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Made By project celebrates, supports local artisans and craftspeople


Do you have a friend who makes t-shirts? An aunt who knits shawls? A neighbor who bakes? If yes, then you know a "maker," "micro-manufacturer"or "micropreneur," as they are sometimes known.

Most people know someone who makes something. Possessions feel much more personal when they are homemade, and it feels good to buy something from the person who made it, too. And because of that — and an increasing drive in communities to "buy local"— the maker industry is booming nationwide. And Memphis is no exception.

To salute this industry and those who work in it, there is the “National Week of Making” June 17 through 23, a week dedicated to honoring millions of craftspeople, innovators, and entrepreneurs whose designs and products are fueling economic growth across the country.

Locally, the Made By project will host several events to celebrate the makers in our city. From butter cookies to craft beer, from custom coffee tables to handmade coffee cups, Memphis is increasingly a city of unique artisans and craftspeople.

To tell us more about the Made By project and the maker community, High Ground spoke with Made By organizer Nicole Heckman.

Made By has a Happy Hour and a Faire coming up. What are those events about, and what are your plans for the "National Week of Making"?
 
The Made By project supports makers, artisans and micro-manufacturers who craft a physical good to sell -- people who are making food, apparel, or items in small quantities, using high levels of skills and craftsmanship. The National Week of Making is June 17 through June 23 and our upcoming events are a way to celebrate and bring awareness to our local maker community. The Happy Hour on June 17 is being hosted by City & State and sponsored by Etsy. Memphis was selected as one of 13 US/Canadian cities from more than 200 applications to participate in the recent Etsy Maker Cities Summit in Brooklyn, and we'll be sharing some of what we learned there.  
 
We’ll also be launching the Made By Project survey and asking people to help us build a new "community asset map." We'll be using actual, giant neighborhood maps to plot out resources in the city that makers rely on.
 
The Maker Fair is the culmination of a day of exciting maker-related events, starting with a roundtable hosted by Mayor Strickland. The goal is for the city to better understand some of the bright spots and challenges to crafting goods locally. Following the roundtable, the mayor will sign the Mayor’s Maker Pledge at in front of City Hall. The Maker Fair itself will consist of twenty vendors and will be set up in front of City Hall to showcase and sell items that are designed and produced here in Memphis.
 
Why Made By, why now? What are your goals? Who do you support and how?
 
Made By wants to help artisans and micro-manufacturers in Memphis thrive and grow their businesses. We want anybody that is making craft goods to compete locally and nationally.  First, we need to identify the economic impact of this sector and their unique needs -- how much are these entrepreneurs putting into our economy every year? From there, we can create a roadmap of ways to address their needs and make it easier for people in Memphis to start, run and grow a maker or craft business.
 
Locally made products are part of a city’s cultural identity and contribute to a sense of place.  We believe that creative entrepreneurs contribute to a more diverse and resilient local economy and we think that the Made By project shows this to be the case. At the individual level, these businesses may be fairly small, but taken together they add up to something big.
 
This effort is focused on building a deeper understanding and appreciation for small scale production. The scope of the project is Shelby County and we are very focused on making sure we have participation from neighborhoods across the area, especially those that are traditionally underserved. It is important that marginalized entrepreneurs have a voice in this work.
 
What impact do Made By participants have on the city, both economically, but also culturally?
 
We do not yet know the economic impact of our makers, artisans and micro-manufacturers – that is a big reason why we are doing this project.  You can’t argue for investment if you don’t know what you’re investing in. We need to connect the dots between all of the dollars being spent by these businesses, not just the revenue and sales tax paid from their sales.
 
In addition, a growing number of consumers subscribe to a new purchasing ethos that is more about buying a single well-crafted item and knowing who made it and the story behind it versus ten mass-produced and often inferior quality imitations. This creates a growing market opportunity for talented, small-scale producers.
 
How is Made By supported?
 
The project is funded by private sources that share our belief that makers, artisans and micro-manufacturers are an important part of our local economy.
 
What is Little Bird Innovation's role? EPIcenter's role?
 
Little Bird Innovation is a research, strategy and design firm focused primarily on three areas of work: social impact, civic innovation and economic development. This project falls into our economic development practice.

EPIcenter is our implementation partner; they are active participants throughout and will be the ultimate owner of the final plan. Worth noting, the plan is not something we go off on our own and create. Our approach will put makers, artisans, and micro-manufacturers themselves front and center throughout the work. These creative entrepreneurs know best what they need to thrive; Made By is about hearing from them and helping them grow.

 
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