An interview with Cornelia Costeanu, founder of Makers United
Updated: Jan 1
Cornelia, you have recently launched Makers United, a social enterprise dedicated to bringing together local makers and supporting them on their journey towards creating a micro business. But what led you here? Can you tell us a little more about your background and experience up to this point?
My involvement in the creative community started as a maker.
I had my second child and I wanted to spend time with my children as well as earning an income from my rediscovered interest in creating things by hand.
My journey from crafting at home to creating my own micro business took a some time as there really wasn’t any support available at the time.
At the beginning, I really struggled to get my head around the business and marketing side of things. Having more information and backing around these areas would have really helped propel my business. My journey from crafting at home to creating my own micro business took some time as there wasn't any support available.
Luckily, I stayed resilient and pushed through - which is why I am still in the game!
However, I know so many talented crafters get discouraged by the long list of tasks related to running a small business and as a result of a lack of resources they ultimately give up on their dream.
I want to help fellow makers follow their passion - and make a living from it too! - this is why Makers United was born.
What made you decide to take the leap into creating a social enterprise?
Social enterprises are businesses that have a good cause at heart, are driven by passion and answer to a need in the community.
All profit made through a social enterprise is reinvested back into the cause, so it’s a brilliant way to support our local makers to make their way to becoming self sufficient.
From my experience as a trustee of a small charity myself, I know there is a very good support system and more funding available for not-for-profit organisations, so it seemed like a good way to finance our initiative and help us serve our community better.
I strongly believe social enterprises will be at the heart of business in the future.
What are you hoping to achieve with this project? What are your goals (both on a personal level and for the business)?
I see so many talented makers in our community who are fantastic at their craft. However, they are often too shy to shout about their products or hold the belief that running a business is for other people.
Well, I’d argue that if you’re making a product, taking it to fairs and making money from it, you are effectively running a business!
At Makers United, we want to remove the associated anxiety around running a business and give makers the chance to be more active in their community, earn good money from their craft and share their skills with the younger generation.
On a personal level, I would like to be part of the revival of crafting businesses.
On a personal level, I would like to be part of the revival of crafting businesses. I want to share my skills and see makers, especially women, creating successful businesses that allow them to pursue their passion whilst having the resource to take care of their loved ones.
What has been the reaction to Makers United? How has the community responded to it?
Makers United was born during the challenging year of 2020 when the whole world is going
through life and work adjustments. There is lots of negativity surrounding the pandemic, but there are many positives as people are more focused on their community, re-evaluating their needs and priorities. Makers United was well received and the makers’ community certainly see the need for a humane team of experts who are ready to help.
Have you stumbled across any unexpected challenges?
As it happens with many newly established organisations, there is some scepticism around
the chances of success. I have approached quite a few people that I knew, they were community oriented and the feedback was fantastic, but there were a few that told us that we can’t really persuade
people that they can make money from crafts! Well, I am the living proof that you can!
I was also quite surprised how difficult it has been to open an account for a social enterprise. We were turned down by 3 main banks as they are not very familiar with what social enterprises are. Luckily, we have found a bank that was very efficient.
Why do you think an initiative like Makers United is so important right now?
There is a connection between our mental well being and what we make with our hands. We create, therefore we thrive. Being creative has been a lifeline for many individuals. There are also those who left the creativity behind in pursuit of materialistic ambitions. They suffered from a lack or connection with their inner creativity.
The world is shifting; the perception of what’s of value within our communities is changing.
The world is shifting; the perception of what's of value within our communities is changing. Many people will lose jobs, some will give up their soulless careers and others will set up their creative micro businesses. For those and for the makers who need help during these challenging times, Makers United offers support and motivation to carry on.
What are your plans for the next 18 months? What can we expect to see happen for Makers United?
I feel excited to think of how far Makers United will have come in 18 months!
There will be talks about the value of makers in schools, there will be fairs dedicated to our community artisans, there will be craft clubs in GPs surgeries as well as makers diversifying their craft offerings and earning more.
Is there anything you’d like to say to any local makers out there who may be reading this?
You are precious as a maker! We value your work and our community needs you!
Stay true to your creative impulse and let us offer you a helping hand. Be prepared to move from your product and go into schools to teach children to make crafts and become involved in your community. Word of mouth and making crafts for people that know you, will bring a steady income as well as a good reputation for being loyal and committed.
Be present at community events, offer to volunteer for causes that are close to your heart and start talking about your story and your journey! People love the stories behind a product that they buy! Make sure that your product will fit your customers. You might like the product you have made, but not everyone likes it. Customise it, follow trends and be flexible. Your product will have to earn money as you
have already invested in materials and time. It doesn’t compromise your creativity, it enhances your personality and it shows that you are determined to make it work! Good luck and don’t give up!