Eighteen years ago, during their first month at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cayley Pater and Andy Ives met at a meeting of the Fair Trade Club. Much has happened to them since then including getting married and, over the past five years, turning their goal of creating ethically sourced goods into their own startup called Made Trade.
Based out of Carrboro and founded in 2018, Made Trade is a values-driven company that allows artisans to sell their goods on the site, which promotes sustainability and ethics. Made Trade will be pitching at CED’s Venture Connect summit on March 29-30 in RTP.
“We really saw the need for Made Trade in the market,” Pater said. “We were personally looking to buy beautifully designed, ethically sourced products for our own homes.”
She said that Made Trade works to sell a variety of goods such as bedding, furniture, clothing, accessories and gifts.
In the beginning of creating this startup, Pater said they began looking for sustainable products to use themselves, but soon noticed that what they found typically had a limited brand awareness.
“I was like, ‘Why isn’t there a one-stop shop that really curates the best of these products?” she said.
Made Trade is a woman-owned business, and Pater said that with women being the leaders in the conscious consumerism movement, part of their core identity is recognizing this. She also said that over 90 percent of their customers are women, with over 70 percent of the brands they carry being woman-owned.
Unlike many goods being sold by other companies, Ives said that all their items have a story behind them, which makes buying them an even more special process for customers. He said he compares making purchases on their site to voting with your dollar, due to their specific goals and mission.
To ensure that the people who Made Trade works with match their ethical values, they must undergo a rigorous vetting application, which Pater said is modeled after Fair Trade processes. She said they ask the brands to substantiate their claims of sustainability by explaining how their materials are sustainable, describing where their products come from and asserting that their employees are paid fairly for their work.
“One of the most important things to us is that we maintain that authenticity for our customers,” Pater said, “and they know that they can trust that any product they buy on Made Trade is making a positive impact for people and the planet.”
Social media, especially TikTok and Instagram, is their primary marketing strategy, but they plan to expand this by rolling out a new influencer marketing program so they can partner with people to talk about Made Trade and review their products.
“We want to make sure people know Made Trade is the place where you can come and discover all of these incredible products that you otherwise may not know are out there,” Pater said.
Through raising their current seed round—according to an SEC filing the startup has closed on $200K of a potential $1.5M—she said they have realized the startup has the potential to scale. Pater said they plan for this round to allow them to focus on brand awareness and customer acquisition.
She said the goal for the next five years is to scale quickly and set up Made Trade to become a leader in sustainable home decor and fashion in the United States. Pater said that their seed round is the first step to achieving this journey.
Ives said that building a brand is not an overnight process. He said that doing this includes a lot of smart decisions and refinements to make everything work.
“We’ve put money into things that just didn’t work,” he said. “But you have to test it and you have to understand where your customer is, who your customer is, what they’re looking for and be able to market to them better.”
Since they did not start with a large network, Pater said that from the Venture Connect experience, they hope to increase this and meet with other founders in the Triangle’s startup community.
“There’s a lot of other people who are out there like us who are making these things happen in the startup or new business space,” Ives said. “I’m excited to meet more of them as well as meet potential folks who want to have a stake in our success and our future in our next chapter.”