Erin Madeley is the founder and event manager of Perth Makers Market. As a hand-crafter herself, Erin found it difficult to break into the market scene as certain markets within Perth didn’t cater to the exclusively homemade. Perth Makers Market’s point of difference is that you will never find something at one of the stalls that wasn’t made right here in Western Australia. Additionally, Erin has focused strongly on assisting existing and emerging artists, as well as talented school students in breaking into the homemade marketplace.
Can you please give an overview of your business?
Perth Makers Market has been operating an exclusive handmade market at Heathcote Cultural Precinct, along with occasional markets in other locations around Perth. Our markets have a strong community focus, with a special focus on providing free space for community groups and non-profits to engage with the community.
What is the vision for your business?
Our goal is to provide a platform for the talented, high quality handmade crafters that call Perth their home in a family focused, friendly location. Long term it would be great if we could host markets across the Perth metropolitan area and get more people on board with supporting the amazing makers we have here in WA.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business venture?
When I became pregnant the first time I was very ill and I was trying to find a way to keep my mind active. There is only so much TV you can watch and books you can read before you start to go a little crazy! I started becoming more involved in crafting as a way to pass the time. Initially, I learnt sewing and embroidering from my mother, who has always been very creative herself throughout my life and comes from a family full of creative people.
My medium for creativity quickly became… socks! It’s a little unusual, but began when I made a sock monkey for a friend who was having a baby, and I discovered that I love making them. Someone then asked if I sold my sock toys and I figured “why not?”! I then started making more, creating my own designs for different sock animals, and opened an Etsy store and started attending markets as a seller myself. As a stallholder I found it very frustrating when trying to apply to markets with how many of them are run. It was difficult to get into many markets as they have permanent stallholders and therefore don’t take new businesses, communication was poor and the high quality markets in Perth, whilst really amazing events, were way more expensive than someone starting out could afford.
I had been thinking that running a market is something that I could do; and that we could use more high quality handmade market south of the river. Based on my experience as a stallholder, I wanted to create an event with a strong community focus, that showcased the amazing talent of artisans across WA, created opportunities for new crafters to be involved in a large, high-quality market, and has an exciting, vibrant atmosphere to attract thousands of visitors. All I needed was a suitable venue…
In the middle of 2015, when taking my youngest son to the playground at Heathcote I realised that it had the potential to be an amazing venue for a handmade market. At this stage it was still just an idea I had, and I’d not done any research or planning – or even discussed my idea with my husband. I popped into the Museum and Gallery on site and asked the question “do you hire the site out?” The answer was yes, and what did I have in mind? I outlined my basic idea and the response I received was hugely enthusiastic. After putting together some costings, making some agreements with the council for use of the space, and finding enough capital to fund an initial event, we set a date for our first event, 5 months later in February 2016. This left a lot of work to do the organisation, find enough stallholders and promote so that there were enough visitors to make the first event a success.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I was back at work after having my second son and whilst I really liked the people I worked with, I didn’t like the work I was doing. I didn’t feel stimulated and was looking for a way to combine my love for handmade goods, markets, supporting local and my creativity.
Initially, what difficulties did you face?
The process of getting Perth Makers Market off the ground was very difficult and a bit convoluted. Whilst in the past City of Melville did have markets that ran on a regular basis, it had been a long time and no one was exactly sure what process we should be following. I spent a lot of time working with Jana Braddock and Cathy Day from City of Melville to figure out what process we needed to follow, and what documentation we needed to complete from the city’s perspective. We could not have gotten the market up and running as quickly as we did without their help navigating the council requirements.
To reduce the initial difficulty with regulations, we started off by making the market as simple as possible; only stalls, bins, toilets and insurance. Over the course of the year, we then started adding multiple food vendors, music, workshops, more children’s activities and buskers. Each addition adds more complications with regards to compliance with legislation and having the appropriate insurance, and adding a little bit at a time is the easiest way to keep it manageable.
Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?
I have been lucky to have a hugely supportive family behind me. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without them. I have also had some very supportive staff at the City of Melville who have helped me to understand what my requirements which has been immensely helpful.
Were there any major changes you have made to your initial business model?
We haven’t really made many changes to the initial business model except to reduce the limits on the discounted stalls we provide. Initially we were only planning on having limited numbers of discounted stalls, but ended up deciding to provide the discount to anyone who applied for it so we could support more students and new/emerging artists.
What was your initial marketing strategy, and how has it changed?
Initially we advertised anywhere we could afford to, as well as everywhere that we could for free. At every market we have surveyed our visitors to find out where they have found out about the market and adjusted our marketing accordingly. What we have found to be most effective for us is online advertising and Facebook so that is what we focus on mostly.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
The initial stages are hard. Don’t expect things to be easy, but by being persistent and genuine with your customers you’ll get past that stage.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
Honestly, I’m hugely inspired by watching the journey of our stallholders such as Lene from Eiress Jewellery and Erica from Baked by Erica. Both had their first ever market stalls with us and I’ve watched their businesses grow and expand and I can’t see what they get up to next. In terms of other markets I’m inspired by markets such as Finders Keepers and Makers and Shakers. Whilst both are design markets, rather than handmade only like Perth Makers Markets, I think it’s great that they’ve grown to the point that they are in multiple cities and are doing great things for their stallholders.
What do you think your key to success has been?
I think our key to success is that we’re a little different than other markets in Perth in the way we operate. I think it has also been great that we’re open to constructive criticism on how we can continue to grow and improve. The biggest key though I would have to say is customer service.
How do you make the most of your day?
I use lists! It drives my husband crazy. I spend the morning clearing e-mails as much as I can and then I work on whatever needs doing that day. From one market to the next there is a bit of a formulaic approach that can be taken in terms of promotion and making sure all the ducks line up. I then work through my task lists to make sure nothing is forgotten.
When you think of your journey, what is the thing you are most proud of?
I’m really proud of how fast we have grown. It’s been an insane journey but I’m so proud of how far we’ve come. It’s been great to see that Perth is so supportive of the local handmade community.
What is your favourite app?
I’m not sure I have one! I love Instagram as it’s great for seeing what makers are getting up to.
Describe/outline your typical day?
My typical day starts when my kids get me up. After our morning routine I drop them to school and head in to the office. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I work a full day, but Tuesdays and Thursdays I pick up the kids from school and spend time with them either playing or doing household chores. After the kids are in bed I work some more as needed before heading to bed.
What motivates you?
I’m motivated to provide a quality market that has something for everyone. I’m motivated to provide a high quality platform for our stallholders to sell their goods and helping our stallholders grow there businesses.