Formalizing the Informal Economy And Online Solutions For Offline Makers
Image: Jase Wilson, Neighbor.ly
By 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce is predicted to be “solopreneurs” (ie self-employed entrepreneurs)
Learn about WorkHands, a blue-collar online identity service that makes it easier to find work in the trades. WorkHands helps workers appropriately showcase their skills online and verify important certifications
Discover Letsmake, an online platform that helps makers find spaces for their activities – like workshops, commercial kitchens, rehearsal rooms, and artist studios. Basically, it’s an Airbnb for maker spaces
If you’re going to start a retail business, you should start as a popup. PopUpsters is an online platform that connects local vendors and makers with unique and regular opportunities to “pop up” their brands at events and in temporary spaces while helping grow their businesses
From the DIY craft movement to popup food vendors, a new economy of makers is gaining momentum. Interestingly, while their products, crafts, and food are made and sold in the real world, there is a real opportunity to support these offline makers through online communities. The formalization of these types of informal economies is part of a growing trend for urban impact entrepreneurs. We want to give a shout out to a few of the startups leading the charge.
If you want to start a street food business, where do you go to find commercial kitchen space? Right now, food vendors and other craftspeople have to rely on niche online directories (basically a list of phone numbers), Craigslist, or word-of-mouth to find spaces for their work. But these platforms often feature outdated information and provide no security, booking, or payment features. By 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce is predicted to be “solopreneurs” (ie self-employed entrepreneurs). Many of these solopreneurs will need easy, affordable access to maker spaces for their catering, furniture making, and electronics businesses. Luckily, there’s a new startup called Letsmake. Letsmake is an online platform that helps makers find spaces for their activities – like workshops, commercial kitchens, rehearsal rooms, and artist studios. Basically, it’s an Airbnb for maker spaces. The hope is that online tools like Letsmake will make it easier for makers to find the spaces they need to create their work and build real businesses.
And, once you’ve used a tool like Letsmake to produce your street food, how do find a place to sell it? Well, PopUpsters’ founders believe that, if you’re going to start a retail business, you should start as a popup. This means vendors can avoid significant up-front capital expenditures and also test out their business models early on to make sure they have strong customer fit. So the PopUpsters team built an online platform that connects local vendors and makers with unique and regular opportunities to “pop up” their brands at events and in temporary spaces while helping grow their businesses. In addition to helping place vendors at awesome events, PopUpsters also helps streamline the planning process for event hosts – even going to so far as to manage permitting, if necessary.
To that end, PopUpsters is teaming up with civic technology firm Accela to integrate their permitting APIs into their platform. “PopUpsters is the kind of smart new venture that Accela is excited to support through our open Civic Platform and our growing developer program,” says Mark Headd, Technical Evangelist at Accela. “At Accela we want to make it easy for civic-minded individuals to develop and deploy solutions that make a positive impact on communities, making it frictionless for them to integrate with the infrastructure of government. This benefits government agencies and citizens and helps developers to build and grow their businesses.” APIs from folks like Accela represent a real opportunity for startups to incorporate valuable community data into their products and services.
Ok, one last startup we want to mention. If you are a skilled tradesperson (like a machinist, welder, etc), how do you find work? Historically, it would be through word of mouth or by walking onto job sites. Now, there’s WorkHands. WorkHands is blue-collar online identity service that makes it easier to find work in the trades. Traditional resume sites like LinkedIn aren’t effective tools to showcase the accomplishments of a carpenter, for example. So WorkHands helps workers appropriately showcase their skills online and verify important certifications. The company also connects skilled workers to employment opportunities, providing an economic development engine for employees in the trades.
Letsmake, PopUpsters, and WorkHands are at the forefront of a new movement of companies using technology to make our communities better – and more productive – places to live and do business. They are using 21st century tools to formalize informal interactions that have been happening for generations. We are excited about their progress and hope to see more startups building tools for our maker communities.
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From the Editor
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