During uncertain economic times, it’s natural to be a little risk-averse. Antastasia Leng knows this, but said knowledge didn’t stop the 28-year-old and her colleague Ryan Hayward from abandoning their cozy jobs at Google for something more creatively fulfilling. In August, 2012, the duo launched Makeably, a collaborative e-commerce site where artisans and makers could connect directly with the folks who wanted to buy their products.
Here’s how it works: A user is looking to buy a piece of jewelry and, through search, ends up at Makeably. She finds a ring she likes, but wants to change a few things. So she looks at the jeweler’s page and sees all sorts of parameters in which she can work to alter the item to her liking. The benefit is two-fold: first, the user gets exactly what she wants. Second, the maker is absolved of the risk normally associated with selling ready-made batches of different product varieties. It works for either single items or large orders—and, through collaboration, the maker might discover a new idea or two along the way.
Plus each maker gets to maintain robust profiles on the site, whether they’re focused on furniture or art or what have you. And so far there’s quite an eclectic group of makers and products, from vintage Televisions for watching YouTube in black-and-white to artfully personalized globes to these custom remixed bracelets.
"Ultimately what we believe is that every creative work is derivative," says Leng. "So with our process, you can remix everything that you see based on the parameters that our makers have set out."
It was that notion of the remix (first articulated by co-founder Hayward) that got things really moving last year—they made $10,000 in transaction revenue in their first six weeks, "without spending a dime," she says. Today, Makeably has six employees working out of an office at Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward space, which means they’re surrounded by precisely the sorts of folks who might sell goods on the site. And after raising $650,000 in funding last month, Leng and Hayward are poised to take the company to the next level.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Business Insider ranked her number two on its list of 30 Important Women Under 30 in Tech. Put simply: Leng wants to turn e-commerce into a personally customized experience.
"All of the digital products that our generation uses are incredibly customized," says Leng, whose counted Bahrain, Vietnam, Hungary, Russia, France, England, and the United States among her homes throughout her life. "Think of your Facebook newsfeed, your Pandora playlist, you Netflix stream. Our generation has grown up with an iPhone in every pocket—Google search at our finger tips—we want what we want when we want it. And I think it’s only a matter of time before this trend bleeds into commerce. We believe that by getting involved in the process, we’re not only helping the makers; but we’re also rewarding our buyers, who get to be involved in the process of designing the very things that they want."