Citizen Made Lets Manufacturers Customize Products for Less
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Citizen Made is the ecommerce platform for brands that make custom products (Image: Citizen Made)

Not every business is like Burger King. You can’t always “have it your way.” But now Citizen Made, a new e-commerce platform, is making it increasingly easier for brands and customers to create custom products online.

Traditionally, the online shopping process has been linear. For example, in the past, if a seller posted an image of a bike, the buyer could choose to buy it as is, or hunt through pages and pages of web posts on the seller’s site or on other sites to find the style of bike they wanted in the right color–with the right frame, seat, speed, and handle bars.

Unfortunately, for the seller, that search might take the buyer away from her page causing her to lose a sale. Even if the seller is able to customize the bike based on the buyer’s verbal or written instructions, the buyer will never see the finished product until after it’s built and paid for.

“There is a large set of brands and manufacturers that sell configurable or customizable products, but are unable to participate in e-commerce simply because…the experience of mixing, matching, and adding on options is generally unavailable,” says Rachel Brooks, who developed Citizen Made. “We aim to provide software tools so that [any brand is] able to open their business to the world via the Internet.”

With Citizen Made, the buyer can mix and match features to create, for example, the bike they’ve always dreamed of, without leaving the seller’s page; and Citizen Made produces an illustration that is a carbon copy of what the end product will look like before they even spend a dime.

While websites that allow shoppers to customize products aren’t new, it’s often been a costly, time consuming venture, especially for small, independent businesses. Citizen Made makes it possible for business owners to produce custom products online without having to learn any development skills to build it themselves or outsource the project to software development agencies who have pricey fees, says Brooks, who traveled to Silicon Valley to participate in the widely-acclaimed NewMe Accelerator.

Citizen Made licenses the software to businesses for a monthly fee that is tiered based on the number of transactions a company has within the context of the software. They also charge an initial setup fee for enterprise clients, which covers their unique needs for integration at scale.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.