New plan uncovers data that supports Memphis' maker economy

In December 2016, Memphis was named the fifth North American “Maker City” by the online marketplace, Etsy.  This was due in large part to the work of The Made By Project, which put in six months of research, mapping exercises, and in-depth interviews of local makers, artisans and micro-entrepreneurs to the aspirations of Memphis’ maker economy.
Led by Little Bird, a Memphis-based research, strategy and design firm, The Made By Project announced February 6 that they had released the data from this first-of-its kind quantitative and qualitative survey of more than 300 makers in Memphis and Shelby County.
“While many of our makers may not initially think of themselves as part of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, this ‘creative class’ of entrepreneurs not only represents viable businesses, but their locally made products represent such an authentic and vibrant part of Memphis,” said Leslie Smith, president of EPIcenter.
The Made By Project focuses on tracking entrepreneurs who create and sell physical goods at small scale in one of four sectors: packaged food and beverage; fashion and accessories; home goods; and technology and hardware.

At the maker appreciation party held December 2016, Made By brought together local makers and Etsy representatives. 
The researchers plan to use the results of the survey to develop a data-driven economic development plan that fosters a vibrant, thriving and inclusive community of makers and artisans across the region.
Long term, the development plan aims to grow the greater Memphis economy in new areas, specifically in the number of maker enterprises led by women and minorities; the diversity and quality standard of products; the number of micro-entrepreneurs scaling to small- and medium-sized businesses; the demand for skilled worker; and the brand perception of Memphis for creative enterprises.
Of the 315 respondents, 68 percent run their businesses on their own, 57 percent identified as part-time and 43 percent identifiedas full-time.
Little Bird found that the median age for Memphis’ makers is 40 years old and 74 percent of respondents are women. Seventy-two percent are white, 72 percent are well-educated and 64 percent are married.
Implementation of recommendations in the development plan will be led by EPIcenter, a collaborative and community-wide strategic initiative that is helping entrepreneurs conceive, launch and scale businesses in the Memphis region.
EPIcenter serves as the strategic hub of the region’s ecosystem and coordinates resources from various organizations in the community such as accelerators, incubators, mentors, investors, networking programs, and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs.
“Many communities are trying to determine how to build infrastructure to support makers and artisans, and we now have the data to really understand how best to serve them here in Shelby County,” said Leslie Smith, president of EPIcenter.
The full report can be viewed here

Read more articles by J. Dylan Sandifer.

J. Dylan Sandifer is a freelance writer living in Memphis since 2008. They have also contributed writing and research for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, VICE News, and Choose901. 
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