2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Navigating the New Handmade Economy

Written by Megan Simpson | February 12, 2014

Attend Eleanor Whitney's panel at SXSW 2014 to learn about best DIY business practices

Eleanor Whitney not only holds Master’s Degree in Public Administration, she also understands the business side of creativity. She’s worked in artist services for over a decade in leading national arts organizations and interviewed and worked with hundreds of handmade and creative business owners throughout United States. This Session Spotlight focuses on her panel discussion for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, “Navigating the New Handmade Economy.”. Read below and join Whitney in March in Austin to learn more. Until then, connect with her on Twitter @killerfemme.

SXSW: What will you explore in your panel regarding DIY businesses?
Whitney: This panel investigates the challenges and opportunities facing handmade entrepreneurs. It will focus on: building a business support network; distinguishing oneself on online platforms; scaling up while staying connected to the handmade community; and protecting one’s intellectual and creative property. This discussion between four expert makers will put a spotlight on the innovative solutions DIY business owners are developing to navigate this quickly changing economic landscape.

SXSW: Have you spoken about DIY businesses and entrepreneurs previously?
Whitney: I've spoken about DIY and creative entrepreneurship all over the country, on my book tour in the summer of 2013. My book is “Grow: How to Take Your DIY Project & Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job!” From 2011 to 2013, I ran hundreds of workshops and talks helping creative people hone their business skills. I also spoke about strategies for successful crowd funding at SXSW Music in 2012. These sessions have been enthusiastically received by creatives and entrepreneurs of all types.

SXSW: Who else will join you on this panel? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Whitney: Rena Tom is the founder of Makeshift Society, a co-working space and clubhouse for creative freelancers in San Francisco and Brooklyn. She is the Market Editor at Anthology Magazine and a business strategist who consults with product designers on the intricacies of boutique retail. She is deeply involved in in the maker, designer, entrepreneur communities, works to encourage collaboration and resource sharing, and has spoken at conferences such as Craftcation, Camp Mighty and Hello Etsy. Sharon Fain is a co-founder of the Academy of Handmade and runs professional development workshops and networking events for handmade business owners in Southern California. In 2014, the Academy of Handmade will launch awards to celebrate the achievements of the handmade community members. She is the owner of Right Brain PR and helps creative business owners understand and communicate with their audiences. Courtney Klossner has been active in online communities since the NKOTB message boards on Prodigy in 1992. As an independent concert promoter, she helped organize the first Ladyfest, several NYC Popfests and many indiepop shows. She has worked in public libraries since 1998 and as a consultant to musicians, non-profits and technology companies on best practices for artists earning an income from digital content since 2007.

SXSW: Who should attend your session and why?
Whitney: This session is for makers, creative entrepreneurs, handmade business owners, and anyone interested in how the do it yourself, creative community is evolving and using technology and innovative solutions to sustainably grow their businesses ideas. This session highlights how makers and creatives are taking advantage of opportunities both on and offline to grow and promote their businesses. It is an opportunity to hear from experts deeply involved in this community about emerging trends, best practices and common challenges facing makers and how this community is working to address them and the kinds of resources and businesses that can help them grow.

SXSW: What will attendees know when they leave your panel?
Whitney: Those attending the session will come away from it understanding the primary challenges that handmade business owners and DIY entrepreneurs face once they have established their businesses, especially as online platforms become more popular and more crowded; They will consider how creative entrepreneurs can grow their businesses and remain connected to each other and their customers for support and resource sharing; Finally, they will think about what is next for the handmade economy and the key emerging issues that handmade business owners should pay attention to.

SXSW: What excites you most about your session?
Whitney: The creative and handmade economy is a strong, growing sector in the United States and around the world. I'm so excited to connect with other creatives about sustainability and using innovative resources, elegant technology, and strategies to help strengthen our businesses. The work of creative people who are proactive rather than reactive inspire me everyday and I want to share that inspiration in this panel.

SXSW: What’s one interesting thing about you that’s not in your official bio?
I'm currently learning Ruby on Rails and I love it. Learning to code is changing my life and how I approach my other creative projects, be they writing, art or entrepreneurship. I think it's so important to understand the how new technologies are created, because the web drives so much of our businesses and culture.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “Navigating the New Handmade Economy” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.

Eleanor Whitney photo by Andrea Patton.