A NEW online market place has been set up by a Cork businesswoman, who wants to showcase the talent the country has to offer, and crucially help creatives survive the economic fall out from Covid-19.
It’s similar to Etsy, but Tara Prendergast’s vision is to create a streamlined, and very curated space, she hopes will change the future for creative professionals.
She will do all the heavy lifting to move them online so they have more time to create.
And there’s plenty of benefits for the buyer too, as unlike Etsy, you can’t automatically upload your products, you have to go through a tough screening process.
Dublin based-Tara is originally from Aghada and her route to this enterprise, The Biscuit Marketplace, is a colourful one.
As a 19-year-old former art school drop-out, she opened a brand-driven cafe-style restaurant. Kafkas & The Cafe with the Couch opened its doors in 1996 on Maylor Street and quickly became one of the most popular cafes in Cork city, providing something fresh and cool on the cafe scene.
“I wanted to change the way coffee and sandwiches were served in Cork city. Our aim was to provide really good music, creative super-friendly staff, and a happy local feel to the cafe experience,” she said.
“For four years we ran a hugely successful business until it reached a forecasted revenue peak and at the age of 23, I decided to sell, travel the world and come back to open my second business in Cork.
“The Berries, which was located in a small unit on MacCurtain Street, opened its doors and survived five years there filling the area with bubbles, smoothies, and pots of porridge. ‘The friendliest staff in Cork’ was a label we earned with pride.
“We survived the recession and when my husband Mat got offered a job in Dublin, we decided to move there seven years ago and take on the challenge of the big smoke.”
Tara comes from a strong entrepreneurial family, and while she quickly realised her third level art school offering was not going to give her everything she needed to build a business, she always kept strong links with the creative sector.
“I’ve always employed a lot of creative people who ironically could not make full-time wages from their work. The seed to help people around their creative work was deeply planted back then, I just did not know it at the time,” she said.
Before launching the Etsy style venture, the mum of two (Darcy Belle, nine and Bowie, two) set up The Biscuit Factory, an online business school for creatives.
“You enter our world when you join our free community page Bite The Biscuit, where creatives can feel the power of community and link with now 7,000 other creative minds.
“We provide workshops and business programmes and we also partner with Local Enterprise offices, providing online business programmes.
“Our most recent collaboration, with Trinity College Dublin provided lectures for the creative and cultural entrepreneurship post-grad programme.”
The newly launched Biscuit Marketplace is its sister site and so far, it features product-based businesses and also service-based businesses including photographers, graphic designers, web designers, coaches, interior designers and wellness businesses.
“We support Irish makers navigating them through the technology, through the frustrations and making sure they are represented professionally to the world.
“Each vendor runs their own shop and has full responsibility for packaging and shipping.
“But we provide the platform and do all the heavy lifting with marketing and PR, the things that suck the life out of creatives.
“Our vision is to give them back the time they crave, so they can concentrate on creating their amazing products and services.”
There are plenty of advantages from a customer point of view as well: “We have a tough screening process. Our value proposition is to provide a curated platform in the marketplace landscape. Not everyone can upload their shop and we feel very passionate about differentiating our offering from the global leader Etsy.”
Tara says Etsy can be confusing: “It is an enormous website and while I absolutely love the positioning and heart of their offering, I also know that the size and lack of curation are both overwhelming for vendors and shoppers alike.
“We will provide a much cleaner, curated space and focus on the immense talent our island of Ireland has to offer, to the global marketplace.
“We need to collectively come together in one space to make it easy for Irish people to support creative businesses and to position ourselves to the global market when the time is right.
“Now is the time to help each other through this and we are excited and proud to provide this platform and support at this challenging time.”