An Interview with Uncommon Goods

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UncommonGoods is an online marketplace that lives up to its name — from ties covered in math formulas to a stool fashioned out of skateboards, there is something for everyone in the store, no matter what their passion or age. Being a bit of an astronomy nerd myself, I’ve had my eye on the Seven Sisters necklace for a while. And who doesn’t want to have an octopus’s garden in the shade?

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Many of the products are handcrafted and submitted by the artists themselves. I’m a fan of how well they support the artistic community by continually accepting those submissions as well as also hosting design challenges.

Curious about the New York City-based company and how it got started, I contacted their community outreach coordinator Gaby Dolceamore to ask a few questions. She told me about the company’s history, their work with up-and-coming artists, and their appeal to the nerd in all of us.

Nerdy With Children: When was UncommonGoods founded?

Gaby Dolceamore: UncommonGoods started in 1999 as a tiny start-up in Manhattan. Our founder, Dave Bolotsky, visited a craft show in Washington, DC, and realized there were some huge inconveniences in setting up for a craft show. The artist needs to lug their goods from their home to the show, then transport back all the items that don’t sell. If something goes wrong after the sale, there isn’t a way for the customer to reach back out to the designer once the show is over.

However, craft shows offer some of the most unique, exciting products, so Dave wanted to create a marketplace that could market handmade designs for these artists and offer great service to customers.

NWC: How is merchandise selected?

Dolceamore: We have a buying team that scouts new products on Etsy, blogs and trade shows. We also host design challenges each month with themed call for entries as well as always accepting new product submissions through our New Goods program.

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NWC: Do you get a large volume of product submissions?

Dolceamore: Outside of design challenges, we get at least 50 New Goods submissions a week. Design challenges can attract anywhere between 100 and 200 entries. We consider this to be a pretty healthy amount. We’re working hard to get the word out that UncommonGoods is a place artists can pitch their work on a regular basis.

Nerdy: How are featured artists chosen?

Dolceamore: Our buyers first and foremost look for designs that have a positive impact on the world. We won’t sell anything that causes harm to animals or people. The buyers also look for pieces that are creatively designed — whether they are a clever solution to a common problem, a unique design, include an interesting material story or display impeccable craftsmanship.

A main goal of ours is to work with artists to develop their business sense and because of this we have built strong, loyal relationships with our artists. We like to consider that we are only as successful as our designers.

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NWC: Many of your goods appeal to us geeks and nerds. Are they the target customer, or just shoppers looking for something out of the ordinary?

Dolceamore: Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we’re a team of geeks and nerds in our own right. Some of the most creative designs out there right now feature an educational element or are quirky tech accessories. It’s hip to be square, and it’s our time to shine.

All photos courtesy © UncommonGoods

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