Unless you’ve been living under a (hand-crafted, embellished, repurposed) rock for the last few years, you’ll know about etsy. An online platform that hosts individual crafters’ ‘shops’ (web pages) it’s big business in a world which is rediscovering the beauty of hand-made. At the last count, almost 2 million crafty individuals around the world had a page on etsy.com selling everything from knitted mermaid blankets to personalised wands. Even Cyprus is represented, with island residents selling roughly 2,000 different items (including leather journals, coin jewellery, and – a personal favourite – the light switch covered with an old CTO map of the island!) made right here. Clearly, there are a lot of locals out there with time and talent to spare. And a new website, areskee.com, is taking advantage of this fact: setting up as a sort of regional etsy, focusing on the best of local crafts and craftsmen…
Described as “a multi-store shopping website”, areskee.com retails unique and, here’s the crux, local, creations. Everything on the site has been made and designed by independent creators, artists and small shops based in Cyprus; people who might otherwise not have the time or the wherewithal to market their own creations.
It’s a wonderful idea, and one which has been – according to the site’s founders – in the works for a couple of years; a process which has included everything from software development to store discovery, product refinement, technology challenges, identification and collaboration with service providers. Today, two years on, there’s a dedicated team of four bright young things running the show: Panayiotis Neophytou the Managing Director, Marianna Markou doing Sales and Marketing, and Marios Pantelides who handles communication. And then there’s Constandinos Stavrinides in charge of products and tech, a 37-year-old Electronic Engineering graduate from Limassol who came up with the original idea while in the UK…
“The idea for areskee.com began growing in my mind while I was still living and working in the UK, a country where e-commerce is generally more developed than here, and where one can find a range of marketplaces dedicated to local creators and small businesses. Having shopped from a number of these websites myself, I was always amazed by the amount of talent and the truly unique products. I investigated a bit more, and discovered that many of these amazing products were actually made by individuals, people who were often work-at-home mums doing what they loved from their kitchen or garage!”
Aware there was talent to spare in Cyprus, Constandinos began to formulate the beginnings of a local site, tailored to the needs and characteristics of the Cypriot market. “On this island,” he continues, “there’s an absolute wealth of crafty talent. But there’s also a real lack of platforms and organisations capable of helping these individual creators establish their work and grow their businesses. I knew, however, that actually setting up such a platform would be a fairly massive undertaking – an ambitious and challenging project to say the least, and not one that would reap huge financial rewards. But with help and enthusiasm from Marios and Panayiotis we’ve created something which feels incredibly exciting!”
Describing areskee.com as “fresh, alternative, and local”, Constandinos acknowledges that the team’s diverse experience allows for a range of perspectives and ideas, fostering a creativity that’s almost worthy of the sellers themselves! “We may,” he acknowledges, “be using electronic means to reach our customers, but behind the scenes we too are locals with a passion for building a community, for inspiring, encouraging and empowering talented Cypriots to turn their dreams into a business. The fact that so many things around us are standardised, mass produced and unimaginative made us want to create something different — an alternative; a curated product collection of unique designs and superior craftsmanship made by real people with fascinating stories.
“In a way,” he adds, “it’s also an opportunity to bring human values back into retail, actively supporting small independent businesses across the island. We truly believe in local talent, and wanted to provide both a home in which to display, promote, and sell, but also the technology, tools, support, and access to a wider audience which is so often a real challenge for independent creators.”
To date, areskee.com hosts 30 separate ‘stores’, with more being added each week. And with products ranging from Green Box Designs’ succulent tablescapes to BafArt’s charming nursery pictures, there’s a wealth of options for the conscious buyer. Intricate wooden tops from Lovenlight, bespoke lighting from Veritas Arts, recycled leather poufs from Studio 2, and characterful laser-cut lampshades from the Cool Mom Studio abound. Landscapes, seascapes and abstracts rub shoulders with skincare (from the well-known eco-conscious store Vegenero) and plated gold clutch bags (courtesy of Danouz) in this compendium of local talent.
“Every item in our store represents a special discovery, and each of our partners has been carefully selected. Our sellers come from all over the island,” Constandinos reveals. “We’ve got people from all the major towns, and many from villages such as Stroumbi and Lefkara. When we began, we searched high and low for small creative businesses, talented artisans and craftsmen who share our values, visiting festivals, galleries, independent boutiques and workshops and meeting exciting people every time.”
As word has spread, however, areskee.com has been inundated with applications: creators who are hoping to join this exciting new online community… “In a way, it is a regional etsy: a site for small independent retailers selling exclusively handcrafted items. But where it differs is that we’re going that extra mile, personally engaging with our retailers and, through collaborations and workshops, creating a local community. It is,” he adds, truly exciting! Though definitely not without its challenges…
“While curation allows us to continuously define our product, it’s also incredibly time-consuming. And, for many of our sellers, the online retail experience is entirely new – so there’s a lot of support and education required. Plus, the share of online retail in Cyprus is still pretty low compared to that of other EU countries… But the market is there,” he concludes with a smile. “And it’s growing all the time!”
10% promotional discount for readers of the Cyprus Mail
Use the promotional code CYMAIL18 during your checkout for a 10% discount. This promotion runs until December 31 and applies to all orders placed through areskee.com during this period. Charity items are excluded from any promotions. For more information, visit areskee.com/ or the Facebook page ‘Areskee’ or the Instagram account @areskee_com