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.’”
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.
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. The next Bakery Square show is Sept. 30 in East Liberty.
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.
“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.
“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.”