With Part One behind us, let’s now get into the meat of things and meet DaWanda founders Claudia Helming (34) and Michael P?tz (27). And to set the record straight immediately, they are nothing more than business partners and friends because as Claudia says, “He is too young for me!”.
decor8: So tell us, what is your background?
Michael: I grew up close to Cologne, with a little sister. I went to high school there and while finishing my friend and I developed our first internet project. It was a website for old classmates to reunite. Half a year later it was purchased by an English company, where I continued working during my studies as a software developer. It was very exciting how this first project became a European platform! And in 2003 I met Claudia there.
Claudia: I grew up in a very small village in Bavaria with only 2500 inhabitants. Though it?s small, the Pope was born there, too :) I studied in Munich (Romance languages, and tourism) and after my studies started working for lastminute.com. This was back in the very early days of internet and I was so enthusiastic about it, and the possibilities! In 2003 I changed my job and met Michael there. And a few years later we decided to create our own company.
decor8: What are your roles at DaWanda?
Michael: We?re both Managing Directors. I?m taking care of everything related to the software, technical issues.
Claudia: We?re still a small company with 13 people including Michael and me working for DaWanda. I?m responsible for Marketing and administration. But as we?re still a small company there are a lot of tasks and responsibilities that both Michael and I share.
decor8: Who had the idea for DaWanda and how did it come about?
M/C: At the very beginning we had decided to found a company together but we were still unsure about the idea. This was in 2005 at a time when a lot of new start-ups were founded in the US and web 2.0 was born. It was a fascinating time! At this time I also discovered Etsy ? and fell in love immediately. In the meantime we developed a couple of ideas and plans for our company but hadn?t decided yet. We actually decided to create DaWanda during the Christmas season since we were trying to find gifts that were both special and unique and affordable. We noticed that it was really hard to find them though there were so many talented and creative people.
The DaWanda team celebrates 2 years online!
decor8: What does DaWanda mean?
M/C: DaWanda is an African women?s name we chose because it stands for something lovely and unique, a one of a kind.
decor8: People often compare you to Etsy, even going as far to say that you’ve copied their idea. How do you respond to this?
M/C: Our idea came about because we wanted to offer a marketplace to the creative community in Europe. DaWanda and Etsy are very different when you get past the initial similarity that both are marketplaces dedicated to handmade products. The way people are inspired to create is not the same here in Europe as it is in the States, as an obvious example – everybody knows how much the Swedish design aesthetic stands out. The European style of handmade, creating a piece of art work or a design, is very strong and individual. We don?t think it is bad for anyone that we?re doing something similar to Etsy… do people blame Mercedes to have copied Ford?
decor8: How many DaWanda shops do you currently have?
M/C: At the moment there are close to 30,000 shops on DaWanda. Today there are nearly 400,000 products in 427 categories. The community has over 200,000 buyers.
decor8: Wow, impressive numbers. Now let’s talk about your forums. I’ve heard from some DaWanda shop owners that your forums, while useful at times, can also be negative because there is no moderator. Do you plan to add a moderator to your forums in the future?
M/C: We have three separate Forums on DaWanda, and while for example the English forum is moderated by Elizabeth and we get very good feedback that it is a helpful and friendly place for people to hang out, the German Forum is a bit more difficult to deal with ? due to the huge number of people that use it, and also due to the high emotional engagement of people hanging out there. We did try our best to take care of the posts but difficult situations developed to the point where we had to decide how much time we could actually spend there. We?re still a very young company with limited resources so we need to set priorities. As primarily we?re not a forum provider but a market place so we couldn?t spend as much resources there as demanded by some. However, we are feeling brave and trying to dedicate members of the customer support team to this Forum again. We provide the Forums because we want everyone to have a helpful and friendly place to find out information and connect with the rest of the DaWanda community, and we try to guide everybody and encourage them to be respectful.
decor8: When you look at other sites that do what you do, what do you think makes DaWanda stand out as different?
M/C: The quality of the products really stands out, from cool innovative ideas to beautiful techniques and stunning craftsmanship. People who use DaWanda often comment on the friendly atmosphere, the community really makes it such a special place, it has become such a heartwarming and loving community. We celebrated our 2nd birthday this week and got so many hundreds of birthday messages from our members, it was amazing! Behind the scenes we also work very hard to make DaWanda a fun place to be and take part in.
decor8: Do you have top sellers, and if so, who?
