In this episode of Executive with a Cause, host Tammy Ven Dange chats with Julie Nichols, Founder of Handmade Canberra.

Markets may not be a new concept, but when Julie Nichols, a trained milliner noticed there wasn’t a space for high-quality, handmade goods in Canberra, Australia, she decided to make one herself. The Handmade Markets are now iconic for their range of products and offering a platform for hobby and career product makers. In today’s episode, Julie discusses the value of providing resources to support small businesses, as well as the art of matching business with buyer, even when the demographic is broad. Julie also provides advice to potential makers, or those looking to replicate her social enterprise model, and emphasises the need for community in creating a sustainable business model.

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IT in Plain English

It can feel as though compliance activities are never-ending for organisations, and Purchase Card Industry (PCI) compliance may seem like just another box to tick on a very long list. However, in this edition of ‘IT in Plain English’, Tammy explains the importance of ensuring your business is up to scratch when handling payment data, or risk losing the ability to process payments. An important wake up call for Not for Profits and businesses alike.

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Topics from this episode:

● 0.00 | Intro
● 1.00 | The origins of Handmade Canberra
● 4.15 | Defining ‘handmade’
● 7.00 | The logistics of the Handmade Markets
● 11.00 | Identifying as a Social Enterprise
● 11.40 | Creating a community
● 13.00 | Improving marketability
● 15.45 | Business through the Pandemic
● 19.40| Pivoting to a virtual market
● 22.40 | Changing the fee structure
● 24.36 | Support from technology
● 27.00 | Maximising stallholder’s financial success
● 28.30 | Aligning product and market
● 33.50 | Plans for the future
● 36.00 | Expanding the reach
● 36.40 | Competition
● 39.11 | Advice for potential makers
● 42.15 | Building a community from a social enterprise
● 44.40 | Tips to being a better business
● 47.30 | IT in Plain English

Quotes from Julie Nichols in this episode:

“Talk to people around you, talk to people that have done things before you and get their advice and use the advice that works for you”

“If you want to create a community from a social enterprise, listen to people, have a business plan and know what you want to achieve and be prepared to change that if you need to. Listen to people, take all the advice, and then roll out what works for you”

“Don’t be afraid to take it slowly, ask for help, and try something and have it fail”

“You should start somewhere a little bit smaller, so that by the time you get to an event as big as ours, you’re really confident in what will sell, and what you’re selling it for and everything is polished”

 “We throw out big ideas all the time, and we’d love to do something where we went Australia-wide and did conferences and coaching, and we could do all that. But essentially the crux of what we do is connect the stallholder or maker with the person who wants to buy the product. So if it falls within that it stays on the possible to-do list, and if it doesn’t, then we need to let it go”

“I think competition is a very healthy thing, and it’s never really worried me. It’s taken me a few years to get to a certain place, but what we do is great, and I’m really invested in it and proud of it..and so I never really see them as competition, we just do what we do, and do it well”

“We do actually have some big plans. This year is just about getting back to where we want to be (pre-pandemic), and then we’d like to look at food and wine tourism…and we also have plans to provide better business support resources”

“One of my favorite conversations is one time I found myself walking around the market…behind two ladies, and they were having a discussion about the fact that they didn’t think things here were handmade. So I couldn’t help myself. I had to stop and ask them. They said, “well, it’s just too good. Like it’s quality, it’s too good”. They just had trouble believing. I asked them who it was specifically, and I took them to the person. We had a great conversation. They thought it was fantastic. They were really able to get the story behind the product”

“Markets have come a long way, we still have our farmer’s markets and our craft markets, there’s always a spot for those markets still. But around ten years ago, all the bigger design markets started up around the same time around Australia. It was realised there was a place for a higher-end product, rather than ‘trash and treasure’ style items”

“I don’t know how you’d run a business, and not create a community. For me, it was the crux of why you would do something. If you’re running a business, you need to be feeding your family and paying your employees, but if you’re not sustainable as a business then you can’t continue to go on”

“Photographs are important, and how they write their bios are important. And those things have never been as important as in a pandemic, because you can’t see something physically, so all you have to go off is that photo and how they write that. And how their website is and if it’s functioning properly. And it really matters to us because then that reflects on us as a business as well, because if our stallholders don’t do well, then we don’t do well. We’re linked”

“We spent a lot of time in the last couple of years looking at what business resources these people need and can use, and how we can get it to them”

“It’s worked really well for what it is. I don’t think anybody could replace the feel and the atmosphere and talking to people face-to-face, and the smells and tastes. And that won’t go away, but for what it was at the time, it worked fantastically”

“We need to have a little bit of everything, because we’ve got a bit of everybody walking through the door as well…but we still spend a lot of time targeting the people we think will match the stallholders we’ll have at the event”

“We used to say ‘if you’re trying to sell to everybody, you’re selling to nobody’. But then we spent some time looking around the market and realised there’s probably a bit of everybody here, so we really need to look at who we’re offering stalls to as well. So you can come to the market and buy a $10 pair of earrings, and you can also come and buy a $10,000 ring, because there’s a market for that too”

 Links & Resources

  • Learn more about Handmade Canberra and its stallholders
  • The next Handmade market is July 30-31. You can follow event updates on their Facebook
  • Follow Julie on Linkedin
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