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The Articentral team. Photo via Articentral.
The Articentral team. Photo via Articentral.

Most artisans and makers probably enjoy spending more time at their workbench than they do in front of the computer taking care of administrative work.

Articentral wants to help. The Seattle-based startup launched this year to provide a platform that helps users streamline the work needed for online marketplace listings, marketing, shipping, advertising, taxes, and more.

Francis Ayling founded Articentral with Tanay Delima and Arturo Lungo. The founders met at the University of Toronto and now work together as part of the current 9MileLabs cohort in Seattle.

“We have developed powerful technology and an interface that is intuitive for artisans to easily grow and manage their online business,” Ayling said.

Francis Ayling.
Francis Ayling.

We caught up with Ayling for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help makers and artisans who craft beautiful handmade products easily manage the boring administrative desk work, so they can spend less time in front of their computer and more time in their studio.”

Inspiration hit us when: “To be honest we’re constantly inspired by the passion and enthusiasm artisans have for their crafts. If you’ve ever spoken to an artisan about what they do it’s hard not to be inspired by their child-like enthusiasm. This passion drives us each and every day to build a platform that allows them to spend more time making.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Up to this point we’ve been bootstrapping it. We’re proud and extremely passionate about what we’re building. With that in mind, we’re looking for angels who share that same passion for the maker community. You wouldn’t believe the number of people we’ve come across who have some sort of artistic ability and as such, what we’re doing really resonates with them.”

Articentral-Logo1Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our secret sauce is our relentless focus on building tools for artisans. These artisans have very specific business needs, that other e-commerce sellers do not. We have developed powerful technology and an interface that is intuitive for artisans to easily grow and manage their online business.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “The smartest move we’ve made was definitely our decision to pause building and instead getting out there to talk to as many potential customers as we could. Our weekends continue to consist of a mix of craft fairs and flea markets. Not only do we get to frequently come across incredibly unique and gorgeous handmade products, but you also wouldn’t believe how eye-opening conversations with customers can be.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “On the contrary, when we first started out we were so eager to get started that we rushed into to building a product. This allowed some of our personal biases to creep into the product and these were quickly brought up by our customers. Building a product without a sufficient customer development process almost never works. But, on the brightside, this pitfall lead us to our smartest move.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Tough question, but I think we’re going to have to go with Bezos. We’re all industrial engineers and can appreciate efficient, effective, and optimal solutions more than most. There’s really no one better at producing efficient and highly effective solutions.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Ping pong. We don’t joke around when it comes to pong. There’s a table in our office and a spreadsheet that rivals MLB statistics. So far Arturo has been coming out on top, but Tanay and I are training to change that.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We value diverse opinions and find that they usually lead to the most creative solutions. You have to be open to providing and receiving constructive feedback and questioning, while always being respectful of your fellow teammates.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Spend as much time as you can understanding your customers and the problem you’re solving. You may think you completely know your customers but you can always learn more. This understanding helps you prioritize and dedicate your limited resources to what matters the most, solving the most pressing customer problems first.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the startups in 9Mile Labs’ fall cohort. The companies will debut their final products at the Milestone9 Graduation Day event Oct.13.

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