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Brookline Crafter Behind ‘I Made It! Market’

Carrie Nardini started “I Made It! Market” to give local crafters more business opportunities. Now the market caters to hundreds of local artists.

Carrie Nardini and Nina Barbuto were at a craft fair at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 when they began talking about opportunity—or the lack thereof.

Both young women are crafters, but at the time there weren’t many places for local people to sell handmade items. The women were on the verge of creating “I Made It! Market,” an organization that now includes hundreds of local crafters, artists and makers.

“It was really the resurgence of people selling and wanting handmade things, but there sort of wasn’t anywhere for those makers to go,” Nardini said. “We thought, ‘let’s just make this happen, and make this happen all the time.’”

Nardini, 35, of Brookline, is now the director of I Made It! Market, which strives to provide local artists with opportunities to grow their own small businesses.

In addition to monthly shows in Bakery Square and holiday-specific shows, I Made It! offers workshops in marketing, photography and sales to help local crafters learn about running and marketing their businesses.

Membership information, show schedules, and more are available on the I Made It! Market website.

“We want the artists to not only be able to sell their wares, but expand their own customer base as much as possible,” Nardini said.

That’s a very important thing for Brookline jeweler Suzi Fiori, who owns Cha-Ching Coin Jewelry. Information about her business is on her website and Facebook page.

“I make my living this way,” Fiori said. “They do a lot of different venues and you reach different audiences. The winter months can be really slow, and when you have an organization like I Made It!, it really helps to keep cash flow moving. I appreciate everything about what they do because they do it well.”

Jessica Graves, formerly of Brookline and now of the North Hills, said the market allowed her to grow her business, Una Biologicals, from a hobby to a fulltime job. She specializes in organic beauty and wellness products, which can be seen on her website and Facebook page.

“You have to build your client base to build your market, and for us, they were very influential,” Graves said. “Doing the I Made It! Market really propelled us.”

I Made It! Market has held about 50 shows since 2007, and now has about 800 members. It has a partnership with Cleveland Handmade. About 90 percent of its market is local.

One of the first I Made It! shows was in the front yard of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. Now, the shows happen every month, all over the city. The next Bakery Square show is Sept. 30.

“We really want to make handmade something that's on people's radars,” Nardini said. “We’re putting something right back into our local economy.”

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Brian Duncan September 11, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Awesome! We love the "I Made It Market" and my wife is always checking in to see where they're going to be. Looking forward to seeing the artists at the Green + Innovation Festival at Hartwood. Keep up the awesome work Carrie.
Carrie Nardini September 11, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Thanks Brian! We hope to see you both on September 30th at Bakery Square.
Zia September 11, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I appreciated the article. But, please be more specific about how home-based businesses - which do not, say, do things like rent a storefront in a neighborhood, buy business insurance, do business lunches in a neighborhood, buy a company van or employ people other than the proprieter - contribute so greatly to local economies or neighborhood vitality.
Erin Faulk September 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Zia, I think you should check out the I Made It! Market website, which is linked in this article. To start, not all of the businesses involved are home-based businesses. Some are, but others started out being home-based, and because of the efforts of I Made It! Market, were able to grow into profitable local businesses in the Pittsburgh area that do rent storefronts, and do employ others. If you've never been to an I Made It! Market show, I have to say, it's quite impressive. The crafters and artists involved are not making rinky-dink Popsicle-stick crafts. They are hand-producing high quality home goods, jewelry, clothing, bath products, and much more that rival what can be found at the local big-box stores. They are buying supplies from local businesses to make their goods, and they are selling their goods back into the community. In the process of doing so, they are helping to foster small business growth in local neighborhoods, and maintaining a sense of community among the buyers and sellers who can help make that growth possible.
T&B T September 11, 2012 at 09:07 PM
You sure you made it? Better check with Obama on that. Haha!
Zia September 11, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Hi Erin, Nice plug! I have checked out these markets and I know they are not just "popsicle" stick crafts. I already said I appreciate the craft and hardwork involved, but I had to ask the article subject to clarify when she talked about regenerating the economy with this sort of activity - most of the people I saw and see at the shows are/were homebased businesses, which is groovy but does not a regenerated main street make! I would agree that crafting could be a viable form of employing yourself and making yourself a living in a not so great economy, which is great...but, sorry, that is just not the same as a a local economy boosting main street business by far. They simply don't consume enough goods and services and employ enough people to have that distinction..which is fine! But why gloss over that fact?
Erin Faulk September 11, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Well, for one thing, the economy isn't the subject of this article. We could talk for hours about how this type of organization does or does not benefit the economy—but this article's purpose is to profile a local person and the successful organization she's created. There's no mention in the article of this organization regenerating the economy—I think Carrie Nardini mentioned it because this type of organization is one of many possible ways to keep business local, and that's part of what I Made It! is trying to do.
Mike September 12, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Why?
ANewDay September 14, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I just saw this on the CMU google alert. Cool !! You go girl !! I used to craft so much but don't anymore and have so much supplies to get rid of that I bet folks in your network can use ...? Now I am looking for a "swap market" or a "give away market" for my craft supplies, so any ideas for me beside the typical EBAY? ...so much to get rid of around here but I do not want to throw things away,.
Carrie Nardini September 14, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Marilyn - you can come to our Sponsorship Kick Off event and bring the items, it's at the Quiet Storm on Sept 24th from 5 - 7 pm or post on our FB page: http://www.facebook.com/imadeitmarket.
Melissa Venneri September 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Awesome job Carrie and Nina!! We are very grateful for what you do, which enables us to have a built in customer base and feature our items in different neighborhoods throughout the city. I am also thankful that I can rely on the IMI! Markets, website and printed items as a viable and affordable way to advertise our secondary business. As the owner of two small businesses, one craft related which involves myself and my husband and one service related business that involves employees and vans, etc, I am truly grateful to have the IMI Markets and other outlets throughout the city. With artists supporting one another and the majority our supplies being purchased at locally owned stores, flea markets, estate sales and auctions, our spending is done on the local level. We support local restaurants, farmers, locally owned stores, music venues and more with the money we make in our crafting endeavors. With my service business, since it is a franchise, all of my solutions and equipment MUST be purchased on the national level from my parent company in Utah and most of my advertising dollars, again are spent on the national level with the Yellow Pages, Angie's List, etc. Although I still try to keep as much of my spending on a local level, I truly believe that my secondary craft business infuses more into the local economy, than that of my full time business. Just my two cents from first hand experience! Thanks again for what you do!! We're proud to be a part of it!!
Carrie Nardini September 26, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Melissa - We couldn't be HAPPIER to have Whimsical Wonders as an artist sponsor and huge fan. We, of course are huge fans of you guys. You keep items out of landfills, support those selling the items and then repurpose them into beautiful jewelry and home decor. WIN! Win! WIN!
Erin Faulk September 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Melissa, thanks so much for sharing your experience! I'll have to check out your work next time I can get to an I Made It! show.

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