Maker House Co. - Gareth
What did you do before Maker House?
I grew up in Kingston, went to Queen's for Philosophy/Engineering and graduated in 2007. Spent a few years working for non-profits and the federal government, on employment and training for teens, newcomers, and Indigenous communities in Ontario. In 2010 my career shifted to Sales and Marketing, which brought me to Ottawa in 2013 to work for LiVE 88.5, HOT 89.9, after a stint with TSN in Toronto. I've always admired handcrafted goods, and loved visiting the antique barns with my Grandparents! I started making furniture and connecting with other makers as we settled into Ottawa.
What was the most challenging part of getting Maker House started?
Probably financing (writing a business plan for a Futurpreneur loan), and securing the right location. Both of these took a good 6-months of patient research, development, and communications (on the side of my day job) before we had secured a loan and signed a popup lease for 3-months. I was watching our location at 987 Wellington St. W. since we moved nearby, back in late 2013, and we walked by it often. Two years later it was available and we were ready!
Quality Canadian-made goods are difficult to come by in most retail environments. How do foster the relationships between Maker House and your suppliers?
Our job is to share the story behind locally made goods and the artisans who craft them. We love Makers and share their stories like rockstars on the platform we've built in store and on our website. Through workshops, social media, blog interviews, and Meet the Maker profiles, we keep the spotlight on our small batch suppliers who you can't find in other stores. We also exchange feedback and tips regularly, so Makers can improve their business. We've grown from 30 or so makers when we opened to now over 150 makers in the house!
Does being located in the capital make a difference in your business?
Ottawa is a huge part of Maker House and our early success. We have the best talent pool of makers, and customers here care about buying local to keep money in our community. They say when you buy from a maker or small biz on mainstreet, you aren't just getting better products, you are sending your neighbours kids to hockey practice.
When you aren't in the store selling amazing Canadian crafted goods, where could one find you?
Enjoying funny moments with my wife Sarah. Riding my bike, playing some kind of sport, or jamming on the guitar.
What famous Canadian, dead or alive, inspires you?
Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton for healthcare and politics. Gord Downie (a fellow Kingston boy) for creativity, and cultural reconciliation. So many others, I love a good "Heritage Minute" on CBC.
Is there a local business who helped you on your journey in business?
Too many to name! All of the makers who supply the store with amazing things. Ottawa Community Foundation, Causeway, Brew Donkey, Updated Furniture, Malenka Originals, Grow Studios, BalanceSheets.ca, just to name a few very supportive folks in the early days!
As a Canadian watching the Olympics were you cheering for Curling or Hockey?
Women's hockey. The gold medal game Canada vs. USA is like watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Incredible speed, talent and will to win on both sides. Shootouts are a tough way to lose, but our women played amazing and have still won 4 of the last 5 golds, lead by captain Marie-Philip Poulin who is the best player in the world.
What do you see in the future for Canadian made goods?
Canada's makers will be known for quality, small batch manufacturing. Canadian made goods, and our cultural symbols, will become more popular on the world stage. Indigenous artists will use commerce as one tool for storytelling and cultural reconciliation.
Timeless raw materials will continue a resurgence in popularity - like leather, steel, and Canadian lumber - due to their durability, versatility, and natural qualities.
Makerspace technologies such as 3D printing, and CNC cutting, will allow local and small-scale prototyping and production of items that were previously mass produced, or beyond our budget.
May 2-4 or Civic Holiday weekend?
May 2-4 is the first cottage weekend of the season, so it's the best when the weather is finally warm. I proposed to my wife Sarah on May 2-4 weekend at my family cottage on Round Lake (near Peterborough) while paddling in our canoe at sunset! I even managed to get down on one knee without tipping.