âIt’s like an artist incubator. Not only do we seek to give them visibility, but we also help them tackle each of their business challenges, âsaid Wang. âThe store is a way to showcase their work, but every step of the way, we also tell their story. “
Sett and Wang said they worked individually with the artists to set prices, including fees paid to Ohanga. Then each of the creators works with Maggie Bassi, director of creative content and editor-in-chief of Etch.
Bassi says artists often tell him they don’t have time to be their own marketing director, design a website, or post on social media regularly because they’re too busy creating their products.
âI am the first point of contact for most of these artists. I hear what their issues are, then we create a profile about them on our website, write an article about their story in the magazine, and promote their brand on social media, âBassi said. âWe want customers to be involved every step of the way, but then we want the creatives to focus on their art. “
The store’s name which means “nest” in the namesake derives from the language spoken by the Maori people, who were the indigenous Polynesian settlers who sailed their canoes to New Zealand over 700 years ago, said Sett and Wang. When British settlers arrived in the 1700s, the Maori protected their society and culture, preserving their history and art through the whakapapa, the genealogy that linked them to their community.
The idea of ââbuilding a space where artisans could flourish.
âWhen I quit my job at Amazon Roboticsâ¦ everyone thought I was crazy,â said Wang, who left China for the United States in 2000, has a doctorate. in civil engineering, and has worked in the development of full-stack software and cloud services. She left everything to start Ohanga.
Sett had a similar story.
He was a mechanical engineer and had left India for the United States in 1998. He worked in software innovation and held a management position at Dassault Systems before leaving in January 2020 to co-found Ohanga. He had seen his wife, Oindrila Sikdar, supports its own listening studio. Painter and functional artist, Sikdar creates household items and uses bright blue dyes that evoke the ocean to create his paintings, cutting boards and serving trays.
When the pandemic struck, the artists Wang and Sett admired lost the ability to exhibit their art to everyday consumers and found online platforms, like Etsy, incredibly difficult.
âWhen you go to a website like Etsy, you get handcrafted items. But you really don’t know the origin. Here, we know the origin of the artists. It’s hyper-local, and we built it as if it were the beginnings of a tech company in directing, logistics and supporting artists’ businesses, âsaid Sett. “At the end of the day, we want these artists to grow up.”
The Cranston store was designed to be a seasonal pre-holiday pop-up, but Sett said they hope to stay there for good, while also selling on their website.
Sett said Ohanga is the perfect type of store for Rhode Island because “the pride here is strong.”
âLike nowhere else, people here want to buy and support other Rhode Islanders,â Sett said. âWe just help them find these creations. “
Ohanga is located at 51 Hillside Rd Unit 9004, Cranston, RI 02920. The store is open 10 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday and 12 pm to 6 pm Sunday.