From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
March Madness? What about March of Makers, instead? This week, we sat down virtually with Alyssa Kovach, founder of the Alexandria Makers Market, to learn more about the organization. We also learned more about the March of Makers – a month-long virtual parade of all Alexandria-based makers.
AEDP: To get us started, please tell us a little about the Alexandria Makers Market. How did you get started?
Alyssa: Alexandria Makers Market was inspired from my experiences as a local vendor with my tshirt brand, A|VA Apparel. At various markets and festivals around town I met so many different types of makers, amazingly talented and creative people. The conversation always came back to, “what other opportunities do you know about?” Instead of waiting around for others to create events, promotions, or opportunities, I decided to do it myself! Alexandria Makers Market was initially created to be an event organization company, dedicated to shining a spotlight on all Alexandria-based makers. Over the last year, I’ve had to pivot a bit, but the mission remains the same!
AEDP: What has been the biggest challenge of running your own business?
Alyssa: Being a home-based business is very difficult, especially during a pandemic. I don’t have a storefront, so I use the website to serve as a home base for everything that I am working on. I rely heavily on social media and word-of-mouth for promotions, which means that I have had to learn a lot about that world. I’m a luddite by nature, so this part of the operation is always the hardest.
AEDP: What are you currently working on? Any fun projects?
Alyssa: There are a few curated gift boxes that are almost ready to launch- the Kids’ Boredom Buster (that will be available in time for Spring Break!), a Coffee Lovers, and I’m already curating for the Summer Subscription Box. Additionally, I’m getting ready for the “March of Makers” virtual event which will be a social media circus that features local makers, their products, Instagram take-overs, QVC-style Instagram live shopping, some workshops- just a bit of an overload all month long. It’s a great way for folks to check out these local brands, and hopefully engage with them in some new ways. There is one more project that I’m working on, but that’s going to remain a secret until all the details are ready- stay tuned!
AEDP: Do you have a favorite charity you support?
Alyssa: We love Upcycle! During our last holiday virtual market all of the participating makers donated to a raffle basket, the contributions that we collected were donated to Upcycle, because now more than ever their mission is incredibly important. In their own words:
“UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is an Alexandria, Virginia based non-profit that connects creativity and conservation by providing a resource center for reuse materials and a creative making space for the community. At UpCycle, we rethink the traditional notion of waste by collecting cast-offs from our community to serve as creative materials.”
AEDP: How has the COVID-19 pandemic caused you to shift your business strategy?
Alyssa: The initial concept for Alexandria Makers Market was that we would organize pop-ups and artisan markets throughout the year. In 2019 that was a very successful business model, but now it’s not a possibility. Despite the pandemic, our mission remains the same- to shine a spotlight on Alexandria-based makers and connect them with a larger audience. That work seems more important than ever, because the maker community has really had a difficult time during the pandemic.
At the beginning of 2021, we knew we had to make some drastic pivots if we wanted to continue to carry out our mission. We now organize virtual markets and promotions, the next being the “March of Makers,” and offer curated gift boxes and a seasonal subscription box that are full of products from the makers we work with.
In addition, we have partnered with The Zebra Press and have a weekly show- “Make It Alexandria” on Z-TV Live- where we interview local makers in order to get to know them and their brand more in depth. Once a month on the show we have a segment called “Dinner and DIY.” We pre-sell craft kits that can be picked up with dinner, at a featured Alexandria restaurant, and then we walk through the steps together on the show. Went want everyone to know that they can be a maker! It seems like a far stretch between organizing pop-up markets and hosting tv shows, but we’re doing what we do best- getting creative.
AEDP: To close us out, can you tell us why you decided to locate in Alexandria?
Alyssa: My husband and I were living in Grand Cayman. We were ready to “move on” but didn’t intend to come back to the States. The day that I found out I was pregnant with my first son, my husband was recruited for a job at Episcopal High School. We didn’t know much about the area, but sold everything we owned and moved here in August of 2013. It has been the biggest blessing of our lives to live in this city. It is such a perfect place to raise our family, and I’m so proud that they will grow up calling this place their hometown.
To learn more about Alexandria Makers Market, visit their website or follow them on Instagram (@alexandriamakersmarket).