buying venue for HANDMADE. We will need investment at some point, but we will be very careful with who we go with. Back to customer service: we're all contactable here at The CraftStar through email, Forums, messaging. I spend many hours a day personally replying to emails. As the site grows, this is getting harder to do myself, but there will always be a human element to The CraftStar. I've already taken on more people to help with this.

What is your top selling item category (categories)? Why do you think it’s (they are) so popular?

Our top selling categories are bath and body and jewelry. But that's because our bath and body and jewelry shops are very good at promotion.

How do you insure that items listed on your site are not mass-produced? 

Again, although we're new, I have closed down several shops already. If I (or any of our team) see something suspicious, I send an email. If the answers aren't persuasive or proof that the items are handmade, I close the shop. Simple as that. I have also closed shops due to bad customer service. While this may sound crazy as a new site, which is trying to attract new sellers, if someone isn't keeping customers happy, I don't want that reputation to taint any of our other sellers. I have no hesitation in doing whatever needs to be done to keep The CraftStar in great standing.

What additional features do you have that I haven’t mentioned above?

I think while it's not a tangible feature, the most important feature not mentioned above is: PASSION. We honestly love what we do. We had such a bumpy beginning, that if I didn't truly believe in us as a company, I would have packed up and closed long ago. Many tears have been shed, loads of sleepless nights, lots of wasted money, etc. to get to where we are now. When I believe in something, I won't give up. Many people that saw the mess at the beginning (when we had a disastrous tech team) are coming back and are VERY surprised that A: I'm still alive (!) and B: we're still as passionate as ever. It HAS been a long road, and at times a level of stress I NEVER want to go through again, but we're not going anywhere except up!

For further information about The CraftStar, please contact: Lara Meiojas – lara@thecraftstar.com

We’re receiving many requests for interviews with The CraftStar Founder / CEO Bethan Davies. If you are interested, please email me to arrange a mutually beneficial time.




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