Her business started one vodka-soaked night in Russia eleven years ago. Two colleagues working in Moscow, Claudia Helming and Michael Pütz, painted matryoshkas as Christmas presents for friends. In the end, the wooden dolls were too funky to give away to family.
They launched Dawanda one year later, a platform for makers to sell homemade items that is Germany’s answer to Etsy.
“I thought, why not create something where people who are actually good at making crafts can show their products and people like us who are looking for something special can find them,” Ms. Helming said.
That was back in 2006. Since then Ms. Helming has become the sole owner of a site offering 6 million home made products. Its headquarters is a former factory building in Berlin, in offices that house many of the company’s 200 employees and a host of stuffed toys, prints and calendars.
Dawanda is an African girl’s name, Ms. Helming explained, meaning happy and fun-loving.
Despite enjoying handicrafts, Ms. Helming said she hadn’t improved her craft skills and doesn’t plan to make gifts for people this Christmas.
Instead during the past decade she has driven growth on the site, starting with early attempts casting about Berlin for artists using Google and blogs to assemble a database of the first 200 knitters and designers.
At first, Dawanda sold more traditional handicrafts; now, sellers range from mother and daughter teams to traditional crafters, amateurs and young designers.
Handcrafting has become much more established in the last ten years, Ms. Helming said. Dawanda now has 380,000 sellers who upload 15,000 new products each day. Every minute, a bag is sold; every 30 seconds, someone buys a baby product – and every 20 seconds, an item of jewelry. The site had a gross merchandise volume of €140 million in 2015.