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Ash O'Connor, Made Cleveland

Ash O'Connor, Made Cleveland
If you haven’t already heard the well-deserved buzz, Made Cleveland, the online multi-vendor marketplace for Cleveland artists and makers, has officially launched! A community-driven concept developed by Cleveland entrepreneur and thoughtful soul, Ash O’Connor, and a site designed by local artist, Deanna Dionne, Made Cleveland opened its online retail doors just a few short weeks ago (yes, during a global pandemic). “We planned on launching closer to the end of the summer, in preparation for the holidays, but we saw such a need for artists to generate income with the devastation of Covid, that we majorly accelerated our timeline,” says Ash. The site already features 65 artists, each with their own profiles and lines of creative work and wares up for sale. Not only is it an excellent, affordable selling platform for artists and makers, but buyers can now easier than ever, support local artists and creative businesses. Want to become a Made seller? email for more information!

Arts Cleveland [AC]: Can you briefly describe your business/project model and what it’s all about?

Ash O’Connor [AOC]: Made Cleveland is essentially a hybrid of all of the best parts of Etsy and Yellow Pages with a hyperlocal focus. It’s all about bringing the amazing community of artists and makers together with those that want to support them with their hard earned dollars. Clevelanders love to buy from their neighbor and we’re aiming to make that as easy as possible.

Beyond e-commerce we will also be focusing on building the community in other ways. We’ll have a quarterly featured non-profit starting in October. A portion of profits from the Made Cleveland line will be donated to this NP and makers can opt in to this program as well! We’ll have sponsored community volunteer events that will bring everyone together to help make our city even better! When the time is right we’ll also host live market events. These will be a mix of large events and some pop-ups to support brick and mortar locations at various times throughout the year.

We’ll also be educating our consumers on the importance of not only shopping local, but in getting away from the mindset of ‘racing to the bottom’ and instant gratification. Good things take time. A well-crafted product costs more, but it also lasts longer. By shopping local you keep $0.68 of every dollar spent in the community. These are all incredibly important things to consider when making a decision on where to buy your items.

Later phases of the Made model include offering free classes to understand art as a business. Those that demonstrate a solid grasp of these concepts will be able to apply for seed money from us to start making their amazing pieces, or help them grow to the next level!

AC: How did you get started? What was the inspiration?

AOC: The inspiration is something that I had in Philadelphia. My original plan was to focus on a brick and mortar location for local Philly furniture makers and artists. I’ve always been of the mindset that there’s no such thing as competition, just community and the more artists that pull together the more foot traffic and awareness there is for everyone! Cut to holidays of 2019, I’m living in Cleveland and trying to find local Cleveland makers to support online during the holidays. It was a bit of a challenge finding ways to buy local online and I kind of married the two ideas together. I’m also aware that not everyone can sell online which is why we’ll include a directory for those that still want more of a local market awareness. And thus, Made Cleveland was born.

AC: Can you talk a little bit about yourself? Is this an artist-run business?

AOC: I’m a transplant from Philadelphia and am about to celebrate my 3 year anniversary as a Clevelander in July! My background is a little eclectic (read: manic). I’ve been a bartender, an operations manager, a consultant, I’ve fixed flutes and clarinets, hitchhiked across the country, and been a bookkeeper. It’s been a fun challenge for me to pick one thing and stick with it because I’ve always wanted to do ALL things. I want to sculpt, I want to sew, to cook, to make music, to drop everything at the drop of a hat and travel the world. This has been to my benefit and detriment. It’s been a fun challenge finding jobs that hold my interest for a long time so I’ve found a way to work with new companies and create my own positions, or do consulting and project based work. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve fallen in love with helping the little guy bring their big ideas to fruition.

AC: Who is your target audience? Who do you want to serve with your business?

AOC: We aim to serve everyone with Made Cleveland. Our site will have a wide variety of products for any occasion. Whether you’re in need of soap for your personal use, a gift for your coworker’s dog, that baby shower you totally forgot about and need something stat, and those necessary ‘treat yourself’ moments.

AC: What is your idea of success?

AOC: Our idea of success is when the maker that applied for our incubator program has grown enough that they ‘graduate’ from our ecommerce platform. And when that same artist still wants to maintain a long-term relationship with our program and share their knowledge with new vendor partners. When they’re taking all of the cool stuff they’ve learned along the way and training their employees to have great customer service and compassion for the community. When they continue to build upon the partnerships they forged here at Made. When we’ve converted the ‘Amazon’ base to rethink their shopping habits and spend more of their dollars in the local economy. Our idea of success is that the community has embraced this concept and made it into something that works for them in the long term.