Mike Salguero on BostInnovation: CustomMade and the Custom E-Commerce Movement
It’s only Monday, but it’s already been a great week for spreading the CustomMade word. Hot on the heels of Sunday’s NorthJersey.com feature on CustomMade, CEO and co-founder Mike Salguero has written the first article in BostInnovation’s featured series for the week on the Boston area’s flourishing custom e-commerce industry. Mike looks back at the impetus behind the Arts and Crafts movement of a century ago and forward to the opportunities the internet offers to explain the relationship between individualism, e-commerce, and customization in today’s marketplace.
By Mike Salguero
Custom e-commerce is movement as much as a shopping trend.
Just as the turn of the last century brought the advent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the 21st century shopper has a renewed interest in, for lack of a better word, humanity. Arts and Crafts Style was a reaction against the mass production of the industrial revolution; a return to handicraft and the simplicity of traditional design. Since it was all about the relationship with the craftsperson, that Maker’s choice of materials became central. Arts and Crafts pieces were lauded for their human thumbprint: exposed joinery, wood grain, and functionality in design.
A hundred years later, we’re seeing a similar trend – “buy local”, “go green,” “Do-it-Yourself.” Maybe the 21st century shopper is a more conscious consumer. Maybe we’ve just grown to miss the human handprint in a culture of McDonald’s mass production. Or maybe the internet just makes it that much easier to live out the individualism that’s the trademark of our time.
Today custom e-commerce is about reinstating a relationship between the maker and the buyer. An old world concept (think: corner grocery or village blacksmith), and on today’s e-commerce stage, the corner store becomes a workshop anywhere that has Internet access.
Individualism + e-commerce = customization. It couldn’t be more intuitive than that.
My co-founder Seth Rosen and I got into CustomMade.com as shoppers looking for an easier way to buy custom stuff. A custom dress shirt on one site led to a custom belt on another, which led to a harder-than-it-should-have-been search for a custom coffee table. Two things became apparent:
1. Custom becomes an obsession. As a shopper, once you’re empowered with getting the thing the way you want it, you realize you can get ANYTHING made exactly the way you want it. And you should be able to. Easily.
2. There’s some talented individual or some company out there who can make you exactly what you’re looking for, exactly the way you want it. All you need is a way to communicate with that maker.
We built and designed CustomMade.com to be the stage on which custom e-commerce of every kind can play out. A local silversmith can offer custom jewelry designed from scratch; a company like Nike iD can offer customizable sneakers – the common thread is that shoppers get to interact with their chosen Maker in order to buy exactly what they want to buy. Our logo is a thumbprint – that individualized stamp that used to take a lot of searching to obtain, now married with the ease of internet shopping.
In Boston alone we’ve been inspired by the Makers that have been able to use our platform to reach custom shoppers: Furnituremakers like Richard Oedel trained at the North Bennet Street School, one of our nation’s oldest fine-woodworking institutions, and MIT-trained innovators like Artaic Mosaics who employ modern technology to offer customization at speeds only possible in the internet age.
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