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Interview: Sumeera Rasul, Founder of Madesmith

45-sumeera-rasul1. What does your startup do, what problem does it solve? 
Madesmith is a ‘buy less, buy well’ platform. The site is devoted to limited run exclusive collaborations from American makers and designers, and tells the stories of the artisans behind those products. Madesmith also provides branding, marketing and public relations services to makers and designers at affordable prices. We started Madesmith to satisfy the need for a fast-growing number of consumers who increasingly want to know where their stuff comes from, who makes it and how it was made. These consumers also want well-made and well-designed loom quality goods that not only last for a very long time but can also be repaired if need be. 
2. What is your secret sauce? 
Our secret sauce is a combination of a few things:
a. Connecting with consumers on a higher mission: We make sure that our mission of mindful consumption i.e. buy well, buy less comes across in everything we do online and offline. It’s also how my co-founder Sheila Iverson and I live day to day. Our customers really identify and gravitate towards a mission bigger than just buying beautiful items. 

b. Our backgrounds in technology, design, advertising, and manufacturing makes us the best suited to understand our makers and consumers. We have considerable experience leading integrated marketing campaigns and strategy for some of the best brands in the world including Apple, Google, Nike, Prada, HBO, and LA Times. 

c. Focus on clean design: We spend a lot of effort on the look of the website, offline content, photography and high quality content. This is something that we don’t compromise on and it pays in the long run.

d. Curation: We select each of our designer very carefully. We have a queue of designers who have applied to be part of Madesmith. However, we make sure that they all meet our list of criteria. 

e. Closed maker community: We have a high-quality closed community where makers can share their business questions, talk to experts and each other.

3. How did it help you win? 

All the above mentioned factors have poised us to be seen as a leader in curation of handmade goods and as an expert in providing consulting services to our designers and makers. 

4. What were the alternatives, what did it replace? 

The alternatives in current market are sites like Etsy (where you have to sift through a lot of uncurated goods as well as hobbyists).Madesmith fulfills a need to create a single destination for home and personal goods that can be trusted for source and craftsmanship. 

5. What did you learn to do better?

We continue to learn on a daily basis. It amazes us on how much we’re still learning from American makers and our consumers, despite having many years of experience in the marketing, design and manufacturing industry. Some of our top business lessons are:

a. Only work with people who are nice and are interested in making productive human connections. It’s never all about business.
b. Never compromise on quality and design.
c. Be extremely grateful to everyone who has helped you along the way, no matter how small the aid is. This includes customers who give you feedback, bloggers and journalists who cover you, your hardworking teams… and most of all, in our case, our makers.

In terms of what we learned to do better over time?
a. We’ve learned to trust our instincts and knowledge. We have learned to only work with people we like, and feature collaborations that we truly love. Usually, the pieces that we absolutely love, our customers also respond very well to as well.

b. Never be afraid to introduce yourself and your business to the right partners. We reached out to a few publications who we thought would be a good fit for our brands, and they responded very well to our concept and openness around our business. And now, we have a few partner collaborations coming which will help expand our reach.

Sumeera Rasul grew up in manufacturing and international trade business. She started her career in technology and later worked as an Executive Producer for some of the world’s best companies such as Apple, Google, R/GA and BBDO.

In 2007 Sumeera successfully revived her family’s handmade textile business under Dia Living working with artisans from all over the world.

Following her tenure in technology, advertising and manufacturing, Sumeera founded Madesmith in 2012. Madesmith promotes designers and makers producing locally and sustainably in the United States. Madesmith also provides tools, consulting services, and community platform for these designers and makers.

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