My heart has always been with those who follow their dreams and share their talents with the world. No where is this experienced more than with small artisan foodmakers and craftspeople. Theirs is a story rich with insight and background but sometimes things can get a bit too big and busy and those small voices may not ring loud enough to hear. Spend time talking to a grower at a farmers' market, a jewelry maker at a fair, a silversmith at a shop and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
That's why I'm super stoked to let you know that I've teamed up with 1000markets.com. And what exactly is 1000markets, you ask? It's a community of marketplaces, but it's much more than just a collection of products. It's a place for small, artisan businesses to get together and sell their unique products and share their one-of-a-kind stories. I truly love the idea and was pleased as punch when 1000 Market's creator Matt Trifiro asked if I'd be interested. I've known Matt for about a year and was truly moved when I experienced the site prelaunch. So many stories, so many unique items, and of course I loved the food aspect the most. I asked 1000 Market's creator to answer a few questions.
Q: Tell me about you. What were you doing previously? How did this idea for a marketplace based on community, artisan merchants and personal stories come to be?
I have this quirky background that has always been half technology, half humanity. I was a game programmer in my teens, but then I went off and studied philosophy in college. In my late 20s, I founded an interactive television company, but in my 30s I abandoned it for professional cooking school. In some ways, 1000 Markets is the culmination of these diverse forces driving my life.
But even as a child I remember being drawn to the small businesses with artisan sensibilities. I grew up in a little strip-mall-and-tract-home town in Southern California, surrounded by 7-11’s, Burger Kings and chain grocery stores. It was classic “Geography of Nowhere” but I remember riding my bike almost daily to the quirky little record store where I discovered unknown bands from the long-haired owner. And I remember spending countless hours in the skateboard shop where the proprietor waxed poetically about his Gordon & Smith boards and lovingly applied the grip tape by hand when you bought one.
As an adult, I discovered farmers’ markets and street food, and became fascinated by the intersection of commerce and the commonweal. It seemed that no matter where I traveled, from SoHo to Marrakesh, I found the most active, interesting and lively destinations to be the marketplaces and shopping districts filled with small merchants. To me, 1000 Markets is just a natural expression of this real-world phenomenon. My goal is to engage small business and artisan communities in a market-creation process that brings the public market experience to the online world. Hundreds of years before Facebook and MySpace, markets were the original social networks.
Q: In this day of massive distribution channels, big box retailers and mass-produced items, why is it important to bring it back down to a smaller, much more intimate level?
Artisan commerce reconnects us with our humanity. Our designer, Frank Chimero, summarized it this way: “Artisanal selling is the only model of selling things where there's delight on both sides: delight in making, and then delight in consuming. It's a transfer of delight.” I love that phrase, “transfer of delight.”
Q: How do you find the vendors for 1000 Markets? What does someone need to do to join?
Some of our merchants, we hand recruit, like Mt Townsend Creamery. But we also rely on word of mouth and like-attracting-like. We aren’t focused on growth; we’re focused on quality. We evaluate and hand-approve every merchant before they go live, and we keep quality high because we don’t have any problem saying, “Sorry, we don’t feel this is the right place for you.”
The qualifications are simple: You have to be a small company and you have to be producing a quality artisan product. But, if you meet those requirements, all you have to do is go to http://sell.1000markets.com, open a shop where you list 5-7 products and then submit your application for approval. If your shop looks good, we’ll let you in.
Q: Do you have any favorite items or vendors on the site?
I have so many favorites… I can’t believe you’re going to make me pick! We have a running “staff favorites” on our Community page, and I find so much great stuff I could fill ten of those pages a day.
Here are a few I am currently enchanted by:
When I was growing up, I loved metaphorical board games, so I am especially fond of the products by Antiquity Game Crafters. They hand-make each game to order, often from reclaimed wood. Not only are the games fun, but they are great coffee table conversation starters.
I love the artwork of Heather Mattingly of Nola Salvage. From New Orleans, she uses reclaimed debris from hurricane Katrina to fashion upcycled wall art. I also love the original wall art from Cody Brooks at Barbed Wire.
Q: Thank you for answering my questions, Matt. And thank you for allowing me to be a part of 1000markets. I think you've solved the big question about holiday gifts for me this season. Gracias!