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Up-and-coming Aftcra practices art of online craft sales


Milwaukee – A lot of pure-play e-commerce retailers have interesting origin stories. According to (dubious) legend, eBay started as a way to buy and sell collectible Pez candy dispensers. Aftcra, an online marketplace for American handmade products, has a verifiable tale of its roots fitting its all-American product selection.

“A few years ago my mom, who is a crafter, was struggling to sell handmade witch silhouettes through local boutiques in northern Wisconsin,” explained Erica Riegelman, co-founder and CEO of Aftcra, in an exclusive interview with Chain Store Age. “I wanted to take the opportunity to help American artisans like my mom sell their wares.”

Although by her own admission Riegelman, who worked in marketing for a national staffing firm, had no prior e-commerce or retail experience, she officially launched Aftcra in October 2013.

“I veered from a professional to an independent career path,” said Riegelman, who now devotes her full time to Aftcra. “I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream of running a business to help others.”

Aftcra is built with and operated using a number of open source technologies. The core technology stack is LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and the platform is built upon a modern PHP framework called Laravel.

Aftcra also uses MailChimp and Mandrill for marketing communication purposes and Google Analytics for reporting. In addition, it is built as a responsive website that dynamically adapts to accommodate different screen sizes. The retailer has made modifications and upgrades to its technology infrastructure since initial launch.

Aftcra currently does not use social media to conduct transactions, but has a promotional presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

“We engage users on social media and obtain feedback from artisans and customers,” said Riegelman. “Instagram gets our products in front of people who would never see them otherwise. Twitter is mainly used to communicate with artisans and the press.”

Artisans register for Aftcra using a page that also allows them to quickly create an online shop. The provide information about themselves, verify they live in the U.S. (Aftcra only allows U.S. residents to sell products, although the customer base is global), create a branded banner for their storefront, and upload a profile image and promotional copy. Product images are uploaded with a tool provided by Aftcra and the retailer only makes money through transactional fees – there is no listing fee.

Riegelman acknowledges Aftcra is a newcomer in the space compared to handmade craft platform Etsy, which has been around for 10 years. However, since January 2015, Aftcra’s traffic has tripled and sales have more than tripled.

“It’s been an incredible year so far,” commented Riegelman.

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