Makr launches iPad app to simplify design and branding for DIY mavens

By Erin Griffith , written on November 15, 2013

From The News Desk

It used to be that DIY-ers and freelancers spent a lot of time with Photoshop and Kinkos. Today a new app launched to help people design and buy custom paper goods, from personal branding to business supplies.

Makr is run by Ellen Johnston, who conceived of the idea while building lifestyle apps for the likes of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia through her agency Happy Media. Nicholas Callaway, her partner at Happy Media, is an advisor to Makr. The company has raised $865,000 seed round from Lerer Ventures, (a PandoDaily investor), Betaworks, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Founder Collective, Undercurrent, Box Group, Taylor Greene, and Nicholas Callaway.

The app has two audiences: The first is hardcore makers who have built their Etsy jewelry hobby, or their wholesale furniture design passion, into a full-on business. They're just about to take their company to the next level. They could benefit from some professional-looking supplies, from shipping labels and receipts, to business cards and invitations.

This is a growing category of people. As we explored in our micro-entrepreneurship series last month, the Internet has helped many, many people take their analog side hustle into a booming digital business. Selling goods on Etsy, or any of the similar marketplaces that have sprung up in its wake, is becoming a primary means of income for many people. But these businesses are stuck in an awkward stage between tiny one-man operation and a professional business.

In fact, Etsy recently had to loosen its rules for sellers in order to make it easier for them to professionalize and grow on Etsy's platform, rather than outgrowing Etsy and taking their business elsewhere. Sellers can now work with third-party manufacturers and are allowed to employ others. That was against the rules before.

Makr aims to serve those "Etsy graduates" with tools to help them professionalize their businesses. The iPad app offers easy ways to design and print customized paper goods, including branding and a logo, as well as product labels, gift tags, recipe cards, stickers, stationary, greeting cards and business cards.

The second group Makr targets is crafty people who want to build their own custom wedding invitations, or labels, or birthday cards.

For this second group, Minted, a startup backed by $49 million in venture funding, offers a similar product. Minted allows users to make customized cards and paper products. The difference between the two, says Johnston, is that Makr is completely customizable, where Minted offers more template-based designs with various tweaks. "You have creative freedom over everything," she says. Makr offers a library of 15 to 20 patterns, but colors, textures, fonts and other treatments are all custom. Further, users don't have to print and purchase their items through Makr. They can simply download the designs and print them independently if they want.

Johnston positions Makr as a more user-friendly version of the professional tools serving this market which have a high learning curve and offer up an intimidating blank slate like Photoshop. But it's more customizable than the restrictive templates she sees on the other end of the spectrum. Makr is for the makers that fall in the middle.