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SXSW Interactive 2014

Navigating the New Handmade Economy

The handmade economy is a vibrant and growing sector, with increased online and in-person platforms to help makers and creatives build their businesses and sell their work. As events like the Renegade Craft Fair and Marker Faire and markets like the Brooklyn Flea draw hundreds of sellers and thousands of audience members and online platforms like Etsy, Ravelry, and BurdaStyle draw thousands of new users each month this panel investigates the emerging, nuanced challenges and opportunities facing handmade entrepreneurs. It will focus on: building a lasting business support network; distinguishing oneself on crowded online platforms; scaling up and building profitability while staying connected to the handmade community; and protecting one’s intellectual and creative property. This discussion between four experts who are makers themselves will put a spotlight on the innovative solutions DIY business owners are developing to navigate this quickly changing economic landscape.

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  1. What are the primary challenges that handmade business owners and DIY entrepreneurs face once they have established their businesses and are looking to grow, scale up and achieve long-term sustainability?
  2. There are an increasing number of platforms, such as Etsy, BurdaStyle, Ravelry, The Modern Quilt Guild and Patreon, and events, such as Maker Faire’s, Flea Markets, and “alternative” craft fairs like Renegade and Patchwork, that enable handmade business owners and creatives to share, sell and raise funds for their work. What challenges do handmade business owners face as these platforms become more popular and more crowded?
  3. While the handmade movement is growing in strength and gatherings like Hello Etsy and Craftcation are popular and well attended, handmade business owners are often still isolated from each other. As these entrepreneurs grow their businesses how can they remain connected to each other and their customers and building lasting networks for support and resource sharing? Do the increasing number of platforms serving this audience help or hinder this community building?
  4. Large corporations that sell clothing, décor items, and accessories are looking to sites where makers sell their handmade items for emerging trends and design inspiration. In some cases they have directly copied an individual’s work. How can handmade business owners distinguish their goods when similar items are being offered more cheaply by major corporations, as well as and protect their intellectual property?
  5. What is next for the handmade economy? What are the key emerging issues that handmade business owners should pay attention to?



Eleanor Whitney, Author, Independent writer

Meta Information:

  • Tags: entrepreneur, business
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: DIY, Hacker and Maker
  • Level: Intermediate
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