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VOL. 131 | NO. 241 | Monday, December 5, 2016

Memphis Wins ‘Maker City’ Designation from Etsy

By Andy Meek

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The local community of makers and artisan entrepreneurs this year has been the subject of increased attention from the city and other key stakeholders who want to learn more about and ultimately see that community expand.

What’s already clear – certainly to entrepreneurs participating in that community – is that the maker economy is strong in Memphis. So much so that the CEO of online marketplace Etsy has in a letter to Memphis leaders praised the city with the official distinction of being a “Maker City.”

Etsy.com defines such places as “strong municipalities that value entrepreneurship, sustainability and responsible manufacturing with the creative and innovative spirit of the Etsy community.” That designation follows a team from Memphis participating in a Maker Cities Summit hosted by Etsy in Brooklyn last summer.

The team from Memphis attending that summit included Brit McDaniel, owner of Paper & Clay; Lisa Toro, owner of City & State; Maria Furhmann, city of Memphis grants coordinator; Jessica Taveau, director of marketing and communications for Memphis Bioworks and EPIcenter; and Nicole Heckman, partner at Little Bird Innovation and organizer of the Made By project.

The Made By project is a collaboration of Little Bird Innovation and EPIcenter (Entrepreneur-Powered Innovation Center) built around a survey of artisans, makers and micro-manufacturers from around the Memphis area to better understand their operations and identify what support might help fuel their growth even more.

“We are so inspired by your continued passion for empowering makers and micro-businesses and your commitment to investing in local creative economies,” Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson wrote in his letter. “By connecting the many Memphis makers across various sectors to the skill-building and technical resources provided by community and city partners, your engagement work has sparked new and innovative ideas for programming that will bolster the growing community of makers and micro-businesses.”

The Made By project has already met with more than 300 Memphis-based makers over the summer and fall. The project’s findings will include a set of recommendations to be prototyped next year for how to grow the sector, and will be made public in a final report released in a few weeks.

“I think the city has been supportive,” said Vishant Shah, a project leader with Little Bird Innovation. “We’ll be working together in 2017, and one of the things we’re talking about is a financial literacy class for makers. What’s happened over the last six months – some of it’s been community building, some of it’s been networking and some of it’s been educational.”

From the city’s perspective, one of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s priorities has been to promote the growth of minority- and women-owned businesses, which comprise a big slice of the local maker economy. That’s according to the Made By study, which Shah said found that 75 percent of respondents fall into that category.

The “Maker City” designation from Etsy will be a catalyst for the city’s maker economy, said EPIcenter president Leslie Lynn Smith. And EPIcenter is looking forward “to leveraging the Made By plan to provide critical resources that can help these creative entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses in neighborhoods throughout Memphis."

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751