Makerhood has many partners and collaborators who work with us to promote the work of local makers and offer them special discounts or exclusive opportunities. So we thought it was time to shine a spotlight on some of them. Here, Anita Thorpe, owner of Diverse, an independent gift shop in Brixton, explains how she has benefited from her collaboration with Makerhood.
Tell us about how you started your shop, Diverse.
I was a self-employed trainer in the not-for-profit sector, training managers and their staff in how to do their jobs more effectively. I also traded at Brixton Market in Brixton Station Road at weekends, selling sterling silver jewellery. This was seen to be quite risky at the time, selling silver jewellery on a market stall in Brixton – because of Brixton’s reputation at the time – but it went really well and I realised it could work as a shop.
So I started my first shop in 1999 at 54 Atlantic Road. I was there for six years, then at 62 Atlantic Road for five years, then at 65 Atlantic Road for one year! Then the opportunity came up to be somewhere more central, on Coldharbour Lane, so I’ve been there since Christmas.
How did you get involved with Makerhood?
I got a call from someone asking if I could do a presentation at a Makerhood meeting. But I was still running training courses and I was doing a training session in the Midlands, so I asked Jane Doxey, with whom I was working at the time, to do the Makerhood meeting instead. Jane did the meeting and developed the link with Makerhood.
Then at Christmas 2012, Jane suggested bringing in local makers to sell in the shop. We’ve always bought from individual makers as well as from gift companies, but had never featured the makers in this way. So we set up our Makers in the Hood promotion – mainly but not exclusively with Makerhood makers. It was phenomenal – it worked really well. We got a lot of attention through the press and social media – one of the benefits of partnering with a local initiative is it creates a story.
So we did it again in the spring – we didn’t sell quite as much as at Christmas but it still went well. We learned from that, and when we did the Makerhood promotion this Christmas we had stricter criteria for inclusion (Makerhood members only), an interview procedure, and offered some higher value items.
What have been the benefits to you of collaborating with Makerhood?
- Giving customers what they want – they like to hear about the provenance of what they’re buying and the story behind local makers.
- Press/publicity – featured makers and Makerhood spread the word through social media and press. Sometimes makers come into the shop with their entire family!
- Helping people to learn – this can be infuriating sometimes but I enjoy helping the makers to become better business people. That makes for an easier and more profitable relationship for both parties.
- Helps keeping both the makers and my business in touch with trends and needs – I can give the makers customer feedback; they give me more insight into how things are developing in the creative world.
- I’m a showcase for Brixton talent – as the area gets more visitors, this is important – and it helps keep money in the local community.
- The work is unique – it’s not all over the high street; that gives my business a point of difference.
- I get to make links with other businesses – for example, I had a call from a maker about another gift shop that might be interested in working with local makers in a similar way.
- Positive perception of the business – partnering with local people really helps to integrate your business in the community. I often hear people referring to Diverse as “their” gift shop!
- Social responsibility – it’s a way of building and giving back to the community that supports your business.
So what would be your advice to other businesses considering collaborating with Makerhood?
I’d say get involved! You will gain as much personally and as a business as the makers will, and on so many different levels – including the bottom line! It will affect people’s perception of your business in a very positive way, and help raise your profile.
I’d be very happy to talk to anyone who is wondering whether to become a Makerhood partner.
Diverse is at 390 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LF. You can follow Anita on Twitter @diversebrixton