M/C: The top sellers are different for each interface of DaWanda (English, French and German). For example, some of the top sellers on the German site are modern fashion designers Pionie, My Dear Love, and Kenpanda. On the English site people are going crazy for these stylish purses by Looby Lou Crafts , very graphic 70s vintage fabric bags by Osix, and this amazing shoe designer from the Czech republic, Pleasemachine. The French site top sellers include crafters like Pat and this supplies shop by Pulsienette offering handmade hand dyed fabric materials is doing really great sales. Of course, we have many others but these are just a few that come to mind.
decor8: What are some of your goals at DaWanda?
M/C: In the future we are aiming to launch another language option (at the moment you can choose between English, French and German). We would also like to offer more promotional tools to the English and French community. Hopefully we will organise a DaWanda outdoor market to take place in Berlin, perhaps in the Spring.
decor8: Do you plan to host more events similar to the one we had in Berlin this past Fall? If yes, what kind?
M/C: Yes, the blogging workshop with you (decor8) in September was an amazing day! We would definitely like to run more workshops where inspirational speakers like yourself can come and share their stories and ideas, artists from DaWanda can share techniques, and the community can meet and talk in real life.
decor8: How do you think a seller can increase sales in their shop?
M/C: If you would like to increase your sales, you should always make sure you are taking the utmost care of your shop. From taking good photographs of your work, to explaining your inspiration and technique. It?s also an excellent idea to do online research and find out about blogs, who is showcasing products that your aesthetic would fit to? Writing a short note to a blogger inviting them to visit your work and consider posting about you can be a great help.
decor8: Do you have any favorite sellers on DaWanda that you personally shop from?
M/C: We are big fans of Kenpanda (it is so funny when DaWanda staff often comes in wearing their Kenpanda hoodies on the same day) and also Smil. Especially at this time of year, we are all doing our Christmas shopping on DaWanda.
decor8: What ways do you think blogging helps a small business to grow online?
M/C: A blog is an amazing way to connect with the community who is interested in handmade, there is a whole network of people out there – other artists you may end up collaborating with, people who like to buy handmade products, and of course business people who are always on the lookout for new creative talent. Keeping a blog can open up a lot of possibilities for you as an artist – to collaborate with other artists inspired by your work, the exposure you can gain by getting yourself out there so people know who you are and can find you, find out about you and commission you when they like your work so much! On a personal note, documenting your personal journey as an artist may lead you to some interesting discoveries about how you work and find inspiration!
decor8: Do you have a blog?
M/C: We have three blogs for DaWanda, again one in each language, it?s a lot of fun posting about what?s going on within DaWanda, it could be a behind the scenes look at what we?re getting up to in our office in Berlin, or a new craze ? for example last month a faux-bacon felted phone case made by Antjes caught the attention of so many techno-geek bloggers, over thirty thousand people visited Antje?s shop to look at the phone case and she has sold hundreds of them in the last month. We also like to interview artists who take part on DaWanda, to share a little bit of their world with the rest of us. You can check it out here.
decor8: The German crafting ‘aesthetic’ is much different than what I’m used to in America. Do you think that it’s more difficult for Germans to be creative here based on lack of good shops and quality crafting shows and magazines? Crafting supplies are also quite expensive here I’ve noticed! Do you think that Germany is moving towards having more products?in the future? Do you think people will drive this change?
M/C: In the first place I think there is a totally different crafting tradition in the US compared to Germany. We haven?t grown up in the States so we cannot tell by experience but from what we hear crafting is really a part of everyday life in the US. It makes such a difference if your family is crafting and lives in a community where crafting is a thriving activity. There are so many more options and possibilities at US schools to develop creative skills. Just imagine that in Germany a lot of pupils never took a crafting course… I think this is all about to change right now. Though for a very long time crafting was associated with bored housewives knitting while watching the soaps young people have rediscovered the pleasure of producing things themselves. There is especially a huge trend in young fashion designers here in Germany. Obviously, the products they produce are different. They are new, crazy, different – made to please young people.
decor8: In your opinion, how is crafting viewed in Germany, is it respected as a profession? If not, do you think this view will change in Germany? What?is DaWanda?doing to help change this view?
M/C: There are people in Germany who are crafting as a profession. As mentioned above the image is about to change. DaWanda certainly plays a role in the change of the crafting image ? bringing together creative people and handmade products in one place. People learn that they?re not alone doing crafts and the public audience learns that the products are really of good quality and high creativity. I also think that this motivates people to learn more about techniques and supplies and
Thank you so much for talking to us today, Michael and Claudia… it was a pleasure to introduce you to decor8 readers. All the best!
(images from DaWanda)