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An Online Marketplace Brings Made-to-Order Goods to the Internet On, buyers post a photo or a description of what they want and craftspeople bid on the project.

By Matt Villano

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What it is
Cambridge, Mass.-based connects shoppers with artisans and craftspeople around the U.S. who can create custom items such as furniture and jewelry. Buyers post a photo of what they want, or supply a description, and the craftspeople (or, as the site calls them, "Makers") bid on the project. The site specializes in high-end goods with an average cost of $800 to $1,000.

How it started
A cabinetmaker started as an online directory of more than 300 woodworkers scattered across North America. In 2008, Boston University students Mike Salguero and Seth Rosen stumbled across the site while Rosen was looking to purchase a coffee table. Sensing that the idea could be expanded, they bought the domain name for $10,000, then raised $400,000 to start turning CustomMade into what it is today. "We always loved the concept of being able to buy an item directly from the person who made it, and our goal was to make it as easy as possible," Salguero says.

Why it took off
Today, with more than 12,000 Makers and about 600,000 unique visitors each month, CustomMade has created a competitive marketplace for one-off items. Buyers love the ability to guide the fabrication process online and submit reviews of Makers. This has created a trustworthy community of fabricators, some of whom pull in about $200,000 per year from the site, according to Salguero.

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