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Craft Entrepreneurship Cultivates Teachers for the Community

Mar 26, 2015

by Graham Ashcraft

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Catalyzed by a hopeful tweet from Mayor Morrissey of Rockford, Illinois in 2013, Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship program and our network of 10 partner organizations has helped more than 450 creative people in underserved communities across the United States and the United Kingdom launch online businesses. Using Etsy as a learning lab, this program has flourished thanks in no small part to the contributions of 14 exemplary local teachers — Etsy sellers trained in leadership and facilitation.

Throughout the past year, we’ve learned much about how institutions like libraries and community non-profits are helping to make their cities and towns more dynamic and entrepreneurial. With an audacious goal of bringing Craft Entrepreneurship to even more cities around the globe this year, we’ve been busy developing program improvements based on feedback we’ve received from partners, teachers, and students. This spring, we’re proud to expand the movement, with new partner cities launching in Austin, TX; Detroit, MI; Madison, WI; and Santa Fe, NM; with even more to come throughout 2015.

In order to grow Craft Entrepreneurship, we’re also making it easier for teachers to find out more about the program and how they can share their expertise and perspectives with their local communities through teaching.

Investing in Teachers

In 2015, we’re reaffirming our commitment to help teachers in the program become strong leaders and mentors. For instance, we created an orientation curriculum designed to support new teachers with varying levels of experience during on-boarding. Working in small groups, new teachers will explore topics ranging from how to enhance lessons with personal anecdotes to advancing their own leadership skills.

Etsy shop owner Leah LaFera teaches a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Albany, NY

Leah LaFera of Ulster Soaps teaches a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Albany, NY. Photo by Shannon DeCelle.

“Etsy sellers are the heart of Etsy, so connecting them with opportunities to tell their stories through teaching is vital to the Craft Entrepreneurship program,” said Kimm Alfonso, Director of Seller Development. “We’re always humbled to see such a positive, enthusiastic response from sellers who want to teach. Seeing sellers step forward to empower others reaffirms exactly what makes the Etsy community so unique and special. We’re committed to growing the program and connecting sellers with these sorts of opportunities to help them grow as leaders within their communities.”

Building Infrastructure

We’re also excited to announce our recently-launched Craft Entrepreneurship Program page, which provides one-stop access to program updates, teacher bios, and partner and teacher applications. We are expanding to many more communities in 2015, and while we’ll prioritize teacher applications in our partner cities first, we encourage candidates in all English-speaking cities to let us know if you’re interested in participating. This way, we can hit the ground running when we launch in your city.

Andrea Garvey of EightAnnas with one of her creations during a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Santa Cruz

Andrea Garvey of EightAnnas with one of her creations during a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Santa Cruz. Photo by Tibisay Strazzera.

Launching This Spring

Austin, TX
With its reputation as a hotbed of creativity, innovation, art, and technology, Austin is a natural fit for Craft Entrepreneurship. The Recycled Reads and Austin Public Library, is eager to add the program to their already robust roster of classes serving their entrepreneurial and crafting communities. Through a collaborative effort with other city entities including the Small Business Development and Parks and Recreation departments, they plan on recruiting driven, creative Austinites.

Detroit, MI
Long regarded as a center for making and industry, Detroit is currently experiencing a renaissance of small manufacturing and entrepreneurship. Build Institute stands at the forefront of this movement, providing aspiring entrepreneurs in metropolitan Detroit the tools, resources, and support network necessary to turn their business ideas into reality. Alongside the program, they are offering participants additional educational services for alumni, to maintain and grow their momentum long past graduation.

Madison, WI
In support of their efforts to increase entrepreneurial programming and access to modern skills, the Madison Public Library is bringing Craft Entrepreneurship to their diverse community. “Madison is full of creative artists and crafters, and helping those residents discover a way to share their work and participate in the 21st-century economy is key to our library’s mission and our city’s values,” said Tana Elias, Digital Services & Marketing Manager. “As an important urban community center in mostly rural Wisconsin, we are confident that together, we can make a strong impact on the creatives in the area.”

Santa Fe, NM
Following a successful 2014 launch with the Albuquerque branch of the Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Team Corps (WESST), we are increasing our reach with the organization’s Santa Fe branch, to include even more entrepreneurs from the thriving community of artists and craftspeople living in New Mexico. Bette Bradbury, Director of WESST Northern New Mexico, said: “The state of New Mexico attracts many artists because of its unique artistic history and natural beauty, but there are not enough buyers for their products. Having this program makes a difference, helping small entrepreneurial businesses of our state become competitive in a global marketplace.”

Carla Giannina of Hatmade poses for a photograph during a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Brooklyn

Carla Giannina of Hatmade poses for a photograph during a Craft Entrepreneurship class in Brooklyn. Photo by Rachel Greenwald.

With aggressive goals to bring more teachers and cities into the program this year, we’re relying on the Etsy community for help. If you know a nonprofit looking to bring this program to their community or a seasoned Etsy seller who may be interested in applying to teach, please refer them to the new Craft Entrepreneurship page to get in touch. Together, we’ll only make this movement stronger.