In the Pittsburgh craft scene, there are makers and there are producers. That is, according to Adam Kenney.
“There’s an army of people who self-identify as makers and it’s great,” he says. “The maker movement has been very democratizing, but their goal isn’t to hire anybody or to really grow businesses in ways that have an economic impact in the city that anyone cares about.”
Enter Bridgeway Capital‘s Craft Business Accelerator, for which Kenney serves as director. The accelerator seeks makers looking to expand their businesses in ways that align with Bridgeway’s mission of spurring job creation and bringing economic activity into Pittsburgh’s disinvested areas.
To further the accelerator’s agenda, Bridgeway created MONMADE, a network, platform and program that provides local producers—including craft businesses, maker enterprises, design and build shops, and entrepreneurial artists—with the tools they need to grow. The initiative aims to create what Kenney calls a “craft manufacturing sector” that would connect producers with people interested in buying or distributing their products.
“When people think about Pittsburgh’s bright future, it’s the three large, new emerging industries—eds, meds and tech,” says Kenney. “But there’s space in between these larger sectors where people are still innovating, it’s just at a different scale. [MONMADE] is one way for this city to recognize there are these micro-businesses that are working with handmade processes and advanced manufacturing to do really interesting things, but they’re not easily categorized.”
The initiative will officially launch on May 19 with a free showcase event at Ace Hotel, where around 35 different MONMADE members will be on display. Among those featured is the Homewood-based bow tie company Knotzland, printmaker and illustrator Ashley Cecil, and the strawberryluna studio, as well as a long list of crafters working in handmade ceramics, tiles, glass and other materials.
The event will allow the producers to enter markets they might not have otherwise considered. Kenney gives the example of an interior designer using locally made décor and furniture as opposed to ordering them from a catalog.
“The origins of products aren’t usually clear,” says Kenney. “[MONMADE] shows design and development professionals, as well as the general public, that there are serious makers willing to collaborate with you and are making great products right here in Pittsburgh.”
The approach would also extend to retailers for the Carnegie Museum stores, who make it a point to buy and stock local, handmade items.
MONMADE also recognizes that not all producers are the same. For some, growth could mean moving into a larger space, while for others, it could mean engaging with manufacturers that already exist.
“We try to support people’s inherent vision for growth any way we can,” says Kenney, who uses examples like Cecil, who works with local manufacturers, and the t-shirt company Commonwealth Press, which recently moved production into a larger space and now has 17 employees. “That is craft manufacturing, essentially.”
The free public portion of the MONMADE Summer Showcase launch at Ace Hotel will take place on May 19 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Registration is required. No products will be sold during the event.
For more on MONMADE, watch the video below, courtesy of Bridgeway Capital: