I put out a poll to my little Instagram community asking what they look for when they shop small; If they looked for everything handmade, big brands reselling items through small business owners or either as long as it was a small business.
Everyone that took part in the quiz picked “everything handmade”, a few said they specifically look for brands that practice sustainable and ethical methods. I took that discussion a little further and found they leaned toward handmade businesses. Why? Because handmade businesses function at a smaller scale and have a tendency to practice more sustainable or ethical methods.
Sure, there are some makers that don’t go out of their way to attain sustainable methods but the majority search for raw materials and ingredients that can be up-cycled or harvested in a more ethical manner, if they’re not able to grow or make it themselves.
I’ve only been professionally part of the world of makers for a little over a year. When I first dipped my toes in the makers community at the end of 2021 to test out the scene, I was expecting ruthless mindsets but Incube8r turned out to be a completely different world filled with supportive makers who were beyond excited to cheer any new creator on from the sidelines. Maybe I was lucky with the community I found in Incube8r and all the insanely hardworking members.
It was incredible to stumble upon this world of creators that weren’t mindlessly competing and genuinely supported you simply because they could. It seemed like every maker willing to put the work in, went a long way and continued to grow within themselves. Incube8r goes beyond supporting makers as business owners, the community supports you.
In all honesty, without Incube8r Bunny’s Formula wouldn’t be here and I couldn’t imagine what else I’d be doing. I’ll never forget the incredible way I came across the store; I moved to Prahran with my partner and walked past this gorgeous boutique two times a day that whispered to me but I was working full time so I never saw it open. Fast forward a year and I got to one of the darkest times in my life where I eventually had to quit my job. Getting out of bed was hard enough, let alone functioning at work or stringing a sentence together.
One day my partner came home with a brochure – it was from Incube8r! Supporting Melbourne artists and makers. I started painting little bits and sporadically took part in 3 exhibitions. Alongside making time for art and figuring out what I was going to do for work, I learned about Ayurveda and self care to keep myself in the present moment. Eventually a few people commented on my homemade scents and I figured I had nothing to lose, why not sell it? That was the birth of Bunny’s Formula, back then it was known as Oily Bun. Many trials, formulas and new additions later as well as mentoring sessions with Elle-May, I learned how to walk in this magical new world.
After a year of building my foundation, I bit the bullet and took part in my very first market. I was more than excited to be part of this incredible experience. It turned out to be the best way to learn the audience, biggest selling points and room for improvements. One thing I didn’t realise was the expectation I had to be surrounded by like-minded makers. A lot of stall holders were reselling from large businesses marketing their products as “eco-friendly”, “green” and “clean” using “100% organic” materials.
Within the makers community, regardless of similarities, we know our products are completely unique from branding right down to the ingredients and materials. Our stories are so different that it’s exciting to learn about another maker and how they got there. There’s huge support in lifting each other up, working together and acknowledging the work we put in. I found a lot of our products compliment each other even with similarities.
I didn’t find that level of support or understanding with the businesses that resold big brand items. Desperation filled the air as owners ran around leering into other stalls. Whispers of another stall selling the same item for a lower price a few stalls down. Peeking around the corner figuring out if you’re a friend or foe but oh, what’s this? Everything handmade? A raised eyebrow and masked amusement that a few handmade stalls were doing it all themselves. Toward the end of the day they’d check everything out to see what was similar and how they could sell it in a similar fashion.
Some of these business owners didn’t understand that no matter how much you try to fashion something similarly, there’s nothing quite like a handmade product. Even if we make the same thing, it’s always a little different because we poured our souls into every single thing we’re selling, be it art, fashion, skincare etc.
I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that every maker I met and continue to meet, learned how to survive doing what they love and put themselves in a position to follow through. Their businesses began with a will to live and make the world a better place. No matter the similarities, it’s never the same because the story behind every item is completely unique to the soul that created it.