CraftNOW and NextFab partner to present Tools of the Trades, an inaugural hybrid conference for creative entrepreneurs

-Courtesy of En Route Marketing
photo by Albert Yee

Craft organization CraftNOW and membership-based makerspace NextFab have partnered to present the inaugural Tools of the Trades, a three-day hybrid conference  focused on connecting artisans to business resources in Philadelphia and beyond. From March 23 to 25,  attendees will have access to experts, resources, and peers working in the craft community. Funded in  part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Tools of the Trades is designed to provide creative  entrepreneurs of all skill levels the tools they need to build their own unique roadmap to success. The  conference will have programming and resources relevant to creative entrepreneurs working across the  country. 

The conference will feature a virtual series of lectures, panel discussions, and a hybrid of virtual and in person networking opportunities organized around fundamental topics in business, creative processes,  and peer support. The inspiration for Tools of the Trades began in 2020 when CraftNOW surveyed 200  

Philadelphia artisans and service providers for its Craft Business Survey. The results found a lack of  emphasis on business education for creatives at the university level. The survey also illustrated a critical need for facilitating peer interaction among craft professionals, who often operate in an isolated network of sole proprietors. 

Around the same time, NextFab, a network of membership-based makerspaces, presented a successful  online webinar series, “From Making to Selling,” that reached over 1,200 makers in the region. The two  organizations saw an opportunity to combine their efforts and developed Tools of the Trades, a first-of its-kind conference designed to support craft entrepreneurs and businesses. During the planning stages,  

CraftNOW and NextFab assembled an advisory group of industry experts and makers to review the  conference’s programming, ensuring the featured topics were relevant to the modern craft economy.  

Tools of the Trades will unite leading professionals in craft – creatives, makers, curators, designers,  artists – so they can collaborate and support one another,” said Leila Cartier, Executive Director of  CraftNOW. “Additionally, the technical support and business experts featured at the inaugural  conference are available to help year-round, with many offering their services free of charge. We want  to support a growing craft economy and ensure that artists and makers have the tools they need to  achieve success.” 

CraftNOW is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit arts organization launched in 2015 by a consortium of  individuals, galleries, museums, universities, retailers, and civic organizations. Though diverse in  background, CraftNOW has been united in its desire to capitalize upon Philadelphia’s outstanding craft  resources and highlight the city’s continuing role in defining the future of craft.  

To further its commitment to makers and craftspeople, CraftNOW implemented several initiatives in  2021 aimed at strengthening Philadelphia’s craft community and economic impact. Under the newly 

launched CraftECON, these programs include mapping resources for retailers and gallerists; assembling  a regional artisan database; creating artisan workshops focused on business skills; resource mapping of  service providers; sponsoring digital programs highlighting artisans; and connecting makers with  developers and architects. In the fall of 2021, CraftNOW was granted 501c3 status, which will allow the  organization to explore additional and more significant funding streams that can support its expanded  mission. 

Similarly, NextFab has used its platform to provide access to tools, technology, education, and onsite  technical staff to makers, innovators, and artists. For 13 years, they have been known as Philadelphia’s  premier makerspace supporting thousands of craft entrepreneurs and businesses. In the spring of 2020,  NextFab opened a third location in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood that features dedicated jewelry and textile studios, woodshop, metal shop, and CNC equipment. The new space was designed to  become a hub for multiple creative businesses, offering over 30,000 square feet of space complete with  flexible studios and enhanced storage. NextFab also successfully launched the Artisan Accelerator and  new webinar programming, furthering its ongoing mission to assist and support emerging craft  businesses. 

“NextFab has historically served as a provider of physical tools and resources for local makers,” said  Anna Solomon, Sales Manager of NextFab. “Over the last three years, however, we’ve hosted more than  30 programs examining the financial, strategic, and emotional challenges small businesses encounter  while striving for a sustainable financial future. Through our partnership with CraftNOW, we hope Tools  of the Trades will continue these conversations and help artisans and creatives develop practical steps  to achieve their own unique, creative success.” 

The inaugural Tools of the Trades will offer a variety of programs led by professionals from Craft  Emergency Resource Fund (CERF+), Creative Business Accelerator, The Enterprise Center, Made in  Baltimore, Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Sunlight Tax School, Temple University’s Small  Business Development Center, The Clay Studio, WCNP Global Craft Market, and NextFab.  

The conference will feature presenters representing a diverse cross-section of organizers from regional  craft communities, including University of the Arts Program Director of Craft and Material Studies Mi Kyoung Lee, The Clay Studio’s Curator and Director of Artistic Programs Jennifer Zwilling, and creative  business owner and social justice advocate Alecia Dawn. 

In the coming weeks, CraftNOW and NextFab will announce additional speakers and presenters as well  as scholarships opportunities for university students interested in attending Tools of the Trades. 

The current Tools of the Trades list of topics and speakers is available HERE.

Tickets are $50 to access all digital programming. $75 for digital programming plus the in-person
networking event at NextFab on Saturday, March 26. Use promo code EarlyBird75 through March 18th for 75% off tickets.

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