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Craft Entrepreneurship Launches in Rockford and NYC

Sep 25, 2013

by Dana Mauriello handmade and vintage goods

Over the last few months, we’ve been on a journey to better understand what it means to “create an Etsy Economy,” after Mayor Morrissey of Rockford, Illinois put this challenge to us in March. Thank you for following along with us as we learned about the economic challenges in Rockford with the mayor and local Etsy team, committed to launch a Craft Entrepreneurship program in response to these challenges in Rockford and beyond at the Clinton Global Initiative, and got to know the Rockford community better at Craft Party.

After a huge effort that connected Etsy, city governments, Etsy teams, and local communities, we are now launching a Craft Entrepreneurship Program that we’ve created together. Last week, Rockford Etsy Team member Chris began teaching residents in the Rockford Housing Authority how to use their craft skills to build a business and earn income. Our Seller Education team worked with the Housing Authority to develop a four-week curriculum covering topics from business finance to marketing, using Etsy as a live learning lab.

In Chris’s class, there are men and women with skills including woodworking, jewelry making, photography, stationery, and more. We’ve looked at baseline levels of personal income, purchasing power, confidence, and well-being, and will be measuring the success of the program against the movement in these metrics over time. This is not just about creating new Etsy shops, it’s about creating entrepreneurs.

Today, one week after our kick-off with Rockford, we are also rolling out the program in New York City! After learning about our initiative in Rockford, the Deputy Mayor’s office for Economic Development reached out to us to brainstorm areas of economic need in New York where the Craft Entrepreneurship Program could have an impact. From there, we began working with the Department of Small Business Services to serve New Yorkers who are underemployed or, in other words, employed but with income that is not enough to meet their needs. We believe that for those with craft skills, the Craft Entrepreneurship program will create an opportunity for earning vital supplemental income. We’re kicking off with 3 classes and about 60 students in Brooklyn and Queens taught by three incredible members of the Etsy NY Team.

Launching this program with both Rockford and New York City has shown us that cities big and small face similar challenges in creating economic opportunity for unemployed and underemployed residents. Working in two cities with very different populations, resources, and histories makes us hopeful that we can help develop a curriculum that’s versatile and scalable.

We’re looking forward to sharing more about the program, the stories of the participants, and the results as we go. We’re going in with an open mind, eager to learn and iterate. You can find out more and follow the story here.

The third portion of our commitment is to make the curriculum and process of the Craft Entrepreneurship Program available for any community anywhere to use. After learning from our first round of pilot programs in Rockford and New York, we’ll start sharing these resources. We already have a few more iterations in the works (look out for an announcement about our work in some non-US cities and even a version of the program in schools!), and are eager to work with more communities in the future. This is truly a personal collaboration, and we couldn’t do it without the Rockford Etsy Team, the Etsy NY Team, and inspiration and real-life lessons from Etsy sellers around the world — thank you!


  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    Congrats to Mayor Morrissey of Rockford for being an out-of-the-box thinker and not giving up on this wonderful project. Rockford is the perfect example of towns all over the US that have been hit hard by the recession and need to rethink the future of its unemployed population. The loss of so many small manufacturing jobs to overseas production has devastated many communities. Thanks to Etsy for taking an interest and helping a town in need. Hopefully this can be the catalyst that will encourage other business leaders and teachers in communities all over the country to show people that their skills and talents are marketable, appreciated and needed and supporting themselves is possible. Way to go!

  • cratss

    Rosana Fech from TheUnlimitedEdition said 6 years ago

    This is the kind of motivations that are really helpful for all... The economic systems is changing... so many more startups by individuals or small teams are growing.

  • worldcoincufflinks

    Maura Reynolds from worldcoincufflinks said 6 years ago

    Well done, really interesting initiative and analysis. Best of luck with the project, look forward to reading the results. Regards, Maura

  • CreateTheCut

    Create The Cut from CreateTheCut said 6 years ago

    All the best for the project, a really nice idea!

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 6 years ago

    This excellent project reminds me of the spirit of the WPA's art and craft education programs from the 1930's. I wish you all the best with this humanitarian effort. :)

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 6 years ago

    Wow! This is really awesome!

  • Rt9NJvintageFun

    candy donnelly from Rt9NJvintageFun said 6 years ago

    Congratulations, this is what Etsy is all about, Community, growth and creating hope to all! Well done, would love to see this rolled out throughout the planet!

  • Rt9NJvintageFun

    candy donnelly from Rt9NJvintageFun said 6 years ago

    Congratulations, well done! Community is what Etsy is all about, creating hope, economic growth for all. This would be incredible rolled out all over the globe.

  • KaMariDesigns

    Kathy Peterson from KaMariJewelry said 6 years ago

    Excellent idea! I myself sell on etsy and live in Rockford. I wish we had a crafters mall here though. A place to sell our handmade items. All we have are the flea markets and that is not really the right place for us.

  • AgShop

    ana from barabum said 6 years ago

    wow, this is huge. congrats,

  • cathEM

    Catherine from CreativeMindfulness said 6 years ago

    If there's anything I can do to help, let me know!

  • smallfamilies

    Julien Martinez from POTOKandFriends said 5 years ago

    very interesting ! This is really awesome !

  • IndigoTurtleArt

    James Johnson Carole Isenhart from IndigoTurtleArt said 5 years ago

    love this concept, bravo for moving forward on it!

  • enlacingdesigns

    Lacie from EnlacingDesigns said 5 years ago

    That is a great concept but seems contradictory with Etsy's new manufacturing policies. "Your skills are marketable, but now you have to compete with mass manufacturing."

  • Dawadrolma

    Dawa Drolma said 4 years ago

    I am A Tibetan girl who grow up in craft family back in Tibet. I really want to be part of the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship. And learning business in U.S.A. I also realized that Etsy is expending internationally. And I know there are lots crafts masters in developing areas like Tibet make beautiful crafts and arts. They never had a opportunity to display and market their products beside in their villagers. I think Etsy is great platform for us. If i can join this Craft Entrepreneurship, i think i can go back to Tibet make big difference. Help Tibetan craft master or even other craftsman in other parts of China to build up their business Easy and sell their products internationally. If anyone sees this and know how to apply for this Craft Entrepreneurship please let me know. I really appreciate that! Thank you so much. Dawa

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