ABOUT THE MADE BY PROJECT

Made By is a first-of-its-kind initiative to deeply understand the lives of makers, artisans, and micro-manufacturers in the city of Memphis and Shelby County and to assess their economic impact. The end result of the project is an economic development plan that fosters a vibrant, thriving, and inclusive community of makers, artisans, and micro-manufacturers across the region. We refer to these individuals as “makers” and define them as individuals using skill or craft to create a physical good at small scale to sell. 

We sought to understand makers across a variety of factors: age, aspirations, gender, time spent making, education, time in business, craft type, and neighborhood. We envision the Made By project as one way of fostering place-based businesses that contribute economically and culturally to our neighborhoods.

OUR PROCESS & APPROACH

We use a human-centered, collaborative and co-creative process. This approach applies not just to our research, but also to our work in translating learnings from research into actionable strategies, solutions and plans. 

In seeking to understand large, complex issues we build a body of knowledge and understanding through learning from the experiences and stories of real people living and working within the context of the group for whom we are designing solutions – in the case of Made By, this group is makers. We invested more than 270 man hours learning from makers through in-depth qualitative interviews, paired with a large scale, quantitatively-oriented survey. We used this hybrid-approach to marry stories with statistics to strengthen the case for supporting economic development driven by makers and micro-manufacturers. This intensive approach lends to being an investment in Memphis' creative community and its' potential. 

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Makers and stakeholders working in adjacent industries collaborated on all key activities and will continue to do so as we develop possible solutions for unmet needs and the barriers that makers face. This is the meaning of human-centered, collaborative design work—involving makers and stakeholders at every step of the way to ensure that what is created truly meets their needs.

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WHERE WE'RE HEADED

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Maker Distribution: Today

As we look across the landscape of Memphis-area makers, we see a distribution that skews heavily towards hobbyists and those selling what they make as a side hustle. A smaller, but still sizable group makes their business a primary source of income, with it supporting themselves and often a part-time helper. Those that remain in this group tend to be lifestyle-focused — they don’t aspire to grow much larger, fearing it will mean spending most of their time managing a large team versus designing and creating. The next group is even smaller and includes those running a business that is growth-focused. Specifically, they are growing sales and scaling. The maker is often still the main source of new product designs, but he or she relies more on a team of employees or a contract manufacturer for day-to-day production. The final group are those driven to build a reputable national or global brand and lead the company behind it.   

Maker Distribution: Tomorrow

The Made By project is an opportunity to shift this distribution of makers to the right and close the gap between the current state and a more robust future. Many makers, including some featured as examples in the previous graphic, aspire to progress one or more steps to the right of where they are today. Makers currently running their business as a side hustle can grow to making it a full-time endeavor. Lifestyle-focused makers can grow into managing a team. The key is to marry the right support with the goals of the maker.   

The biggest opportunity is attracting more makers into the lifestyle-focused and growth-focused categories. Creating new programs, services and outreach should be focused on this opportunity zone. More national and global brands are, of course, a huge benefit to the local economy and serve as critical inspiration to others, but realistically will remain a small number based on overall market dynamics, as well as the ambitions most makers have expressed. Makers starting high-growth, rapid-scaling businesses will remain outliers in this distribution. 

 

MADE BY FINDINGS REPORT

This report summarizes research and analysis findings through the first nine months of the Made By project. We sought to understand the journeys, aspirations, challenges and lives of Memphis-area makers in order to develop a strategic plan that grows this important sector of our economy.

Click here to download a copy of your own!

 

"The MadeBy project seeks to engage the creative class, and rather than us saying, ‘this is what we think you need to do to be successful,’ it will identify things like what the gaps are in the current environment.”

- Leslie Lynn Smith, EPIcenter Memphis


ABOUT THE PARTNERS

Little Bird Innovation is a Memphis-based research, strategy and design firm focused on projects that drive economic development, social impact and civic innovation. We collaborate with others to tackle challenges that inspire us. From developing plans to support food entrepreneurship amongst immigrants and refugees to helping the Memphis public library system redefine its value and role in the lives of its residents, we bring a people-centered approach to solving complex problems.  More information at Little Bird Innovation.

Little Bird Innovation is a Memphis-based research, strategy and design firm focused on projects that drive economic development, social impact and civic innovation. We collaborate with others to tackle challenges that inspire us. From developing plans to support food entrepreneurship amongst immigrants and refugees to helping the Memphis public library system redefine its value and role in the lives of its residents, we bring a people-centered approach to solving complex problems. 

More information at Little Bird Innovation.

The Entrepreneurship-Powered Innovation Center (EPIcenter) is a collaborative and community-wide strategic initiative that is helping entrepreneurs conceive, launch and scale businesses in the Memphis region. EPIcenter serves as a central point of contact for the region’s ecosystem and coordinates resources from various organizations in the community such as accelerators, incubators, mentors, investors, networking programs, and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs. For more information at EPIcenter Memphis.

The Entrepreneurship-Powered Innovation Center (EPIcenter) is a collaborative and community-wide strategic initiative that is helping entrepreneurs conceive, launch and scale businesses in the Memphis region. EPIcenter serves as a central point of contact for the region’s ecosystem and coordinates resources from various organizations in the community such as accelerators, incubators, mentors, investors, networking programs, and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs.

For more information at EPIcenter Memphis.