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Thinking about MavenFair - Canadian handmade marketplace

 
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I don't normally read unsolicited emails advertising ... actually, if we want to be accurate, we could rewrite that sentence to say I don't normally read emails.  But for some reason, this caught my eye.  Probably because when I was last selling at the local fibre arts events, I went in with another seller and we combined our names.  Her name started with MA and mine ended with VEN to create Fibre Mavens.  

Anyway.

The website they are promoting is called MavenFair and the email went



Hello Canadian Maker,

We hope that this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy as Canada slowly re-opens in the wake of the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis. It is definitely not back to business as usual for many of us. With the cancellation of the spring and summer craft shows and the limited reopening of smaller retail shops Canadian Makers are seeking alternative ways to sell their creations.

MavenFair offers a simple, affordable and reliable solution to setting up and selling your Canadian handmade creations online. We are a 100% Canadian-owned online marketplace explicitly created to offer Canadian Makers an inclusive and professional environment where you can sell your handmade creations to Canada and the rest of the world. We offer you the opportunity to open your own online shop along side other amazing Canadian Makers. We are all Canadian and all handmade.
...



It looks like it's a bit like a Canadian specific Etsy style service, which is like a virtual mall.  You open your own 'shop' and sell things direct to the customers, only the 'mall' provides a way to process the payments and settle disputes.  

In a way, I really like this idea.  Promoting local is important - even if local means nearly the other side of the world (Canada is HUGE).  I'm loathed to go shopping and would love more ways to buy online (and maybe pickup at the storefront to save on shipping - oh, that reminds me, I need to order more beer). What's more, international shipping has been a nightmare these last few months and I've had to do the drastic steps of requesting refunds when an item didn't arrive in 4+ months.  So I'm very much restricting my online shopping to Canada and the left side of the US.  As a buyer, I'm very curious about MavenFair.

As a seller, I'm not so sure.  

  • Finding out how to search for items was a bit of a pain.  I clicked what I thought, but I was just searching shop names, so I clicked about some more before I found a search box.  I would EXPECT this to be the most obvious item on the front page so that buyers can find what they need immediately, but as it is at the time of writing, it's hidden in grey at a corner of the screen.  
  • I worry about restricting my customer base.  The FAQ says that you don't have to be Canadian to buy, but it's not easy to find this.  The front page is very Canadian focused.  Yes, Canada has over 35million people*, but the world has over 7 billion and at least 3 billion of them are thought to have access to the internet.  35 million seems like a lot less than 3 billion, but I'm not good at math.
  • Then again, I like the targeted audience base as shipping within Canada is so much easier than shipping internationally.  Canada post - although expensive - is a gem!  Great service!
  • Something about the aesthetic of the logo really bugs me.  Don't know why.  Maybe it's the tiny TM thing?  Maybe the colours or the fonts.
  • When I search for "handspun yarn" "yarn" "loom" "woven" "scarf" it returns zero results.  This could tell me that what I have to sell isn't the right sort of thing for this site, or it could mean the search is broken.  "wool" returns results, but the thumbnail quality is horrid - not consistent (but it's also really hard to make it consistent if you don't know what you are doing)
  • It looks like they have integrated PayPal as their payment processing.  This has issues, but PayPal adds an additional level of buyer protection which I'm a huge fan of.  The buyer needs to feel that they can trust the transaction.  


  • There are more issues, but I think they are just getting started and working through the bugs.  I haven't done any research about it outside the site to see how old it is.  

    The thing I like least is it's based on a subscription model.  I don't know if they have the customer base to be worth me paying X dollars a month to host my shop there.  With Etsy, the feels are on-demand.  I pay when I list something and I pay more when I sell something.  But I only pay as much or as little as I use.  I really like that.  The fees I pay Etsy not only let me host my shop there, but they also offer payment processing, advertising, access to their customer base, and they sort out the complexities of international taxation.  I've thought about going on my own, but each and every time I research building my own shop, I understand just how much Etsy gives me for the relatively low fee structure.  

    But back to the MavenFair.  It might be amazing.  I could take advantage of their free trial and sell lots of stuff and get in on the ground floor as they say.    

    Then again, unsolicited email... I really hate those.  

    But I also hate all email, so... I don't know what to do here.  I suspect time is going to be my biggest deciding factor.  I just have too many obligations right now.  Otherwise, I would jump at this as at its core, the values match many of my own.  But I need to whittle down my obligations and focus on the things that I know bring in some income as I have a very big expense arriving this winter.  


    I don't really know why I wrote all this down.  Mostly writing helps me work through and organize my thoughts.  Partly, I'm curious if anyone has bought or sold through this service and what your experience is.  



    *I recently read a survey that 100% of the population of Canada uses the internet, which was impressive since I know so many people who do not!  Then I read that this was an internet survey...  I suspect that given the size of the country and blablabla long list of reasons, it's probably about 75% of the population between 20 and 80 who use the internet regularly.  But that's just a random guess based on my unscientific sample size of people I know.  
     
    r ranson
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    Also from their email

    Why open a shop on mavenfair.ca?

    All Canadian. All Handmade.
    Handmade. It Matters. All of our Makers are living and creating in Canada and offer only handmade goods.

    Affordable Monthly Fees
    No Listing Fees. All transactions in Canadian dollars. The first 3 Months are Free right now! You choose the MavenFair Shop Level that suits you. No contracts. You can easily change your shop level at anytime.

    Marketing & Promotion
    You Focus On Making. MavenFair focuses on marketing and promoting your Canadian Maker Shop worldwide.

    Secure Payments
    PayPal & Secure Servers. We use PayPal and secure servers to manage all payment and personal data.

    Your Brand Your Way
    Branded Storefronts. Personalize your Shop page which is located at your very own MavenFair Shop URL. Promote your physical studio to bring local shoppers to you.

    Open for Business 24-7
    Sell Day & Night. Your Shop is always open for business and customers can shop when it is the best time for them.

     
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    I do like the idea of a Canadian Etsy like marketplace, in principle. But I have a feeling, since this thread has been out there since July with no responses that none of us have ever heard of MavenFair. That doesn't bode well for attracting buyers until the platform becomes better publicized.

    Also a comment on your footnote questioning that result on internet use in Canada. If you use an internet survey to determine internet use, stands to reason it'll be 100 percent. Just sayin'. :)
     
    r ranson
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    I love the idea of this!  Practically speaking, I'm not seeing any motivation to sign up.

    I get an email from them about once a month still.  But I haven't figured out how I got on their list.  It's not an email address I use to subscribe to things, so I'm guessing they farmed it off one of the websites where that email is published.

    There are a few things that really bug me like having a watermark on photos used in an email or front page.  

    The links in the email are blocked by my anti-virus checker for being suspicious and then blocked by Chrome for being suspicious.  

    There's nothing in the section where I would be selling - which makes me worry that they don't have the customer base yet.

    The subscription-based fee seems quite high from my point of view - and I still have to pay the percentage on every sale and the payment processing fees for paypal.  I would have to sell a lot more here than on Etsy.  Which... I'm not sure the site is big enough yet to do the trick.  

    But I do look at the site every now and again and cheer it on.  I hope I can find something worth buying and support them that way.  

     
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