Around Sacramento, making is a way of life: Residents dream up future startups in tech spaces while visionaries take their art to the streets in local markets and amongst a creative economy noted by community members who care about the future of the city.
Sac-Made, a winner of the city’s Creative Economy Pilot Project in 2017, emerged as a way to track and support those local makers and small manufacturers. While most business resources support larger organizations, the City of Sacramento saw the need to support the city’s diversity of creators and entrepreneurs, giving locals the ability to build their own path.
Over the past year, Sac-Made has worked to interview and catalog 160 makers, created a collective-unifying brand and collateral by local designers, researched similar efforts like SFMade and promoted 50 local entrepreneurs on SacMade.org. With the City of Sacramento’s support, the team of three is pursuing the next step: Applying to Etsy’s Maker Cities grant to build capacity to support underrepresented groups and grow businesses in Sacramento's creative economy.
“While education levels and childcare are often barriers to entry for many into traditional employment, entrepreneurship provides opportunity for many to earn a living on their own terms,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote to Etsy. “With the increased support of this grant, Sac-Made will be able to broaden its reach to local makers, including those in our underserved communities, to grow this network in Sacramento.”
With that, Hacker Lab COO Eric Ullrich shared a look back at Sac-Made’s progress and next steps for building capacity with Etsy.
A Look Back and Forward
In the SacMade.org/Shop, series of comic book writers, hand-altered vintage wear providers and portable solar energy light makers share residence. Lavender farmers join folded-paper artists and handmade bluetooth stereo creators.
The Sac-Made grant funded $25,000 for Ullrich, local goods shop Old Gold Founder Trisha Rhomberg and marketing strategist and Verge board member Sarah Barkawi to help Sacramento’s maker community access the resources and scale they need to be sustainable.
Building a following of 1,345 on Instagram, the group created necessary visibility amongst locals. Per the Etsy application, marketing for local makers is a perennial problem:
While Sacramento has a substantial number of artists, creative individuals, and small businesses, few can generate a significant portion of their income through their creative efforts. According to the City’s 2018 Creative Edge report, many claim they cannot sell and/or make a living through their work in Sacramento. Only 46% of artists and 48% of creative sector workers are satisfied with the Sacramento environment and only twenty-eight percent of those who identify as professional artists make a living through their craft.
Sacramento’s decimated media scene leaves Facebook and Google as the main providers for building a following locally, at the hands of nameless algorithms.
After interviewing 160 makers, the group accepted 50 with at least one product. The great providers of local goods include Zeal Kombucha, botanically-brewed, fermented and bottled in Sacramento; Figs and Feathers Farm, herbal skincare and provisions with California-grown ingredients; and Newton Booth Builds, a local furniture creator.
“We want to provide resources and support for local makers that allow them to make a living off what they create, so their talents aren’t side-hustles, but something that is able to sustain them,” said Barkawi.
Last week, the group contacted 10 members to join the organization’s board with six signed-on already. Stakeholders noted in the application include Hacker Lab, MakersMart, Sacramento City College, Valley Vision, Build Black, Sierra Health Foundation, chambers of commerce and more.
The Etsy grant would cement Sac-Made’s ability to support local makers, becoming an integral part of the City of Sacramento’ strategy for inclusive economic development. In addition to further market building, the grant would fund capacity building resources including an ecosystem manager to convene and network at the neighborhood-level and build a larger dataset of makers that includes their challenges, aspirations, products and jobs.
Per the Etsy application:
Creativity is the soul of our City. According to Creative Vitality Index data, 35,000 creative workers in Sacramento County generate more than $926 million in total earnings. Sacramento’s artists and creatives—makers, artisans, arts educators, designers, and many other creative professionals—are essential to the City’s creative vitality and success, evidenced in a micro-glimpse via the annual Makers Mart, which last December featured 85 local vendors, with over 4000 in attendance and average booth sales of 1,500. Within a 6 hour window, over 85 local entrepreneurs earned enough to pay their rent.
In addition, Sac-Made is committed to support equity and inclusion in this space.
Sacramento has always been one of the most diverse cities in California. However, this diversity isn’t recognized in terms of the support for diverse artists and diverse cultural organizations. Equity and access are a governing priority of Sac-Made. We aim to introduce strategies to provide capacity building for EQUITY - BASED inclusive economic development to support all entrepreneurs, artists, makers, and manufacturers...we aim to establish a path to reduce both real and perceived barriers or silos among history, heritage, arts, and creativity, reducing silos, encouraging a broader understanding, and providing more resources for the field as a whole.
If selected, the group would begin working to reach these goals in September of this year through then of 2020, joined by the board, the founding team and local etsy seller Meagan Lewis, a professional artist and teacher who created Sac Creative Folk.