Burton D. Morgan Foundation Grantee Spotlight:  Crafty Mart

Crafty Mart is an Akron organization that supports local makers and arts entrepreneurs by providing opportunities to learn how to refine and expand their creative businesses through education and markets.  Burton D. Morgan Foundation is a proud supporter of Crafty Mart.  Recently, we chatted with Executive Director Marissa McClellan, who shared some of her insights with us.

Foundation: I know you have a “meet them where they are” mentality to support makers at every stage of their entrepreneurial ventures. Can you talk about the continuum of education and how you tailor content to meet the goals of each maker?

Marissa: When we first started to offer The Maker Sessions, a creative entrepreneurship program, we lumped all creative entrepreneurs together and we quickly found that the information being presented was either way too much for makers who were just beginning and too general for our makers who have been in the business for a while. Crafty Mart decided to divide our curriculum into two pathways, one for beginners and one for master makers. Having these two pathways also allows Crafty Mart and our instructors to really be able to give one-on-one attention to each cohort and each maker in a more direct and efficient way.

In doing so, we were able to help beginner makers wade through the early stages of starting a small business, such as registering your business, licensing, branding, how to create a budget, and other important information geared towards creative entrepreneurs who are making multiples of something. The Beginner Sessions end with a Launch Market hosted by Crafty Mart where the beginner cohort sets up a booth to sell at their first handmade market.

The Master Maker pathway is for makers who have been making and selling at handmade markets and are ready to level up their businesses with wholesale, streaming online sales, collaboration and partnerships, or possibly owning their own brick and mortar. The master maker pathway culminates with an event called Creative Catapult, where the makers in the cohort have the opportunity to take what they have learned in the sessions and pitch an idea to level up their business to their community. The community votes on their favorite idea and the winning maker receives $2,000 to make their business idea happen. In the past, some winners have opened up their storefronts and started a new product line with the support of Creative Catapult.

Foundation: You work with makers from many different backgrounds and life experiences. Have you identified any universal strategies for success in the making business?

Marissa:  We believe that one of the best strategies for success in the world of making is having incredible customer service skills and a gorgeous booth! When you are selling at a market, always have your head up (and out of your phone), welcoming guests into your booth space where your business name and prices are clear and visible. Always engage with your customers and let them know WHY you are making what you are making. People will want to support your business because of YOU! 

Foundation: Along those same lines, are there specific business strategies that don’t work as well for certain makers? If so, how do you ensure the education you provide meets the needs of different groups of people?

Marissa:  So many makers have turned to online sales during Covid and have found that online sales will continue to thrive in the post-Covid world.  Some Master Makers have found that they earn as much online as they did at in-person shows. Some makers have no interest in doing online sales and want to continue in-person markets and wholesale.  We support both kinds of makers in our entrepreneurial courses and encourage vendors to do what they are comfortable with. They can find success online AND in person!

Foundation: Are there any trends in the maker community that have you particularly excited?

Marissa:  Crafty Mart has noticed that a lot of our maker community is finally getting onto social media and making websites for their businesses! We believe that the pandemic really showed makers how important it is to have an online presence. The more ways there are for customers to purchase your products, the more sales you will make! 

Foundation: What other resources in the community do your makers access and find valuable?

Marissa:  There are so many reliable, thoughtful resources in Akron for creative entrepreneurs. We find Bounce’s entrepreneurial training to be a great “next step” for our Maker Session graduates. We also find Bounce’s Workshop space a great resource for makers of all kinds in Akron, as well as the TechZone at the Akron-Summit County Public Library for branding needs. There is also the Akron Makerspace for additional tools, equipment and programming. We find Summit Artspace to be a great space for makers to connect, network and exhibit. Akron also has Akron Food Works and Countryside which offer support for creative food entrepreneurs.

Crafty Mart loves to collaborate with other organizations, programs or spaces for the betterment of the community and those we serve at Crafty Mart (and beyond). We believe in collaboration over competition.  We have found that we are stronger when we join forces and we earn new authentic audiences by forming genuine partnerships with other Akron-centric maker places!

Registration for Crafty Mart’s Master Maker Sessions Cohort opens on June 21 with limited availability.  Sessions will begin August 2 and end with one talented maker winning $2,000 at Creative Catapult on October 9!
Visit Crafty Mart’s website to learn more about Maker Sessions and upcoming events.