Business Spotlight: Local Makers go from hobby to home-based business
The pandemic shutdown afforded many people an opportunity to develop or perfect new skills or pursue passion projects for which they otherwise may never have found time.
The Local Makers of Gig Harbor group is helping its members turn those passions into home-based businesses.
Now in its second year, Local Makers operates pop-up markets on select weekends at locations around the Gig Harbor Peninsula.
Members of Local Makers peddle everything from paper products to baked goods to handmade jewelry. Its next scheduled market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 13 at Harbor General Store on Pioneer Way.
The making of Local Makers
Caasi Dickens, who works in macrame, founded Local Makers to help like-minded “creatives,” as she calls them, support one another.
“We create and organize opportunities for local creatives to share and market their wares,” Dickens said. “That’s essentially my job, my role.”
The project has its roots during the Covid-19 shutdown, when Dickens got involved in “online popups” on Facebook. Those were virtual versions of the Local Makers markets, with home-based crafters banding together to create a larger audience and market their work.
When pandemic restrictions started to ease, Dickens decided to give an IRL version a try.
The first in-person Local Makers market was held in summer 2021. Now the group has a roster of 50 to 60 participants, with 15 to 20 appearing for each market and new makers regularly applying to join.
Harbor General Store hosts many of the markets (Dickens called the store a “huge supporter”), but it has popped up everywhere from Tacoma to Alderbrook in Mason County. More organizations and businesses contact Dickens all the time, asking to host a market.
Markets have been or will be held at Maritime Gig Festival, PenMet Scarecrow Festival, Family FunFest, WinterFest and the Tacoma Home and Garden Show.
At this point, we’re essentially year-round,” Dickens said. “All of this has been very organic and unexpected.”
Local Makers vendors support one another
Vendors at the July 9 Local Makers market at Harbor General Store all remarked about how supportive the group is.
“”This group is super supportive,” said Brandie Martin of Aster Avenue Paper. “Going from not being part of a group (to joining Local Makers), they’re just so welcoming. That’s what makes it so fun.”
The support takes many forms. Vendors help one another set up their booths and make displays. Makers bounce ideas off one another and share tips on entrepreneurship. And by working together, they draw more customers than they would selling alone.
“It’s really fun being around people who have different ideas than me,” said Lauren Crocker, a crocheter selling items at the July 9 market. “Then I get inspiration. If anyone has a hobby they want to share they should definitely try it out.”
Crocker, 14, is part of the Mini Makers program, which gets youth involved in the market.
Local Makers reserves space at its markets for younger vendors, and does not charge them for the space. Supporting younger makers was part of the mission from the start, Dickens said.
“From the get-go, we decided we want really support the next generation,” Dickens said. “It’s exciting for us to help them develop small business skills and get that experience.”
Crocker is another person who found her new hobby during the pandemic. She started crocheting during quarantine down time, learning the finer points via YouTube. Local Makers gave her the chance to turn a creative hobby into a business opportunity.
“It’s been really welcoming,” Crocker said. “A lot of the more seasoned makers want to help out. They make you feel like a real maker, they don’t patronize or anything like that.”
A history of making and entrepreneur-ing
Dickens was a bit like Crocker when she was a teen.
She said she was “born and raised an entrepreneur” and grew up crafting with her mother.
Coming from a family of avid Washington Husky fans, she remembers making UW-themed earrings at home and selling them at football games.
For years, she marketed her creations online and “sold them off my porch.” Local Makers allows a wider audience, for her and her fellow members.
“All of a sudden they get to live out their passion,” Dickens said. “It brings in money to the household, it supports (makers’) small businesses, and it brings in money to other small businesses” that host markets.
“Plus its just like-minded people. I think it’s just a great outlet for building community.”