Interview by Zoe Jewell, Editor
Makerhood is an online marketplace for the craft community in Brixton and surrounding areas. It was set up a year ago and is run by a group of local volunteers. Brixton Blog talked to founder members Kristina Glushkova and Kim Winter about setting up the business and their plans for the future
How did Makerhood come about?
KRISTINA: It originally came out of what seems an obvious idea now. I wanted to find a piece of furniture made locally, but couldn’t actually find such an obvious thing! I kept searching on the net without any success. It was extraordinary. The co-founder, Karen, had also – unbeknownst to me – applied to Spacemakers for a shop in the Granville Arcade selling local makers’ goods, but the application didn’t go through.
At the same time, we could see all the problems going on with global capitalism. Now more than ever it makes sense to get things made locally, for social not just economic reasons. In Latvia, where I grew up, everything was mass produced during the Cold War because the economy was centralised, but people weren’t rich and they had skills, so everyone made their own clothes and furniture, and grew their own vegetables. The whole process of creating things was very communal – we’d have pickling parties in people’s allotments. I’m not saying that the Soviet way of living was great, but it’s about recognising that there are different ways of being, especially in traditional societies less removed from capitalism.
Is there a specific market for this kind of enterprise in Brixton?
KRISTINA: The first question we asked ourselves was whether people actually need something like this. And we realised that actually they do need it. On the street, it’s expensive for makers to have a stall. Talking to Transition Town Brixton and Brixton Pound made it clear how successful they have been with similar goals in this area. We’re not so focused on the environment, but the idea of supporting and creating a local economy along those lines is very important to us. It was very clear that Brixton would be a great place for doing this, because it’s very diverse and creative.
How did you get the project off the ground?
KRISTINA: We didn’t want to apply for funding or investment at first, but to get together people who believed in the idea before anything else happened. It was a hard approach but at the same time it was a communal effort and it was fun. It means we’re not beholden to anyone now. We did apply to Unltd, who gave us £2,500. It didn’t pay for much really, but it was a symbol that people believed in the idea and, crucially, we were able to pay for some of the website.
How have you managed to attract people to sell and buy on the site?
KIM: The site is very obviously attractive to a particular kind of creative in Brixton, maybe younger. But we wanted to reach out to older people too and we really have now got a selection of sellers who are very diverse. DK Darlington, who runs the label Young Fox, was shortlisted for Best Young Entrepreneur in the Lambeth Business Awards 2011. We also have people who use very traditional skills in making their goods. We’re not selective apart from stipulating that the sellers should live or work in the afeas we cover. All food produced also has to comply with Lambeth council’s regulations.
What are your plans for the future?
KIM: We’re trying now to get more people involved and to get better organised. We’ve got new stall applications every day. We’re all volunteers so we’re trying to do it as well as working our day jobs.
We’ve had loads of requests from other parts of London and the UK, so we’re considering how or if we can do that.
We’ve had a lot of positive feedback but the real test now is whether that can translate into more transactions on the site.
We held our first local makers’ forum at the end of November which sold out almost instantly, so there’s clearly a demand from makers for advice and workshops on business development. Hence we’re planning more of these. We’re also talking to Lisa from Brixton Market Traders’ Federation about how else we can work together after the success in setting up the monthly makers’ market in Brixton.
It’s funny, because people often say the internet has made the world bigger, but we’re using it to make a local world.