An End and a New Beginning

2016 is done, and I hope you’ve all had a successful holiday season and at least a little bit of rest in the last few weeks. While you haven’t heard from me in a long while, I have some important news to share. The TL;DR version is this:

Maker’s Nation is no longer. I’m now working on Academy of Handmade.

The long version is, well, longer. So grab some coffee and settle in…

I started Maker’s Nation in 2012 on the heels of an Etsy-sponsored project that was coming to an end. This has always been a project fueled by my passion for helping makers improve their businesses and thrive as creative small business owners. It’s also always been a challenge for me—running a nonprofit by myself and without getting paid for it meant that Maker’s Nation was always the first to get sidelined when my other jobs/projects/pursuits needed my attention. This means I’ve perpetually felt like I couldn’t adequately serve the community and realize the organization’s full potential, no matter how much optimism I poured into it.

In 2015, Maker’s Nation took the reigns of the School House Craft conference in Seattle as a way to shift efforts into something I’m really good at—organizing conferences and producing events. It was successful in its own right (those who attended raved about the experience), but it still didn’t hit the sustainability mark, largely because I was trying to do it all by myself. In the end it took some major investment on my part to pull it off.

At the beginning of 2016, I set out with a bit more of that plucky optimism that I would renew efforts for Maker’s Nation and would set things on the right track toward success. But I consistently fell short and by May I felt like a total failure.

New Partnership

This summer I started helping Sharon Fain and the Academy of Handmade—a sister organization with very similar pursuits—as a strategic programming partner. I assisted with some of the programming she had planned, and worked to kick off a local Portland chapter of her community. But the behind-the-scenes story is that Sharon contacted me in June feeling some of the same challenges of running her business by herself, and seeking someone to help. Over the last six months, she and I have been meeting regularly to figure out how best to join forces and map out our goals and plans for the future.

I am pleased to officially announce that I’m pivoting my efforts from Maker’s Nation to become a partner with Sharon at Academy of Handmade! For those not familiar, Academy of Handmade is both an online and offline community of makers and the people who support them with over 300 members in 6+ local chapters (3 more on the cusp of forming, including Portland). Its mission is to celebrate makers, connect them to their peers and supporters, and help them work on their business.

Running a community like this is pretty complex—working with chapter leaders, creating programming, doing marketing, managing memberships, creating content, and so much more! Having a partner like Sharon has already allowed me to focus strategically on the areas I excel in, and gives her a chance to do the same.

I’ll be helping in many, many ways, but the two most notable will be through a new podcast (more on that below!) and being in charge of local chapters (from leaders to programming to chapter expansions).

But what’s going to happen to Maker’s Nation? The truth is, combining a tax-exempt nonprofit and an LLC is rather complicated, and we took a good hard look at whether the benefits of nonprofit status were really something we wanted to maintain. In the end, the simplicity of an LLC and a straightforward business model won out. So on December 30, the Maker’s Nation board of directors met and voted to officially dissolve the organization. The paperwork’s been sent off and Maker’s Nation is no longer in operation.

I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for supporting Maker’s Nation and School House Craft, whether through joining as members, contributing funds, attending events, or subscribing to this here newsletter. Despite my multiple failings, I’ve really appreciated the small community we’ve built and the people I’ve been able to serve. I see my work with Academy of Handmade as both an evolution of the work I’ve done with makers since 2009, and a fresh start with a new role and renewed passion for helping makers everywhere.

Community Conversations

You heard that right above—we’ve launched a podcast called Your Handmade Business, and I’ll be the host! But this is not your average podcast. We’re taking a nontraditional approach to podcasting by weaving the podcast with the Academy of Handmade’s email newsletter and going deeper into the topics that affect handmade businesses.

Each month we will focus our communication (and some of our programming and resources) around a theme. Each week we will explore that theme on either the newsletter or the podcast, with me delivering the podcast accompanied by contributions from members and the maker community, and Sharon conveying her message through the newsletter.

We’ve released a podcast episode we’re calling Episode 0 that explains a bit more about it, and Episode 1 just came out today (new episodes will drop every other Tuesday).

Listen or Subscribe to the Podcast

Future Events

Sharon and I are planning some really exciting things, and we’d love to get your feedback specifically about the types of larger events you attend (or would like to attend) in the future. We have a quick 10-question survey that I’d love for you to fill out to help guide our decision-making process: Take the Survey

Join Us?

If this sounds like a community you’d like to learn more about, please subscribe to the newsletter and/or podcast. This is the last you’ll hear from Maker’s Nation, so if you’d like to continue getting updates, follow the Academy of Handmade going forward. This website will stay up through the middle of 2016 during the transition, then we’ll close it down and out.

If joining the Academy of Handmade is something you’d like to commit to, you can pre-apply for membership now. Membership opens up on January 31, but there’s no reason to wait to apply (you’ll get connected faster!).

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Reply in the comments or email me at isaac at academyofhandmade dot com.