Etsy lauds Memphis as a maker city

Etsy, the multi-billion dollar online marketplace, has named Memphis its fourth official Maker City, a title that ushers Memphis to the top of the list of cities willing to go the extra mile in providing a supportive and competitive environment for entrepreneurs.
The Etsy nod came in early December after months of maker-centric research spearheaded by Little Bird Innovation, an innovation and strategy consulting firm.
To secure the designation, Etsy partnered with a collective of support organizations, including Little Bird, City of Memphis, EPIcenter and local proprietors Lisa Toro and Brit McDaniel.
As part of its Made By project, Little Bird has surveyed hundreds of Memphis-area makers and conducted 30 in-depth interviews. Through that effort, researchers at Little Bird have begun to map out the strengths and deficiencies of Memphis’ micro-economy and how it could better support makers.  
Through their research, Little Bird learned that some makers had difficulty sourcing raw materials, so they worked to connect Memphis makers with the closest distribution source for raw clay in Nashville.
Other makers said that they need help with the basic bones of their business, such as filing for the correct permits and getting help with their small business taxes. Dozens were challenged by the lack of affordable studio space.
In response, Made By will host a series of financial literacy workshops targeted specifically to makers and entrepreneurs.
To date, no other city has completed qualitative research to the degree that Little Bird has in order to define areas of opportunity.
“Memphis has a long and impressive history of a thriving music and arts scene and is now leading the way to best practices to leverage the passion of micro-entrepreneurs, makers and policymakers to actively support the creative economy,” stated Chad Dickerson, Etsy CEO, in Memphis’ award letter. He added that Made By’s qualitative and quantitative scans of the local micro-economy ensure that makers will have a voice in Memphis’ strategic planning process.
Joanne Massey, director of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development for the City of Memphis said that she expects Little Bird’s findings and Etsy’s support to move the needle for Memphis small businesses.
“When you have programs like this (Made By) and outside support coming in from Etsy — it’s leverage that is really going to help us find sustainable solutions for our city,” said Massey.
Made By’s complete findings will continue to roll out throughout the end of the year and into January. The City of Memphis has a keen interest in Little Bird’s findings, as the research has the potential to help the city identify areas of opportunity that could bolster returns for  minority and women-owned businesses, an area that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has pledged to improve.

Read more articles by Micaela Watts.

Micaela Watts is a freelance reporter in her hometown of Memphis and has a focused interest in community reporting. Her work has appeared in The Memphis FlyerChalkbeat Tennessee, and The Daily News
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