100 Brilliant Ideas 2010

Handcrafted

Handcrafted

DIY, minus the Y

Hard on the scuffed heels of the craft movement come the 'treps bearing handcrafted goods, made to order

The handmade. The small batch. The locally sustainable eco-whatever.

The do-it-yourself movement hit new heights in recent years. There are people living in cities who brew their own beer, farm their own vegetables, knit their own woolens . and many more who will pay a premium to get a piece of it.

Which is where the entrepreneur comes in: Ready to produce the simplest, perhaps slightly lumpy, thing to your exact specifications, as if you'd made it yourself. Consider Etsy, the eBay for handmade items. It had 4.5 million members in March--double the number it had in 2009. Last year, it sold a staggering $180.6 million in goods.

Beyond Etsy, untold numbers of independents are selling everything from customized yoga mats to homemade food. One of them is Marti Wymer, founder of Spoonful of Comfort, a Bradenton, Fla., company that delivers chicken noodle soup, dinner rolls and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies, made fresh daily. A 64-ounce jar of soup is $32; sides are $6. Your order arrives in a nicely wrapped, chilled package, and rest assured, the soup tastes great.

Since Spoonful's launch in August, month-over-month growth has been phenomenal. Sales during the first six weeks of 2010 surpassed the total from the year before, and Wymer has hired a fulfillment team to meet demand.

"It's all about making someone feel better, so the pressure is getting it there on time," she says. "And I'm motivated to do things well because I want to build a legacy for my family."

The beauty of the product is that it's personal, says Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make magazine.

"There's extra value placed on something you have a hand in creating," he says, "and when you sell stuff you have a major part in making, you can really connect with the person who buys it." --J.W.


9 More to Watch:

Alluminare Customers can design lighting, wallpaper and other home décor accessories from scratch with the help of this online micro-manufacturer and retailer.

AntiDesigns AntiDesigns began silk screening T-shirts by hand in 2005; five years later, the Boston press lets buyers select graphics, colors and tees to create their own shirts.

Element Bars Start with the base: Chewy or crunchy? Organic? Nuts? Fruit? You create the recipe, paying about $3 a bar for the privilege.

GelaSkins GelaSkins protect and personalize iPhones, iPods and other portable devices. Instead of using a standard graphic, buyers can upload their own designs.

Gemvara This site lets customers choose metals, gems and accent stones to create one-of-a-kind jewelry.

LibraKnits Handknit but not by you: Choose a nubby baby hat in angora, lambs wool, bamboo, organic cotton and silk. Last spotted on celebrity offspring.

RedMoon Custom Pet Food RedMoon does Fancy Feast one better: Owners choose what's in the formula (think juicy lamb, whole blueberries and fresh salmon).

Vanity Barcodes Even barcodes don't have to be generic. First choose a design--animals and food are popular--or put in a custom request, and wait for it to be personalized with a unique UPC code.

Villy Custom For less than $500, this Dallas bike company will customize a cruiser completely--everything from pedal styles and accessories to chain guard and frame colors.

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This article was originally published in the June 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Entrepreneur's Annual 100 Brilliant Ideas.

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