Building A Local Handmade Network

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

The items pictured above are offered by six talented women living in the Chicago area who I’m very lucky to be able to get together with in person a few times a year.

1. Meg Bartholomy, olliegraphic

2. Stacy Amoo-Mensa, Name Your Design

3. Debbie Lee, Penelope’s Press

4. Julie Chen, Life Verse Design

5. Megan Nutley, Silhouette Blue

6. Dacia Gravlin, Lima Bean Kids

Since launching sarah + abraham in 2007 I’ve made a lot of online friends who are amazingly willing to answer questions and offer feedback, but nothing compares to getting together with fellow designers/artisans/entrepreneurs in person.

The first time I got together with a local entrepreneur who I had met online, we were both a little hesitant and unsure of what to expect. She had gotten to know a little about me through my blog, and we exchanged several emails before deciding to meet at a library with our kids. It was amazing how much we had in common and how much we had to talk about. Since then it’s gotten easier and easier to suggest getting together in person after meeting local entrepreneurs online, and every single time I get together with someone new I’m so glad I did.

Every few months I get together with the group of women that I mentioned above. We all work from home and spend most of our workdays in front of a computer, so it’s really nice to get away from our computers and talk with each other in person. We’re able to bounce ideas off of each other, vent our  frustrations, offer encouragement, and share resources and contacts. We all speak the same language of Etsy, PayPal, blogging, etc. so we’re able to have conversations with each other that we sometimes can’t have with our friends and families who aren’t a part of this online community. Every time we get together I leave feeling energized and full of new ideas.

If you don’t already know any local women who share your business interests, I can’t say enough about what a valuable resource it is. An easy way to find local Etsy sellers is through Etsy :: Shop Local. If there are any sellers who you’re interested in meeting, a great way to get to know a little bit about them first (or for them to get to know a little about you) is through blogs and Facebook fan pages. And then don’t be shy – send an email introducing yourself, get to know them a little through email, and then suggest getting together.

Do you have a local group that you meet up with? Have you met up with any local Etsy sellers in person? Please leave a comment and let us know about your experiences!

8 comments

  1. At the end of this month I’ll be getting together for the first time with 3 other business owers/bloggers for a weekend at the beach. We are traveling from all over (airplanes are invloved!) to meet in person. I’m so excited! One person could not make it, so we are going to start talking on the phone or skype and hope to one day meet in person (she’s in Canada and I’m in the US).

    You’re fortunate to have a large group so near by. It must be great to be able to get together frequently.

  2. r8chel says:

    I wasn’t aware of Etsy’s “shop local” feature until I read about it here. I live in a small town, so it was especially interesting to see how many Etsy sellers live nearby. If/when I open an Etsy shop, I may try to connect with some local sellers in person.

  3. rosita says:

    thanks for reminding me of this. i’ve never used the etsy local function, and i’d really like to meet people in my area.

    i often feel lost when wondering about where to print, what price to charge, etc., and it’d be great to be able to bounce ideas of other artists.

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