Building Connected Creative Communities
Bringing Makers & Merchants Barossa to life
After launching co-working hub Workspace Barossa in July 2019, we realised the same model could support the region’s premium artisans and makers. When the shopfront next door became vacant, it was the perfect opportunity to create a new business.
But we weren’t planning an ordinary main street shop. This was an opportunity to create something that would be bigger than the sum of all the parts.
“I saw a lot of duplication happening, especially with small producers and startups. They create, test, and perfect their products. But then they need to market it, find somewhere to sell, message and deal with customers, learn website skills and social media management. That doesn’t leave much time to improve or update products each season. That’s a lot of either time or resources to invest in your business. I knew we could provide a streamlined solution, while championing the authenticity of each individual brand from our region.”
Shelley Cox | Founder | Makers & Merchants Barossa
From little things, big things grow
The concept for Makers & Merchants was to create an ecommerce and retail platform to help regional brands reach customers online and in store.
Thanks to COVID-19, we launched the online business first. With tourism and retail business all but shut down, it was perfect timing to help the founding makers reach customers.
Refining the model
As the business expanded, with new makers and artisans and the opening of the retail store, the benefits to members increased.
Many members were artists and artisans, focused on creating rather than the day-to-day challenges of running a business. For both new and existing businesses, it was soon clear that there were huge benefits.
Small business owners, start-ups, and entrepreneurs often find it difficult to showcase products in a retail environment. Without skills and solid understanding of the retail business model, it’s expensive and risky to open a brick and mortar store.
Not your average shopfront
Makers and Merchants removed the need for individual business owners to overcome the barriers that prevent them opening an online or brick and mortar store.
It very quickly became clear that it was a sustainable model that could support regional growth, especially in areas affected by bushfires, droughts, and COVID-19.
- the cost of the long-term lease and shop fit out
- hiring and training staff
- skilled store management
- efficient point of sale systems and processes
- inventory management
- content creation and social media marketing
- liquor licensing
- ongoing costs like licensing, website updates, and hosting
While the Makers and Merchants team focused on creating and managing the business, members were free to focus on creating and making.
An incubator for creative businesses
Managing and effectively marketing an online ecommerce store takes skills and time, which many creatives don’t have.
For some makers, committing to the membership was the first step in realising they were running a business rather than dabbling in a hobby. They no longer had to put off marketing, finance, and administrative tasks until they had time.
By taking on the day-to-day marketing and selling so they can focus on making, Makers and Merchants also allowed members the opportunity to scale and diversify their offerings.
“Our Makers & Merchants membership means that we have more time to dedicate to our new product development, as well as great opportunities to launch new products. In February, we launched our new Bath and Home Care range. They compliment our Luxe Body Bars, which have been popular particularly over the festive season.”
Libby | Founder and Maker | Barossa Supply Co
Licensing the model and sharing the experience
The challenges Makers and Merchants has overcome and the processes put in place are not unique to the Barossa.
By licensing this model, we’re providing access to a practical, low-cost, business-boosting service, and incubator for product entrepreneurs in all regional areas. Fostering regional entrepreneurship and building the local economy and business skill set makes a Makers and Merchants business a prime candidate for grant support.
Whole is greater than the sum of the parts
By building a collective selling premium, branded, handmade, and regionally sourced goods, you can share the creativity, quality, and story of producers and your region.
Being able to provide a diverse range of products is attractive to visitors, especially those looking for a taste of the region’s creative offerings.
Showcasing items from multiple makers alongside complementary products allows members to leverage each other's audiences, creating a broader reach, and greater engagement.
Building community through collaboration
Makers and Merchants Barossa has shown there are opportunities for collaboration. The retail shopfront model provides a space for makers to run workshops, alone or collaboratively. Inviting the community to attend demonstrations and workshops builds community engagement and helps to build loyal and committed brand ambassadors.
Sharing our knowledge and experience
When we started the business, we knew what we wanted it to achieve. My background and the experience in getting Workspace Barossa off the ground helped enormously. But our success over the last two years has been thanks to the commitment of the makers and the artisans that have embraced the concept.
We’ve experimented, pivoted when we needed to and addressed concerns. Ultimately, the success of the collective is driven by the success of the members.
Launching during a pandemic has thrown us more curveballs than we would have liked. But it’s allowed us to test, to iterate and create a model we’re excited to share with other regional towns.
Please share this article with anyone you think might be interested and if you have questions, get in touch.
If you’d like to know more about the Makers and Merchants model, make sure you’ve subscribed to get our next blog.