Columbia has been selected as one of five “Etsy Maker Cities” to receive a $40,000 grant. The grant comes from the Etsy Maker Initiative, a program from Etsy and Mastercard that hopes to boost small businesses and creators, particularly those in marginalized communities.
Columbia’s Loop Community Improvement District has teamed up with Jabberwocky Studios, a nonprofit organization, to use this funding to create resources for local creators around Columbia.
Jessica Shaw is one of these creators. She makes women’s handbags that she sells online and at local businesses.
“I think it’s exciting because it brings national attention to what we already know,” Shaw said. “Local makers are growing nationwide and especially here in Columbia where we have a great diverse community of makers.”
She’s particularly excited about the idea of the program providing shared work spaces.
“I think the grant is going to be really helpful in creating a maker’s space because that’s something a lot of us struggle with,” Shaw said. “I’m not at the point where I can afford to rent a space yet so a shared maker’s space would be great.”
In addition to handbag makers like Shaw, the program is open to a wide range of creators from woodworkers to distilleries. Organizers list Logboat Brewing Company and Camacho Coffee as examples.
“We started to look at ways we could improve and beautify the community here and how we could incubate business and help startups, particularly women and people of color,” said Carrie Gartner, the executive director of the Loop CID.
And the Loop CID decided this grant would help it do that. It plans on using the funds to sponsor branding programs and a communitywide awareness campaign. It also wants to hold events called “maker meet-ups” and “maker fairs,” where local creators can get together and share advice or collaborate. It has two maker fairs planned right now, one for Dec. 7 and another for around Mother’s Day.
“What I really want is local makers to thrive, and I want them to see the Loop as a place they can thrive,” Gartner said.
A big part of this program is reaching marginalized communities who it feels have more barriers to entry in the creator community. And it hopes that its relationship with Jabberwocky Studios will help it with that.
“Jabberwocky’s role is going to be partly as a connector,” said Linda Schust, the executive director of Jabberwocky Studios. “We’ve gone out of our way to grow relationships with marginalized communities such as people of color, the poor, immigrants, refugees and the incarcerated. We can leverage those relationships with those people and get them involved in these programs.”