First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alessio Iadicicco: I am doing good, and thank god no member of my family has been impacted or affected by COVID-19. I lived in Italy until last week, and the months from February to May were pretty difficult. We stayed locked in the house for 3 months to flatten the curve. I am lucky to live in a building with my whole family, so we used this forced indoor time to spend it among family and cousins: playing cards, working out, and cooking a lot of different things. I obtained some supply chain certifications that I was always postponing due to lack of time, while my whole team and I kept working remotely, pushing our business forward. During these times, I was in contact with our Italian artisans and factories, and I would like to personally thank them since they were busy producing medical masks for our doctors and hospitals in Italy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MakersValley.
Alessio Iadicicco: I am Italian and, most importantly, a Global Citizen. I was raised by boutique owners, fed by a seamstress, and taught by a shoe distributor. I have always been passionate about experiential open manufacturing, supply chain, and the manufacturing industry in general. Since childhood, I would bike to local manufacturers to buy high-end scrap clothes for my parents’ boutiques. I also love traveling and experiencing new cultures and visiting new countries. During my college years, I was an active national member of the largest youth-driven organization in the world, AIESEC, which allowed me to work in 3 different countries, travel in 30 countries worldwide, and attend and facilitate Youth Leadership Conferences worldwide.
In April 2016, I co-founded MakersValley together with two amazing individuals that I am happy to call friends, Tiffany and Babajide. Tiffany and I started selling our own clothing line to boutiques in New York. Tiﬀany went door-to-door in all Manhattan, visiting boutiques with a suitcase full of Italian-made suits. She found out that boutique owners weren’t interested in buying wholesale brands, but wanted to start their own private label with low minimum order quantities. This is because customers try on clothing at boutiques and find the same clothing on Amazon at wholesale prices or a neighboring boutique for a lower price. Boutique owners must develop their own unique private label clothing line, at a high upfront cost due to high minimum order requirements placed on production orders by apparel manufacturers. On the other hand, manufacturers are going out of business due to the growing buying power from large brands that force them to lower their prices to unsustainable levels.
That’s how we started MakersValley.
How does MakersValley innovate?
Alessio Iadicicco: We are making the whole manufacturing process as seamless as possible. We have created a platform that gives emerging designers and brands the opportunity to easily upload their designs and receive manufacturing quotes from our 135 highly vetted Italian factories, all in less than 48 hours. Our software provides live status updates of our designers’ products while they are being made in Italy. Our customers then receive pictures and video of their design directly from the factory floor, thanks to a custom build app we have created for our artisans. We have 24/7 support for all of our customers thanks to an assigned account manager, and we take care of all the import procedures for them, worldwide, thanks to our unique agreement with UPS world. We are committed to making the manufacturing process easy and transparent.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alessio Iadicicco: We started seeing coronavirus pandemic’s effects on our business early in the year. As you all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Italy. With the March stay-at-home order, the Italian Prime Minister announced a temporary 5-week closure of all non-essential production, including our entire network of 130+ Italian apparel manufacturers. All our overseas brands’ sampling and production operations had to stop, which caused a big delay not only on all our operations and business.
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a 30% drop in new subscriptions from Q2 2020 and prompted many new customers to cancel their membership for the time being, as discretionary spending trends fell globally.
We did not let the pandemic define or win over our business despite all the craziness. Regardless of the confusion of Q1 and Q2 of this year, MakersValley achieved some first-time records in our company’s history:
● The highest number of production orders in one quarter
● The highest number of new factory sign-ups on our platform
The COVID-19 factory shutdown didn’t slow us down, and we launched our new website and blog at https://makersvalley.net. Our website bounce rate dropped from 80% to 50% in just two months, and our website views skyrocketed from 6K views to 20K views per month and kept growing.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alessio Iadicicco: Absolutely, difficult choices are part of the game when you build something from scratch. You learn new skills and knowledge, and you might need to undo some of the beliefs that you had built within yourself through family, culture, and religion. More specifically, I learned that building a company, a culture, or something new is not supposed to be easy. If it is, it means that there is no real shift or real change. This all takes time and patience. We are not here for a sprint but rather a marathon.
One other important lesson I learn is that nothing happens by doing things alone. It is important to surround yourself with great individuals who will help you along the way, who are bought in on your mission and vision, and who match your group culture.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and MakersValley in the future?
Alessio Iadicicco: The first thing I do to deal with stress and anxiety is to accept it, and I don’t avoid or deny it. It is important for me to do that because I can slow myself down and make some space during the day to “treat myself” and focus on things and activities that make me feel better such as playing piano, going for a run, playing tennis, or spending time with my family. Most importantly, I don’t lose focus on the long term goal, and I remind myself that the hurdles along the way will make it much more pleasant when the goal will be achieved.
I picture myself happily living with the rewards of the decisions I made and the ones I am going to make. I picture myself leaving not only a legacy through our business but also of providing one to my future family and raising my children, to the best of my ability, as good human beings who will make the world a better place. I foresee the business itself daily improving while focusing on providing a great service to all our customers. Our goal is to build a company that will last for more than 100 years, and that will make other people’s dreams and ideas come to life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alessio Iadicicco: We have few other companies such as Maker’s Row, Sourcing Playground, Suuchi that work in our space, although they all focus on different regions of the world and function in a very different capacity. Currently, MakersValley is the only B2B manufacturing sourcing platform that connects fashion brands around the world with highly vetted Italian factories. We also are different because we focus on the Maker experience and add value by showing the real story of how products are made by Italian artisans using our tech platform and project timeline.
We are always looking for new things to add to our service, and one of them will be released next year. We are currently developing new software to help enterprise fashion brands create uniquely transparent and interactive experiences for their shoppers to see and share in the visual stories of their products’ sourcing, sampling, and production, but for more details on that, let’s follow up next Spring!
Your final thoughts?
Alessio Iadicicco: As I always say to my team at the end of each of our Italian meetings, we have to have strength and courage, and we will succeed through these crazy times. I am positive about the future. We are also going to pass successfully through this pandemic, and it will make us stronger and more aware of ourselves and the environment around us.
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