Meeting The Demand For Custom Products

Some business-trend experts are seeing an increase in consumer and entrepreneurial interest in customized goods, ranging from specially made toilet paper to one-of-a-kind pet food.

The economy may be a factor in the rise in consumer demand for made-to-order goods, explains Wall Street Journal writer Sarah E. Needleman in her article, “Custom” is Customary.

While such items may cost more than their mass-produced counterparts, they’re still generally less expensive than luxury goods, according to Jeremy Gutsche, founder of TrendHunter.com, an online magazine that covers a range of emerging trends. Cash-strapped consumers may be seeking feel-good alternatives to items they can no longer afford, he says.

More entrepreneurs may also be entering the space because of the minimal startup costs, says Rob Adler, an adjunct professor at Babson College. In most cases, custom businesses can operate exclusively online, he says, eschewing costs associated with leasing or buying a brick-and-mortar store.

CustomMade.com, Where You Can Meet Your Maker

Venture capitalists are also paying close attention to high consumer demand in the marketplace for custom-made products. TechCrunch April 30 reported  that CustomMade , an online marketplace that connects shoppers with artisans to make customized goods, has raised $4 million in funding co-led by Google Ventures and Schooner Capital.

Existing investors Launch Capital, Nextview Ventures, Andrew McCollum and First Round Capital all participated in the round. This brings CustomMade’s total funding to $8 million.

CustomMade allows customers who want to make custom products like jewelry and furniture post project proposals. The startup has built a community of makers that can browse through customer project requests and assign themselves to ones they are suited to. Makers can sign up for and build profiles on the site, which allows customers to browse through their portfolios.

Lynne Meade, a top porcelain artist on CustomMade.com, discusses why she loves taking on custom projects.

On her Web site, Lynnemeadeporcelain.com, Meade explains the process for making her custom porcelain pieces:

Most of my pieces are either one of a kind or from a limited series. All of them are wheel thrown and hand carved. I use no molds or templates. All designs are drawn and carved freehand when the clay reaches the bone dry state.

I use a variety of tools for carving. The rough work is done with metal trimming tools and the finer, finishing work is done with dental tools. My pots tend to be thrown thickly so that I can carve deeply. My designs are inspired by a variety of sea forms and plant life.

These organic forms are abstracted and interwoven to create a complex and undulating surface. Most pieces will take two to five days to carve and are then fired with a simple, clear glaze.

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These custom products are among the most popular trending now on CustomMade.com.

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