New start-up takes aim at shortfall in Irish arts and crafts online

1 Sep 2014

A new Dublin-based start-up USofIreland has been formed to tackle the lack of an export focus among Irish arts and crafts creators and in doing so could become a kind of Etsy for the Irish-American diaspora.

The start-up is the brainchild of former managing director James Galvin.

Targeting the Irish diaspora in the US, Galvin and co-founder Miriam Cassidy believe things have to change.

Arts and craft makers, they believe, are based in rurally isolated areas and struggle to get their products to a wider customer base.

“The export figures for Irish crafts are frankly quite poor” said Galvin.

“From our research, something like 25pc of all sales is from abroad, which means the industry is pretty much relying on the inbound tourist trade and domestic sales.

“This to me seems like a huge opportunity to focus on improving that statistic, and online is the perfect platform to do just that.”

Who dares, sells

USofIreland, which makes its revenue by applying a 15pc commission fee on orders, has so far recruited more than 30 independent designers and has around 500 products available to buy online.

These include products from Chupi, one of the youngest jewelry designers to collaborate with TopShop, creations from goldsmith Mary Enright, and goods from wood turner Conor Lynch.

“Pending approval criteria, makers pay a small connection fee to join the service,” Cassidy said.

“We then shoot their products professionally and put them on our website, fully optimised for search engines and in line with well-established e-commerce practices. We then market their products via Google, Facebook and our network of Irish diaspora sites.

“When an order comes in, the makers then use our delivery partner FedEx to ensure the product is dispatched promptly with track and trace,” Cassidy said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years