Rachel's Story: From a Passion Project to Blossoming Business
If you’ve seen her around Martha’s Vineyard, then you’ve seen her vibrant, curly red hair and her bright eyes. Originally from Manhattan with deep Island roots, Rachel Austin Baumrin is the quintessential hardworking West Tisbury Woman. Sometimes she’s seen walking the North Shore of the Island with her dog and other times (most times), she’s representing not only Austin Designs, but also Martha’s Vineyard Made.
Twenty-something years ago, Rachel sat at her kitchen table making jewelry by candlelight. Not to set the ambience, but to conserve electricity in order to make ends meet for herself. With her keen eyesight and creativity, her passion project blossomed into a business.
Over the next decade she continued to refine her craft and it was during the winter of 2012 when she found herself back at the sewing machine after some 18 years, and returning her to skills as a seamstress. Soon she was setting up shop at the Chilmark Flea Market and surrounding herself with other artists, makers and creators. As Rachel puts it, she felt like she belonged; it was an instant connection and knew that the Island was something special where talents like hers should always be shared.
Rachel and her father (left), Rachel and her nana (right).
Today, Rachel sources her fabric from all over the world and uses herbs from only the best distributors. While Martha’s Vineyard might have made her, how did she make Martha’s Vineyard Made?
Martha’s Vineyard Made
The idea of the artisan festivals, farmers markets and flea markets is nothing new; they’ve been longtime seasonal events for locals and visitors alike, displaying the talents of Islanders and providing Martha’s Vineyard products. While each maker had their booth and sold products individually, it proposed the question: what if everything was available year-round and buyers from all over could access local, Martha’s Vineyard made products?
That’s when Rachel and friend (then business partner) Heidi Friedman of MV Sea Salt came together to create Martha’s Vineyard Made, originally a wholesale repping company. In 2018, they had their first wholesale show displaying the works of over 20 Island artists and makers. It offered vendors the opportunity to come together and buyers to purchase products in bulk––not only offering an affordable option but also encouraging Martha’s Vineyard products to be sold in stores.
A lot of work and many successful trade shows later, it all came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic presented itself and plans changed. As panic started to set in for the Island and “unprecedented times” were upon us, Rachel did what she did best––started to get creative.
The idea of creating an online platform had always been on the back burner. Some could say it was serendipity, perhaps it was the pandemic but it wasn’t long before Rachel and Susan Ciatto (of Tisbury Turkey) formed what they call “an organic collaboration” and the online retail aspect Martha’s Vineyard Made was brought to life. The mission remains simple: to provide full service and support to local artists, makers and creators, while developing a lasting island-inspired connection with customers world-wide.
It’s no secret that small businesses and individuals have suffered, but one thing remains certain: together, as an Island, we are better.
Martha’s Vineyard Made proudly provides original and authentic locally made products to customers near and far. We simply allow artists, makers and creators to do what they do best while we do the rest. In addition to our full service online retail platform we also have a brick & mortar location at 29 Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
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- Jordan Lane