Qualicum Beach web developer Shawna Allen knows the power of combining art and technology to bring people together.
As the founder of Island Crafted, she runs Vancouver Island's largest online artisan directory and helps makers share their handmade products with customers across the super region.
Before Shawna was the brains behind Island Crafted she worked as a medical lab tech at Vancouver General Hospital.
Combining creative + technical skills
"I like to say I went from being a lab geek to a computer nerd, because my first career was as a medical laboratory technologist working at Vancouver General Hospital for 9 years. It is there where I discovered my love for coding after being assigned to assist with the development of our lab information system.
After moving to Qualicum Beach in 2013 (and never looking back), I started to explore other career opportunities which would allow me to use both my creative and my technical side while being able to stay at home with my young boys. I started dipping my toes into Website Design and Development and immediately fell in love with it."
We had the pleasure of asking Shawna some questions about connection and building a Vancouver Island arts ecosystem.
On building an arts ecosystem
Tell us more about your journey with Island Crafted! Where did it start? Where has the journey taken you?
Island Crafted was born in 2018. As a fairly new website designer, I was often tossing around ideas of different websites I could develop. The idea to create a directory of Vancouver Island made products came to me essentially out of pure frustration one day, after I decided that I really wanted to start supporting more local product makers, but I was having very little luck trying to search them out online. It was one of those ideas that hit me out of the blue; I realized that I have all the skills needed to create an online Vancouver Island directory, and as far as I knew, no such directories existed as of yet.
I connected with a few local makers that I knew and asked them what they thought about my idea, and whether it would be something they were interested in being a part of. After a resounding YES from everyone I asked, I just basically ran with the idea before I had the chance to talk myself out of it.
Building the website was the “easy” part for me; the other aspects of running a business were the challenging part. In particular, learning all the “ins and outs” of social media (and still learning, as what works and what doesn’t work on social media seems to change every month!) I’m sure every single small business owner out there can relate the that!
What inspires you most about the concept of an arts ecosystem ?
It will help bring to light just how many product makers and artists there are on Vancouver Island (and our surrounding small islands), and it will provide better support to help these small businesses succeed in a market where the average consumer is focussed on cheaper, mass-produced products that are often made thousands of kilometres from our home.
I believe that the average consumer really has no idea just how many products are made locally, and I would love to see more emphasis and value placed on these incredibly talented local creatives through group advertising, local media, group events, etc.
What does working together mean to you?
Sharing knowledge of local small business strategies that work, and those that don’t work. Creating an eco-system (network) of local businesses and making it easier for these businesses to source their materials and services from each other.
Lending support to each other in non-financial ways, such as following and engaging with their social media accounts, sharing their work on your own social media, recommending them to friends, cheering them on, etc. And prioritizing community over competition.
Complete the phrase, "life is better when..."
We all lift each other up.