Goodsmiths is open to buyers and ready to make more moves
Goodsmiths on Wednesday opened to buyers, featuring some 600 shops and nearly $250,000 in inventory.
The "Marketplace for Makers" is now open to buyers. Goodsmiths, a website for crafters to buy and sell their handmade goods, on Wednesday opened its virtual doors to shoppers for the first time.
Though Goodsmiths co-founders James Eliason and Levi Rosol characterized Wednesday as a "soft launch," in part because Dwolla was the only payment option immediately available — PayPal will be added in the coming weeks — it nonetheless marked the most significant milestone to date for the Des Moines-area startup, which was founded in early 2011.
And with the site now live for buyers, another major development may be just around the bend. Rosol said by phone Wednesday that Goodsmiths has a six-figure angel round in the works. "Going live has an impact on that," Rosol said of the potential funding, which he declined to divulge the source of, "so we're doing all we can to make the best situation for everyone involved."
No "Etsy clone"
As we first reported about Goodsmiths (then Craft.ly) in early 2011, the startup came about when Eliason's wife (then fiancee) first got into crafting and was exploring the options available for selling handmade goods online. Goodsmiths initially launched as a property of Eliason Media but eventually became its own LLC, and Eliason and Rosol dedicated themselves to the project full-time last fall.
"Once we started doing the research and looking at, you know, 'Who's out there right now? What are they offering? And is there a way for us to make it better?' I think once we started looking into that, we decided that this is something that we want to do," Eliason said.
Who's out there, most notably, is Etsy, the current king of craft commerce sites. Others like ArtFire and, to an extent, Bonanza, also compete in the same space. But Goodsmith's isn't out to be what Eliason calls an "Etsy clone." "That's not necessarily the marketplace that we're going after," he said. "I think once we launch some people will kind of see what that means."
Goodsmiths is determined to distinguish itself in a few key ways.
The first is community. Eliason (far left) and Rosol (near left) say they learned while doing market research that many sellers are dissatisfied with the community features — or lack thereof — offered by other sites. So Goodsmiths has made community a priority, doing things like enlisting the services of a team of bloggers to help engage users.
Goodsmiths also seeks to separate itself from the competition with its pricing structure. The site charges no listing fees or monthly fees. The only fee associated with selling through Goodsmiths is a five-percent transaction charge (currently discounted to two-percent as part of a promotion) paid by the vendor for a successful sale. "We're not trying to nickel and dime our sellers with these fees just to get out there," Rosol said, "so we offer a free service for them to list and to sell their items."
The last point of differentiation is group-purchasing power. Eliason and Rosol are careful to distinguish the sort of group-buying their site offers from the type facilitated by daily deal sites like Groupon. They portray the group-purchasing on Goodsmiths as more similar to what's available through Kickstarter in that it allows a crafter to secure customers in advance.
"Really, it gives sellers the opportunity to find the customers before they go and make the product," Rosol said, "saving them more money and then, in turn, rolling those discounts or that savings down to the buyers."
Though Goodsmiths distances itself from Etsy and other similar sites in some ways, the site also offers sellers the ability to import their stores from Etsy. That, Eliason and Rosol say, has provided a boost to Goodsmiths' seller count. The site opened to sellers in early February and currently features more than 600 shops with close to $250,000 worth of inventory.
It's all supported by a Goodsmiths team that consists of four full-time employees, has a couple more part-timers and is looking to expand. Rosol said the company is actively looking for a full-time front end developer, plus a part-time community manager and interns.
In May, Goodsmiths plans to relocate from its current spot in Urbandale to the Valley Junction neighborhood of West Des Moines. It's an area that Rosol says has more "artsy, craftsy stores." It's also an area with ample space to accommodate the possibility of continued growth. Which is precisely what Goodsmiths has planned.
"I think there's so many holes in the marketplace that we see, and we're hoping to capitalize on a lot of those holes," Eliason said. "And I think that we will."
For more on Goodsmiths, watch the short demo video below or check SPN's initial story on the startup: "Eliason and Rosol launch Craft.ly - Handmade goods meet group buying".