A good story behind a brand is really important to us. We love local brands and small entrepreneurs who have just started out. We prefer Amsterdam-based makers who are into sustainability and of course we like products that look good. Sanne, Siem and Georgia are the people behind The Maker Store.
How did you start out?
Georgia: ‘We started with the Makers Market, at the end of the month here in De Hallen. The concept is basically the same, only at the market we can offer a stage to brands that are just starting out. There we don’t need stock. At a certain point the space behind the market was available and we were offered a permanent space with the same concept. For about a year now this has been called The Maker Store (previously it was known as the Local Goods Store)’.
What are your roles?
Siem: ‘I run daily operations, admin, all that kind of fun. So, I make sure everything runs smoothly. Or, at least I try. Also, I’m part of the Uncover Lab (the tattoo shop for your stuff, where you can design a laser cut engraving on various items, like a Moleskine or even a laptop). Then Sanne curates the products in the store. Sanne: ‘I keep in contact with designers. I tell them how their product is going or if they should perhaps make adjustments. And finally, Georgia organises the Makers Market. Besides this, we have a team of sales assistants, who confidently tell the stories behind the different brands.
How do you find the right makers?
Sanne: ‘We’ve been lucky because these days the makers come to us. The story behind a brand is very important, as well as a focus on craftsmanship and a commitment to sustainability. We prioritise smaller brands over the big boys. The only exception is Tony Chocolonely, which is big but still an Amsterdam-based brand (Red: Tony Chocolonely is a chocolate company based on fair wages. Tony, the founder put himself on trial for slave trading, when he found out the chocolate he was producing involved slave labour. He tried to get himself convicted, but justice didn’t prevail. So, he decided to make his own chocolate brand that is as honest to workers and the environment as possible.- Red) We work really closely together with our makers. A great example is the brand Monsak, a leather bag company. If a customer wants a design that’s not available at that moment, I just call Monsak to ask if they can make adjustments. They also do workshops so we sometimes send our customers over to make their own leather bags.’
Are there any products that you didn’t think would work but actually did?
Sanne: ‘We work with an illustrator called Eat Mielies. She makes illustrations for cards, t-shirts and mugs. Some of the designs are a bit indecent, on the brink of being deplorable. Cards like: I love your penis. We didn’t really know if that would work. Because it’s a bit weird. But we see people laughing in the corner at the card stand all the time. Sometimes they shamefully turn the card upside down at the counter, to make sure no one sees what they buy. We find that quite funny. Also, there are people who buy one flavour of Tony Chocolonely and then come back to buy all the different flavours. We had stuff like cocktail ice creams that worked really well. Or the gin mayo, for example, which has become an absolute hit’.
What makes a product ‘work’?
‘Good design and a good story. And it has to be something original that you haven’t seen before. We advise our makers on sales. Sometimes we see that with a new design, the sales really go up. So we focus on giving tips or helping them use their network. We really want our makers to get the best out of their business. We often look to see if we can help them scale up. From this month onwards we’ll be organising the Makers Meetup, where our successful makers can inspire and teach others about what works well.
Uncover Lab is also an example of business that works well within the shop. You can laser cut a design within a few minutes and have a nice talk with the designer. We recently also started out with an embroidery machine. You can bring in your own clothes (or something bought in the store) and embroider a design on it. We try to make it personal.
What is the atmosphere likein De Hallen?
It’s a bustling place full of different stores and artists. There is always something going on. Of course, there is De Filmhallen, but there are also concerts and other events. And of course, The Maker Market. You won’t see a chain store or a franchise in De Hallen. It’s based on small and creative entrepreneurs and craftsmanship. These are all things that we also find important, so we fit in really well.