Bainbridge handmade items get a boost from entrepreneur’s website

Tara Powers-Hausmann is a champion for Bainbridge Island handmade items

Tara Powers-Hausmann was an editor in a past life, but now, as she puts it: “I’m a stay-at-home mom and a champion of handmade things (on Bainbridge Island).”

She had long talked about needing a project to take on, but with children 9 and 12 years old her ambition was forced to take a back seat until this year.

It took her a few months to set up her online business, MadeonBainbridge.com, which, while showing promise as a supplemental income, is still in the infancy stage since debuting in March.

Powers-Hausmann has established an online business that offers products made only on Bainbridge. She either purchases the goods outright or sells the creator’s product for a wholesale-to-retail commission.

Her entrepreneurship was triggered by awareness that the number of actively creative people – mostly women – on Bainbridge is proportionally much greater than in most communities.

“I realized that there was no shortage of people here to supply me with products to sell,” she said. “And most of them are real nice, high-end things. In many cases, they weren’t merchandizing their creations.”

She researched the Internet and discovered that her idea of online marketing and selling only homemade goods was a novel one. The Made in Washington brand is a similar concept except that most of the goods are sold in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

The phenomenal success of Etsy, the national online site (think eBay) for buying and selling handmade items, also encouraged her.

The challenging part of getting the business started was learning how to create a multi-layered retail Web store that was customized for her product. It also had to be professional and seamless enough to avoid the blunders that often discourage customers from returning to a site that debuted prematurely.

She wasn’t sure at first if the “homemade” approach would catch on, but now believes it has because of her emphasis on selling primarily to people living here. Most of the buyers are islanders, though “a lot of people are using it to send things off the island,” said Powers-Hausmann, who has lived here for 12 years.

“I’ve had a lot of grandmas buy stuff to have it sent off the island. I did a good amount of business on Mother’s Day, too.”

Kathy Turner, who along with Katie Sweeny owns K&K Handcrafted (bath and body products) on the island, said their use of MadeonBainbridge.com has been a boost.

“It’s been great and we’re getting more and more orders through her,” Turner said. “And we love how she is incorprating other handcrafted items on the island.”

Powers-Hausmann is satisfied so far with the positive response she has received from artists and customers.

“The word is getting out there,” she said, “but it really has grown itself at this point. It’s a supplemental income now, but there’s definitely more out there. I just need to do more marketing.”

She said “there’s really no big risk right now” because she has been conservative with her inventory and her overhead costs are small when compared to a regular retail store.

“That wouldn’t work for me because of having to rent a space and the overhead would mean I’d have to compete with machine-made products,” she said. “They are priced down compared to the handmade items.”

What’s most enjoyable, she said, “is just working with all these great people. It’s easy to believe in them and their products, and it’s a lot of fun to showcase them.”

Yes, the best of both worlds – running a virtual business with people you like.

Handmade for you?

Contact: (206) 915-6636; taraph@madeonbainbridge.com; 9453 Olympus Beach Rd. NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

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