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Taking the Maker Movement to Washington, DC

Jun 18, 2014

by Althea Erickson handmade and vintage goods

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.”

For more information on the White House Maker Faire and the National Day of Making, visit and follow #NationofMakers on Twitter.

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?

Download Our Call to Action Report


  • freshpastrystand

    Deva America from freshpastrystand said 6 years ago

    I would love for there to be a program by the SBA to lend money to small businesses that have less thank 200k of revenue a year, Yo.

  • TrashAndTrinkets

    Gypsy Trading Company from TrashAndTrinkets said 6 years ago

    Was there info about this on Etsy before now? Seems a bit after the fact as far as involvement or participation goes. Just curious. Feels like a lot of opportunities have been missed by the huge community here not having time to plan and create events surrounding this.

  • dorothydomingo

    Dorothy Domingo from dorothydomingo said 6 years ago

    I'm thrilled that there is a potter getting some face time with the President. While we are kind of a niche category on Etsy, we benefit greatly by being able to sell our work online, without schlepping heavy work to shows, or going hat in hand to a gallery. It's cool that both Etsy and pottery will be represented at the White House!

  • ExclusiefByVera

    Vera Tempelmans Plat from ItsVera said 6 years ago

    Great! We need a Makers Day in Canada.

  • Gypsymoondesigns

    Gypsymoondesigns from Gypsymoondesigns said 6 years ago

    Delighted that a fellow Montanan is there! I find it difficult to find a small manufacturing place to rent. I use spray lacquer and my husband oil paint and one can't just rent office space when working with smelly chemicals. It would be wonderful to see communities create manufacturing space for artist.

  • Gypsymoondesigns

    Gypsymoondesigns from Gypsymoondesigns said 6 years ago

    Lots of great info in the Maker Economy Paper. This would be great : A Universal De Minimis Customs Exemption Many countries already set customs and duties exemptions for goods under a specific monetary value. These de minimis thresholds vary widely between countries. In Australia, imports under $1,000 are exempt, while the threshold is $200 for the United States and just $20 in Canada 6 . Setting a universal low-value customs exemption that covers most peer-to-peer transactions would eliminate a major barrier for small makers.

  • Gypsymoondesigns

    Gypsymoondesigns from Gypsymoondesigns said 6 years ago

    Would love a future, more detailed post on FuzeHub and how they can assist us small businesses.

  • paulawinks

    Paula Mucha from ilPiccoloGiardino said 6 years ago

    Nice illustration! Awesome first steps. The idea is very encouraging. Would also like to know more info on FuzeHub. Just starting to watch the video-sounds good so far. "What are you doing?"...."I'm making stuff!"

  • TheGlowingSkin

    TheGlowingSkin from TheGlowingSkin said 6 years ago

    This is definitely good news but the original maker website somehow is biased towards those in the technology field. Innovation is the key to them. What we would like to see more is a craft based maker faire, micro crafters like us who are emerging out of kitchens and garages. We cannot live without innovation in tech, can we live without innovation in handicrafts?

  • raechase

    Rachael Chase from RaesTurquoiseTurtle said 6 years ago

    Fabulous really! Agree there have been missed opportunities here but hopefully this spurs handmade and grows for the next year.

  • PrairiePrimitives

    Tana Taylor from PrairiePrimitives said 6 years ago

    As the captain of a local Etsy team, it would have been nice to be aware of today's events prior to mid-day when I first heard about the goings-on in Washington. I'm assuming Etsy had something to do with the Maker Faire since it falls on Etsy's official birthday. Will this be an annual event every June 18th?

  • ClassicallyRomantic

    Anna from ClassicallyRomantic said 6 years ago

    Darn, I missed it by a couple hours! Cool to know that this happened though!

  • IronwoodCandles

    Ironwood Candles from IronwoodCandles said 6 years ago

    This is great information! Thanks, Althea!!

  • deodorantshop

    Deodorant Shop from deodorantshop said 6 years ago

    So cool! Very well put too. Thank you :)

  • beardoil

    Beard Oil from BeardOil said 6 years ago

    Love this. Thanks for the awesome info!

  • troydesign

    Susan Troy from SusanTroyDesign said 6 years ago

    I think this is a fabulous thing to do. Our country desperately needs more art and artisans. People need beautiful, handmade work to remember their shared humanity. BRAVO!

  • Tanky

    Ella Goodwin from ShopMissElla said 6 years ago

    Excellent to see the value of handmade rising to such heights, wonderful! I hope the 'powers that be' over here in the UK take note! :) Maker Faire at the Palace!!! :)

  • susanartist500

    susan joseph said 6 years ago

    Great news that this conversation is happening. Peer-to-peer trade in every market will literally make a world of difference.

  • work2gather

    Deborah Martin from work2gather said 6 years ago

    Hope to see more people involved in making things themselves. Anyone thought of applying this process to prisons and inmates?

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