As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly focused on creating the best business possible so I can serve in the most meaningful way. It sounds simple, but this vision has allowed my brother Chandler and I to grow Make It into a successful and thriving business. As a result, we have created a lucrative platform for hundreds of artists, makers and crafters (Makies!) to earn a living doing what they love. Plus, all our thousands of customers are able to buy really cool handmade items, and feel great about supporting the community. It’s a really freaking awesome business model because so many people benefit. Positivity, good vibes and sparkly goodness all around!
Last week we received a very shocking and disturbing email. It was an ‘exclusivity clause’ that Signatures (Ontario based producers of the Butterdome and 15 other craft shows across Canada) have created to prevent anyone who does their shows from doing Make It. At first this made me really mad because I felt like they were directly attacking us. Chandler and I have worked our butts off to build Make It, and it felt so unfair that they could do this. Plus we both used to regularly exhibit at Signatures’ shows (Chandler: Ole Originals, me: Booty Beltz) and gladly hand out their promotional flyers at Make It. We saw them as an ally and supported what they were doing for the handmade community. It was always great to see our Makies sell tons at both Make It and the Butterdome. The pie is only growing bigger which is a win for us all!
Once the dust had settled and I calmed down a bit, I began to realize how much bigger the damage of this clause really is. It effects so many artist, makers and crafters because it limits their potential for earning income around the highly profitable holiday season. As someone who used to make my living as a crafter, I know first hand how important it is to be able to sell at multiple craft shows at this time of year. It made up for about 75-80% of my entire year’s revenue!
Signatures wrote their clause in reaction to our announcement that Make It Edmonton is moving to the Expo Centre at Northlands. The kicker is, they sprang it on un-expecting exhibitors after collecting a $200 deposit from them! Not only that, but they quickly created “The Indie Handmade Show” at The Enjoy Centre. This is a way for them to leverage all our hard work establishing the venue and basically try to squeeze Make It out of the Edmonton market. This clause also effects other awesome local shows like Royal Bison and On the Spot Pop Up Sale. Signatures is basically trying to create a monopoly in Edmonton. It’s an ‘us or them’ choice that is completely counter to the handmade indie culture.
In the past week my phone has blown up with texts, phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from concerned Makies. They are freaking out because they don’t know what to do. This clause has created so much unnecessary stress and grief and will undoubtedly cause artists, makers and crafter to loose out on thousands of dollars. Some might even go out of business because of it. Pretty ironic considering their website says: “Since inception Signatures has never lost sight of our founding principles: To help Canadian artists sell their work in a major setting and to treat them with the utmost respect and consideration.”
I’m not writing this because I want to slam Signatures or turn people against them. I just know that there are a ton of rumours and stories going around and I want to share my story and perspective. Last week I spoke to the president of Signatures, and tried to reason with him. I expressed my concern that this clause only hurts our exhibitors, and he replied, “It’s just business, Jenna.” Chandler and I disagree with this statement completely. It’s NOT just business for us. It’s our community, our friends, our Makies! This is why I’ve created additional resources like Make It University, #MakeItTV and my blog. I want to serve and create positive opportunities anyway I can.
We care, and we care a lot. Make It has been an extension of our hearts and we only want to see Makies succeed in every possible way. We are advocates, and have only been able to get where we are because other people have believed strongly in the work we are doing. Our love for the community is sincere and authentic, which is the reason we think people have so much fun at our shows!
The way I see it, there’s only love and fear. I have never seen other craft shows as competition because I’m only focused on what we do and how we can make our shows better. I truly believe trying to hurt others is counter productive as well as a big waste of time and energy. Plus it just doesn’t feel good. Chandler and I see collaboration as the new competition, and that there’s the possibility for everyone to be successful. Bigger pie, not smaller slices!
If Signature’s exclusivity clause effects you, we suggest emailing them directly, sharing this post and commenting below. This is YOUR business, YOUR community and YOUR dream, so be heard! Plus there’s so much power in numbers.
May 8th is the last day to apply for Make It Edmonton and Vancouver, so please make sure you get yours in. Chandler and I are more determined than ever to bring you the best possible shows, and we’d absolutely love to have you there