Visual Arts

Maker Town app links consumers with Northeast Ohio’s creative sector

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Artist Anne Harrill knows she’s fortunate to have kept her business open during a pandemic that shuttered small storefronts nationwide.

Océanne — which deals in vintage-inspired jewelry, apparel and accessories — has been buoyed by a combination of online sales, a $23,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan and a dedicated shop-local movement.

Further support arrived in early November with the mobile launch of Maker Town, a web application created by Cleveland artist Susie Frazier to help consumers find Northeast Ohio’s art-related businesses, boutiques and galleries.

Harrill is one of 498 entrepreneurial artists on the budding Maker Town network. Though the mobile app directs users to artist studios, commercial workshops and other maker-related businesses, it is not an e-commerce site.

Rather, the app — now available through Google and Apple — aggregates regional data to reveal types of handmade products and where to find them. Acting as a shopping concierge with GPS functionality, Maker Town sorts searches by home décor, furniture, jewelry and additional products. Qualifying businesses are viewable by interactive maps, alphabetical lists or Instagram-style messages.

Océanne began life a decade ago in a spare bedroom of Harrill’s home, growing into a modern jewelry and apparel brand now operating from a 2,000-square-foot Gordon Square storefront. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders closed the business from March to June, with online sales now comprising 80% of overall revenue, a figure Harrill declined to share.

“We also sell wholesale, so things have been steady business-wise,” said Harrill, a native of France. “We’ve been featured as a minority-owned business as well, which has drawn some new eyes. We are lucky to be in a supportive neighborhood.”

Maker Town ideally improves upon features found on Etsy, Shopify and similar apps, said founder Frazier. For instance, consumers can shop for makers that offer products at $100 or below. A few clicks navigates users to short company descriptions alongside product images and links to e-commerce sites. Frazier expects the app to boost a transitioning Cleveland maker community impacted by virus-canceled festivals, art walks and flea markets.

“Access to artists is gone with events being shut down, so as a region, where are people getting their touchpoints with local makers?” Frazier said. “We need ways for people to find us without being dependent on physical walk-ins.”

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