Conscious Crafties is an online marketplace for individuals living with chronic illness, disability or those caring for a loved one who is affected.  Karen, the founder, has been a close friend of TPP long before TPP even existed, and was even one of our first customers!  As such, we thought it would be most appropriate to kick off our first installment of Marketpreneur by doing a Q&A with Karen!

What did you do before you did CC?

I had a flourishing career as a Senior Ecommerce Business Analyst for one of the UK’s biggest women’s retail online companies. I loved gathering requirements and working with technical teams to implement fab user-friendly functionality on their many websites and mobile apps. Although I grieved for the loss of my career after getting sick, I’m grateful for all I learned and I now view it simply as preparation for being able to build an outlet for people who needed a way to show off their own talents.

What gave you the idea for CC?

Suddenly becoming desperately ill, I was in panic mode, how could I ever do a ‘normal’ job again? This was how my little idea to help those who were also losing hope ignited. Meeting other chronically ill people was super emotional as most felt like a failure, that the life they planned could no longer happen. I wanted to try to give everyone back some sort of hope and know that although the path they planned might be taking a different turn, everyone could still feel proud and see they had so much to offer. I wanted to show the world how talented we all were despite our disabilities and give an avenue for us all to regain our purpose, to feel valued again. The idea to create a place to showcase everyone’s talents was born. I built, a marketplace website and supportive community to showcase everyone’s unique creations. A place where people could run their own businesses, on their own terms to manage their energy levels and connect with other experiencing similar life struggles.

How many vendors do you have?

We have approx. 400 ‘Crafties’, some shops are run by several people as each membership includes a family membership (as their lives have been affected by illness too).

How long did it take you to get that many vendors?

We’ll be celebrating our 4th birthday in a few months 🙂

Was it a steady increase in vendors, or was there an event that really boosted your numbers?

There have been many times when I had to close the doors to new sellers due to my own health struggles. It’s super important to look after your existing sellers rather than focus entirely on growth and I needed to ensure I had the energy to be there for the Crafties without taking on more people. We would have grown much quicker had it not been for my own limitations. In later years, I introduced a ‘VIP Shop Waitlist’ for those reaching the closed joining page. This worked really well as created the scarcity mentality and more people wanted to join us. We also had an influx of newbies whenever we appeared in the press and when we had a tiny mention on one of the UK’s top chat shows (This Morning).

What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced with CC?

The biggest struggle was overwhelm (and of course my limited energy levels). I think overwhelm is super common for any of us being a sole’preneurs – creating something wonderful all by our lonesome is super tough. To cope, I implemented tonnes of systems on the site to allow things to work with less effort. There’s no way I would have been able to keep going otherwise. I realised a few months ago that this little idea had grown too big for me alone, so I made the tough decision to find new owners so the Crafties could have a bright and shiny future and I could spend some time recovering and focusing on my health. I was inundated with people wanting to buy the site, but I knew instantly these guys would look after the Crafties and they loved and understood the ethos of the site.

What are some of the biggest successes you’ve had with CC?

Most definitely the support community! It has given everyone new-found friendships with those that understand. Friends often drift by the wayside when you become ill and the additional loss can be hard to bear. It’s not only given Crafties hope and purpose by showing off their talents, but I’ve been told it’s saved many from the depths of despair and they ‘wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for Conscious Crafties’. I hadn’t realised at the time how much of an impact it’d have on the lives of others. One little idea touched hundreds of lives.

Do you have any advice for new marketplace owners, just starting out?

Create a community!:

Give your sellers a feeling of belonging. Your success is almost completely dependant on them. When people fall in love with how something makes them feel they have to tell others about it too.  We have over 24,000 followers across our social media with the amazing help of our sellers. Knowing you are helping people feel good is important for your wellbeing too and can keep you going when things get tough.

Listen to your sellers:

Give your sellers an easy platform to have a voice (we have our Facebook community and Business Forum). Your sellers feedback is super important to ensure you are focusing your time on the things that will help them be more successful and in turn your marketplace.

Find ‘Friendpreneurs’:

Having supportive friends is essential, there will be times when you start to doubt what you are doing and you need people to dust you off so you can keep going. Unexpectedly I’ve met ‘friendpreneurs’ who run marketplaces too. Sharing ideas and your woes with people who understand has been a bit of a lifesaver for me and incredibly exciting too! Chris and Brett from the PluginPros have so many exciting ideas to help us all grow our marketplaces, I can’t wait to see what’s in the future!

That’s it!  We want to sincerely thank Karen for her candidness with her answers, and hope you found this information as insightful as it is interesting!  Growing a marketplace to 400+ vendors is no small task, and we are excited to see what the future brings for the crew at Conscious Crafties!

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