VOL. 132 | NO. 122 | Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Made By Project Generates New Ideas And Goals to Support Memphis Makers
By Andy Meek
A new business plan competition and a nine-week cohort program are the first two recommendations to come out of a plan in support of Shelby County’s Made By Project, an effort to understand the needs and goals of “makers,” artisans and micro-manufacturers in Memphis and Shelby County.
Implementation of those first goals of the project will be led by the local EPIcenter organization and Little Bird Innovation. They’re also being announced as part of the National Week of Making, a celebration June 16-22 of activities in communities around the country that celebrate makers and their innovation and creativity.
The plan seeks to boost the Memphis-area economy over the next three years in areas that include the number of maker enterprises, especially featuring women and minorities; the demand for skilled workers; and the perception of Memphis as a strong city for makers and creative businesses, among others. Strategic and tactical solutions to come out of the Made By Project – which included a survey of more than 300 makers and the like – are a focus of that effort.
The effort is also seeking nominations for a Maker Council, a body that will offer guidance and advice to help creative entrepreneurs in the Memphis area. Nominations can be made by clicking on the link to a questionnaire at the Made By website, madebyproject.org, and responses are due by June 30.
The first recommendation to come out of the effort, meanwhile, is a fall business plan competition, for which EPIcenter will look for entrepreneurs to build businesses around. More details about the application process and competition prizes are coming in a few months.
The second recommendation is CO.STARTERS, a nine-week program to give entrepreneurs access to things like relationships and other insights they need to launch their business.
Each week will focus on different fundamentals of owning a business, like financial records and creating a workable business plan. EPIcenter will facilitate two of those cohorts, in the late summer and in the winter, and their participants will include winners of the business plan competition who will be funneled into one of the cohorts.
“By starting with known challenges that creative entrepreneurs face within our ecosystem and looking to entrepreneurs to solve those challenges with real businesses, we can exponentially strengthen our economy and our system of support,” said EPIcenter president and CEO Leslie Lynn Smith.
“Beyond these first initiatives, we’re looking forward to connecting makers – especially African-American, Latino and women makers – to more capital, customers, partner organizations and programming in the region that can help them grow their businesses.”
Little Bird Innovation co-founder Nicole Heckman described the effort as focused on “fostering a vibrant, thriving and inclusive community of makers and artisans.”
The Made By survey covered a range of enterprises that included the furniture and home goods sector; fashion and accessories; packaged food and beverage; and hardware and technology. Some of the themes that rose to the surface after Made By stakeholders talked with survey participants is that acquiring capital for their business is a challenge and that completely handmade production isn’t scalable for most makers.
As the Made By effort shows, though, this part of the city’s economy is getting an increased share of attention. At the end of 2016, for example, the online marketplace Etsy dubbed Memphis a “Maker City.” That’s a designation Etsy gives to “strong municipalities that value entrepreneurship, sustainability, and responsible manufacturing with the creative and innovative spirit of the Etsy community,” according to Etsy.com.