The maker economy is on the rise. Already, there are over one million Etsy sellers worldwide, who together sold more than $1.35 billion in goods in 2013. This is not a charming little trend. It’s a movement. And it matters.
The maker economy has the potential to transform lives, communities, and the economy. Thanks to the Internet and platforms like Etsy, makers can bring their unique products to market for very little money, earning income and gaining the satisfaction that comes from building something yourself, be it a handcrafted table or a successful small business.
Though these businesses are small — most Etsy sellers are sole proprietors working out of their homes — they add up to something big. Makers are helping build more resilient local economies by creating their own jobs, sourcing their materials from other local businesses, and providing consumers access to personal, meaningful goods.
Today, the White House is recognizing the value of the maker movement by hosting their very own Maker Faire. We’re thrilled that Etsy seller Tom Jaszczak of RawClay will join President Obama at the White House. Tom lives in Montana, where he builds his own wood kilns to fire his pottery. When Tom describes his process, he reflects the values of many in the maker movement: “You take more ownership to it. You’ve got blood and sweat in it.”
What does government have to do with the maker economy? We’ve got some ideas. Today, we’re releasing A Call to Action: Five Proposals to Support the Emerging Maker Economy. The report outlines five actions any government can take to capitalize on the promise of the maker movement to build a better economy:
- Entrepreneurship training in every jobs program — Workforce development programs don’t account for the changing nature of work and micro-business; they should include entrepreneurship training, such as Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship program.
- Small-batch manufacturing in every community— Small designers and manufacturers often don’t know how to work with, or even find each other. Government should help small-scale makers source materials and find partners.
- Peer-to-peer trade in every market — The patchwork quilt of international shipping practices, customs and duties requirements should be simplified and harmonized across countries.
- Economic security for every entrepreneur — Micro-entrepreneurs lack full-time employment benefits and experience dramatic income swings. The public sector should help micro-entrepreneurs manage income volatility and build financial security.
- A micro-advocate in every agency — Advocates inside agencies should liaise with micro-businesses and help them make sense of compliance requirements.
We’re not just telling governments what to do, we’re offering to help. Today, in response to the White House call to action, we’re announcing three commitments:
- Product safety 3.0 — We will collaborate with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision and 18F to host a Data Jam to develop open-source tools that help makers learn about and comply with the regulations that apply to their products. By using technology to bridge the gap between micro-businesses and government, the collaboration will help bring good governance into the 21st century.
- Scaling the maker economy through small-batch manufacturing — We will partner with FuzeHub to help Etsy sellers scale their production through local manufacturing partnerships, and educate small- and mid-sized manufacturers about how to update their services to better meet the needs of small designers, enabling the growth of local, sustainable manufacturing in the United States.
- Expanding Craft Entrepreneurship — We will partner with U.S. cities to expand our Craft Entrepreneurship program to 10 cities, teaching unemployed and underemployed adults how to monetize their artistic skills online, using Etsy as a learning lab. By incorporating programs like Craft Entrepreneurship into workforce development, cities can ensure that the opportunities of the maker economy are accessible to all.
These projects are just a first step. Going forward, we will work with the Etsy community and government partners to build a people-powered economy — one that puts people at the center of commerce, promotes local, sustainable production, and empowers anyone to build a creative business on their own terms.
What do you think?
How would you like to partner with governments to support the emerging maker economy?