Silda Wall Spitzer has plenty to keep her busy. The former First Lady of New York and successful attorney and businesswoman not only serves as a senior advisor at NewWorld Capital Group, but is also hyper-involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors. Oh, and she also likes to paint. But apparently she wanted to take on a bit more, which was why she co-founded New York Makers, a regional content-to-commerce brand.
When you visit the site, your first impression might be that it’s just another e-commerce hub that sells hand-made artisan goods—from jewelry to apparel and accessories to art to specialty foods and more—and for men, women, children and pets. But after a closer look you see that the products have two common attributes: they are all made by New Yorkers in New York, and they each have a story to tell.
While the content-to-commerce concept is anything but new, and not always successful (R.I.P., JackThreads), what’s unique here is how New York Makers connects regionality with the products it sells. Its inventory isn’t comprised of mass produced, mass market goods, but instead derives from within the statewide maker community. So essentially, this is a hybrid of a regional and content-to-commerce publication. Its business model relies on revenue sharing through the products it sells, along with a small piece of advertising. It also captures leads by inviting visitors to register (incentivized by a 15-percent purchase discount), which could prove to be valuable in the future as it scales up.
And behind it all is Wall Spitzer, who is a total newcomer to the publishing game. Yet, as we discovered when we spoke to her, this is more than a new business opportunity or hobby for her, it’s also a passion. And while the business is still very much in its infancy, Wall Spitzer suggests she’s in it for the long haul.
Folio: Tell us the story behind New York Makers and what its mission is.
Silda Wall Spitzer: The story behind the launch goes back to my story. New York has been my home for over 30 years and I do love it. And I also treasure my home state of North Carolina. What I came realize over the course of splitting time between New York City and the Hudson Valley is that things are siloed in terms of the way New Yorkers tend to identify. We tend to be very local or regional. When you go to Rochester or New York City or Syracuse, each one seems like its own spot, but you feel the richness of this bigger statewide community. This really resonated with me profoundly when I visited all 62 counties in the state while I campaigning and serving as the First Lady of New York. But I think we suffer from not having a sense of community on a state level like what we have on a more local level.
The seed to create a statewide magazine was shelved when the bottom fell out of the publishing industry. But a few years later when I was visiting my parents I saw a copy of North Carolina’s Our State magazine. New York has never had its own magazine. I found this to be emblematic of not having a statewide community. So the idea struck me that a magazine along with a marketplace could create a sense of that statewide community.
From there I teamed up with co-founder Christine Murphy, and we got to work.
Folio: What do you think gives New York Makers its unique value proposition?
Wall Spitzer: Some of what we’re offering is a curated experience with the immediate satisfaction of being able to order a product out of that experience. I love the combination of the written product with the marketplace product. Its sort of a 3D New York experience.
Folio: So how’s business so far?
Wall Spitzer: I think we are where we anticipated we’d be. We are a very small team and are building an entirely new social enterprise from the ground up. We are learning as we go along. I don’t come from a media background. It has so many tentacles with blogs and social media and other platforms, there are so many ways to communicate. And everything is changing as we go along.
A new business is a labor of love and we are facing all the challenges of a startup, but what our goal and belief is that if you build a firm foundation as a starting point then you can keep growing and adding onto that with a much more long-lasting influential brand. This is not meant to be a fad. Our ethos is to thrive over the long term.
Wall Spitzer: We have a product curator based out of Saratoga Springs. She travels the states in search of makers to find goods that align with our brand. But all of us are looking. We have people who tell us about things. Also, word of mouth is very important to us. We have a number of makers reaching out to us now.
The content is really a complement to the marketplace. I think the items were selling are more of a luxury and not a necessity. What often sells the products are the stories.
Folio: Who’s your typical reader and buyer?
Wall Spitzer: It’s surprisingly broad and not just New Yorkers, which has been interesting to me. We attribute that to how many people love New York. Generally though, our readers and customers are Millennials and Gen-Xers.
Folio: Do you have plans to extend the brand into new verticals, like events?
Wall Spitzer: Yes, but not just events. We don’t want to talk about any of the other plans just yet. But they involve curating experiential opportunities that explore New York.
Folio: As somebody new to the publishing industry, what’s surprised you so far?
Wall Spitzer: What I’ve loved is although there is competitiveness, we have gotten a lot of support from the folks we’ve met along the way who have pointed us in the right direction of resources. I’m surprised by the generosity within the community.
Folio: Keeping with that, what’s been especially challenging so far?
Wall Spitzer: New York is a very large state, so trying to figure out how to reach everyone and get the best stories to them is a process.