When Charles Babbage, considered the “father of the computer,” and Ada Lovelace, widely held as the first computer programmer, were trading letters in the 19th century, they scarcely could imagine where computers were going to go.
Neither, for that matter, could Louis and Carrie Bamberger, the brother-sister business team who, in the middle of the Great Depression, funded the creation of the Institute of Advanced Studies in New Jersey, which would go on to play a large role in the development of computers, paving the way for the vast, international connectedness of the Internet we experience today, everyday.
Business has changed since the Bambergers, and perhaps no business as much as small business.
Take Devin Crudup, the owner of online business Borne Black. Opening this past January, Borne Black is a Valdosta-based online T-shirt/accessory store, specializing in shirts that comment on black culture and black history, while offering customized design work.
“Promoting Black culture has always been important to me,” said Crudup. “It’s hard to get people to read a book on true Black history unless they’re already interested, but rocking a fresh T-shirt with Black history behind it is more appealing. Every shirt has an in-depth meeting, a history lesson if you will.”
An example would be his bracelet with “By Any Means Necessary” printed on it, or a black tee with the outline of Africa, with the names “Malcolm Martin Marcus” printed over it.
“Marcus [Garvey] might not be as well known as the others, but ... by grouping his name with the likes of Malcolm and Martin, it’s our hope to encourage people to research him and his legacy,” said Crudup.
For Crudup, the benefits of not having a large payroll to pay or physical storefront to attend to, coupled with the quickness of online setup and the ability to make transactions all over the country (his sales stretch up to New York), were too good to pass up.
Amanda Edmondson-Corbett also opened up her store, Salvage Sparrow, to promote a cause important to her: promoting recycling and reusing, as well as donating a portion of her profits to Southeast Pug Rescue. Edmondson-Corbett opened her store on Etsy, a website that works as a kind of open marketplace; sellers open up individual pages to offer their wares.
Amanda Patterson did too.
Patterson, a full-time nurse and the mother of two boys, was seeking a way to sell her handmade jewelry and crafted fabric bowls. When she found Etsy, Patterson opened up Amanda’s Originals.
The portability of an online store is a large part of the appeal.
Like Rachel Giese, who runs Etsy store RachelsVinylCrafts. The store welcomes custom orders, offering wood signs, canvas wall art, acrylic tumblers and customized wine glasses.
“With the online store, I can set my own production times, and communicate with buyers from all over the United States and International,” said Giese. “Plus being part of a military family, it’s something I can do from anywhere. In a few months, we might be moving overseas, so I’ll truly get to test that out.”
Chelsey Nickerson is in a similar situation. Nickerson runs Chelsey’s Crochet, an Etsy store specializing in crocheted hats (fittingly, she learned how to crochet hats from Youtube tutorials). While she currently lives in Valdosta, she may have to move soon. Having a store online allows her to offer her wares at a consistent place, no matter where she’s living.
It’s not all clothes, though. There’s Tania Bauzó’s Simply Otra Vez shop on Etsy that she uses as an extension of her North Ashley store, offering home décor and vintage jewelry.
Or Alef Forge, the Valdosta-based forge that offers custom knife work through its Facebook page. The side project of Valdosta State University English Instructor Ed Braun, he cites the community and customer interaction that the web makes possible a big factor for him.
“In a city of 50,000 plus, its difficult to establish one’s self, but the web allows me the chance to have people watch the process of turning a piece of steel into sharp art,” said Braun. “It’s tough, but through the web, I’ve learned as much as I could and, in turn, become a cornerstone for the knife making community for our region.”
Through the Internet, Braun, Patterson, Nickerson, Giese, Edmondson-Corbett and Crudup are able to reach an international customer base.
Something that would be hard for Cold Veil Clothing. Run by Samuel Clements and Lauren Owly, the duo specializes in hand made, faux fur vests and jackets with a sense of humor, like their Lion Vest, a kind of vest hoodie which comes with a lion head that sits atop your own head. Or their ZomBear Jacket whose hoodie sits a bear head atop your own. It’s a unique product, but a speciality one, something that clicks with a small but enthusiastic fan base, something that, without the Internet, would probably never find its way into their hands.