|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2368 - September 13, 2010 - ISSN 1539-5065 4 of 6|
In the past few years, the Web has become a viable marketplace for anyone who makes arts and crafts and wants to find buyers for them. Marketplaces like Etsy and Artfire give creative people a chance to find a whole new career - or at least to make some extra spending money through their own talents.
Paul and Cariann Burger believe that a significant part of the art community has been left out of this trend. Paul sees existing venues like Etsy as "craft-centric and female driven," and says he is giving indie artists a place to market their work. Cargoh is a marketplace for independently created works of all sorts, from photography to apparel to street art to furniture design. The creators of these products can post photos and biographies in which they describe their work and their approach.
Cargoh is still so new that many of the categories for merchandise are devoid of products. The Burgers expect that to change soon, however. Since the site's launch, nearly 5,000 users have signed on. "We believe that the seller shouldn't pay anything until they sell a product," says Paul. "As we build our creative community, all we charge is an introductory 3.5 percent transaction fee. No listing fees, setup fees, or membership fees. Eventually, we will implement an optional flat rate, so sellers can choose how they pay us based on the volume they sell."
Cargoh seeks to distinguish itself from competing arts and crafts marketplaces by making the shopping experience as social as possible. The site is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets. To sign up for an account, you can use your Facebook account information, for instance. Each seller storefront page is linked to Cargoh's page on Facebook. It also has the ability for users to upload their favorite music to their store and push the sale to iTunes, as well as video listings for sellers who want a more interactive experience for their buyers.
The community element, in fact, is what Burger finds most exciting about running Cargoh. "When we started building out the concept, we were so excited about getting to spend our days interacting with creative people, and that is the part we really enjoy now," he comments. "The community is still small enough that we, as founders, still have a lot of hands on interaction with our buyers and sellers. We are really committed to listening to them and trying to build the best possible product for the community. Watching the conversation between buyer and seller as they connect over a truly unique item is pretty cool too."
The Burgers, both age 32, aren't artists themselves, though they are creative people and they have many friends who have struggled with their avocation. Cariann studied interior design at The Design Institute of San Diego, while Paul spent ten years working as an Assistant Director on films like iRobot. He and Cariann met on a film set, where she was working as a set designer.
"While we are both very creative, I went to business school, and grew up in a family of entrepreneurs," Paul explains. "Both my parents have done very well for themselves in various businesses both in South Africa (where I was raised) and in Vancouver. So we work very well together, I focus on the business, and Cariann is responsible for everything creative."
Cargoh grew out of discussions the Burgers had with their network of art and design friends, who were frustrated at not being able to get their work into the world. "Dimly lit coffee shops weren't going to be the avenue they needed to be able to make a living doing what they loved. We realized that if we could build a social community of indie artists and designers, we could put like minded buyers and sellers together in one place. The prospects of being able to buy underground creative products from around the world really excited us."
Indeed, Cargoh positions itself as a marketplace for "indie" artists. "We aim to be the fun, social version of what's out there right now," Paul said. "In the end I think it is defined by the community rather than the products, because there is such a cross over between handmade and independent."
Besides its targeted audience, Cargoh is distinguished from other art venues in that sellers have to have their work reviewed and approved before it goes online. "Cargoh is curated to ensure quality, aesthetic and beautiful design in the products we represent. This also helps when matching buyers and sellers. We make sure that sellers are always amongst other sellers of similar quality, and that buyers can find unique items quickly."
Cargoh has its offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has 2 full-time and 5 part-time employees. They work to help artists market and promote their creative products. The fact that sellers join a community of other artists gives them support and added attention that indie artists haven't had, Burger says.
"Etsy has done an amazing job representing the arts and crafts community," he says. "We are striving to do the same for the indie art and design community. The general consensus for an indie artist is to work a "real" job and do what you love on the side, and we are trying to change that. We think of Cargoh as Etsy's edgier, scrappier younger brother."
The Burgers see a bright future for arts and design sales outline, especially because of the sluggish economy. "As more and more people are out of work, we see a huge trend towards DIY culture. People looking to secure their own futures with the talents that they have. On the buyers end, we feel like people no longer want mass produced. People want to use products that come with a story and we certainly try and encourage that. The indie community has been known for setting trends and birthing tastemakers for years and we plan to create a single place where that can continue to happen."
UPDATE 9/13/10: Cargoh is very particular about the items it wants on its site and has moved to a curated process; Paul Burger supplyied AuctionBytes with a link to its page with more information. - Editor
About the Author
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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