At Etsy, we believe that creative entrepreneurship has the power to change the world. It can provide meaningful opportunities for individuals, and can help build stronger local economies.
We also believe in the power of collaborative community efforts. That’s why Etsy’s Maker Cities grant program supports local creative communities by investing in innovative projects to help marginalized groups participate in the creative economy.
Take one of our 2017 grantees as an example. The Berlin Kreativ Kollektiv (BKK) was co-founded by weaver Emma Wood of wovenbywood, who saw an opportunity to bring creative people together in her adopted home of Berlin, Germany.
“Many makers struggle in valuing their work, and in feeling like their contribution to the local community is valued and acknowledged,” Emma told us. “One of the key things that draws people to the BKK is that so many independent makers share the same struggles, but because they work in isolation they don’t get to share their experiences.”
Through BKK, Berlin’s independent maker community gets access to a support network as well as business education opportunities. In just over a year, it has grown to more than 90 members.
“Help from Etsy has made it possible to unite this community and give them a shared voice, and to help makers realize that no matter how alone they may feel, there is a wealth of support around them,” Emma said.
Here are some of the ways BKK is working to make Berlin a more maker-friendly city:
1. Understanding the Creative Community
Before pushing for change, BKK first wanted to better understand their community. With grant support from Etsy, they are conducting bottom-up research that aims to quantify the creative community in Berlin. Their research has a specific focus on the challenges faced by multinational creative entrepreneurs, many of whom are new to Germany, and came to the country with impressive craft skills.
2. Connecting with Local Government
Through the research project, BKK is building relationships with the Department for Economic Development and the Senate Department for Culture & Europe within the Berlin government. And it’s starting to pay off. After presenting their initial research findings to government officials, BKK received a promise of funding for up to 12 business development workshops dedicated to areas where the maker community needs help. The government also pledged to guide BKK in identifying and applying for additional funding on a national and European Union level.
3. Bringing Creatives Together
In May 2018, BKK hosted the second Berlin Kreativ Konferenz — a two-day conference dedicated solely to independent creative businesses in Berlin. Sponsored by Etsy Germany, it drew about 80 attendees for over 20 talks and workshops led by some of Berlin’s leading experts.
“The Konferenz brought the creative community of Berlin together under one roof, and provided the hands-on information and resources the maker community so desperately needs,” Emma said.
4. Building Bonds & Sharing Knowledge
According to Emma, the strength of the organization stems from the strong bonds and friendships that members have formed, and from recognizing the value of working together to share knowledge, experiences and advice.
“Since the BKK founded and since the Maker Cities programme began, I have seen an increase in confidence amongst the Berlin maker community, and a willingness to self-organize, communicate, and find shared solutions to problems,” Emma told us.
“I can’t stress enough how much it matters to the maker community here in Berlin to know that organizations like Etsy see their potential and are willing to invest in them. There’s an abundance of third-party platforms that claim to be supportive of maker communities, but Etsy stands out in its willingness to give back to the community, and to help see it grow. Without programs like Maker Cities, the BKK would struggle to do its work in improving the business life for Berlin makers.”
We’re excited to follow our Etsy Maker City grantees as they bring their plans to life, and look forward to continue developing new ways for local city leaders and the Etsy community to connect and thrive. To learn more and be notified of our next application round, visit our website.