We have some exciting new things happening with Academy of Handmade, along with some pretty big changes. There is a lot of information to share and get through, but I hope you will read on as we share how we plan to continue our mission of helping makers grow sustainable businesses. Plus, we’ve got a fun surprise at the end!

So bear with me because I know this is going to be freaking long! :)

When I started Academy of Handmade (with another friend at the time) over five years ago, we were excited to create a community where we could see our maker friends outside of just “work” (aka craft shows). We wanted to connect friends who might not know each other and were excited about learning and growing together. And we definitely did that and I am so proud of the work that included:

  • Hosting three awards shows
  • Creating six local chapters
  • Blossoming from a Facebook group to a place where we can chat and share resources in a private forum
  • Creating mentorship AND mastermind programs for members
  • Two holiday gift swaps for members
  • A summer book club series for members
  • Offering tons of discounts
  • Hosting two State of Makings
  • Dozens of members in accountability partnerships
  • Three Next Level Business Workshops
  • Hundreds of local meetups
  • A resource library packed with nearly 200 resources
  • Two huge Etsy parties

On top of all of this we’ve fiddled with our membership structure and what our core programming is and refined over and over again. Bringing on Isaac Watson this last year was part of me knowing that I need to have a partner that was both passionate about supporting makers and who could help continue to grow Academy of Handmade. He came on with an intimate knowledge of how a maker membership community works and its challenges.

Together, we’ve taken a very serious look at the business, from program evaluation to member success, as well as diving into numbers and playing around with how things work in a spreadsheet. And recently we came to a conclusion that our programs as they are currently structured aren’t going to meet the goals that we have for the business OR for our members long-term.

Yes, we are growing-- just not in the ways we think we should with the effort and resources necessary to sustain it. We love the idea of membership, but to support it there is a lot of behind-the-scenes jerry rigging. Membership programs are also always “on”-- constantly needing feeding, and ultimately diverting our attention from the community to repeatedly selling membership.

Yes, there are solutions to all of these problems, but they involve a lot of money with a risky ROI or would make us change our programming in a way we don’t think would serve the community well.

What’s Changing…

Which has led us to the following decision-- We are canceling membership. WHOA! WAIT! HOLD ON. WHAT?!

Okay, let me back up because actually not a lot is changing. Everyone who is currently a member will continue to have access to these forums and all of the private community programs we offer through them. However, we aren’t doing any more member drives. Everyone else from here on out who will join our private community member forum will be people who have participated in certain paid programming (more on that later!).

We’ve already announced it to our members and they are pretty excited, so we feel like we are on the right path.

Anyone who goes through one of our new programs will also receive FREE lifetime access to our private community. We will still support the current community we’ve cultivated, which includes:

  • Access to forums
  • Weekly coffee chats
  • Free access to our Resource Directory
  • Summer Book Club
  • Holiday Gift Swap
  • Monthly Market Watch newsletter with a roundup of places to sell online and off
  • Ability to lead local meetups (the structure of our chapters will be changing somewhat to be focused on local meetups. Stay tuned as we are still rolling out this new plan!)
  • The key thing is that not a lot is changing about the current programs we offer-- it’s a lot more about how people access these resources.

Program Shift

The last couple years we have completely fallen in love with facilitating groups of makers working together to address their problems as collective. In particular our mentorship program and our roundtables (and the in-person Think Tanks we hosted this year at Craftcation!). This is where we see ourselves bringing a lot of value to the handmade community. And we see a huge need for it without a lot of already existing services addressing this problem.

We are focusing on offering these kinds of community learning experiences to the three different stages of makers: Folks just starting out (helping them sort out the many resources of the maker community), folks a little further along in their businesses through mentorship, and experienced makers who are looking to grow and achieve next level goals through masterminds.

This means that we will be eliminating monthly membership as a way to access our resources and community and instead will give access to the participants in these new programs. These paid programs will focus on peer learning and connecting makers to resources. We will have three core programs that will do this:

  • Jumpstart Your Handmade Business: A one-day webinar and resource guide for newbie businesses happening August 18.
  • Friendtorship: Similar to the mentorship program we have offered members in the past, but now only paid, open to anyone and with a few other tweaks. We'll offer two rounds of this program—before the holidays and in the spring. The holiday mentorship program will be available for signups August 19,  the day after our live Jumpstart program.
  • Mastermind: We’ve already been piloting this program and it’s been AH-MAZING! We will offer it again next spring… stay tuned!

There are also a couple of other exciting changes on the horizon and nitty gritty details we didn’t get into here because this is a lot to process, but if you’ve got questions, please ask them!

Up Next: Two New Programs!

So, as I mentioned already we have two new programs that are happening here fairly quickly! I’d love to share a little bit about what they are.

Jumpstart Your Handmade Business

We will begin rolling out what this program looks like the first week of August, but overall here are the important highlights:

  • Focus on creating a plan and getting connected to the RIGHT resources for your maker path
  • Live webinar featuring experienced makers and handmade business experts
  • Open to anyone, anywhere with unlimited capacity
  • Access to private forums, Resource Directory, and all of our private community activities FOREVER


Holiday Friendtorship

We’re calling it “friend”torship instead of mentorship because sometimes there is a belief that the mentor is an all-knowing guru. In reality, they are more like a friend who has already gone through a lot of the same stuff you are just starting to experience.

Highlights of this program include:

  • A 4-week mentorship program with pairing to an experienced maker
  • Structure with curriculum that focuses on holiday prep
  • “Virtual” meetings over the phone or Skype
  • Open to anyone to apply, but we have limited capacity due to having a finite number of mentors and some people might not be suitable for the program
  • All of our mentors will be from North America (this round at least)
  • Program itself will begin mid-September, but will go on sale August 19
  • Access to private forums, Resource Directory, and all of our private community activities FOREVER!

Sign up below to get more info about the program when it launches. Because this program is limited capacity, we aren’t going to do a lot of promo to our general list, so if you want to be in the know on this one, then make sure you sign up!


That Special Surprise

We are soooo excited about this new programming that we are celebrating a with a giveaway! We want to give a few lucky makers awesome business bundles, with a grand prize that includes a DYMO LABELWRITER 4XL! Details are below.

Thank you all again for your support Academy of Handmade. We can’t wait to share more and work with more makers.

And...Good luck!