As I travel around the USA, sharing stories of success from rural America, one of my favorites is that of Handmade in America. This organization which encompasses 23 counties in western NC was formed in 1993 to help small artisans in that area to jointly improve their economic conditions. A book “The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina” resulted, having sold over 50,000 copies.
An early study by Handmade showed that over 4,000 artisans made their living in the region, globally contributing $122 million to the regional economy. With an average income of $32,000 per year, their earnings were slightly higher than that of a factory worker at $29,800. The study also showed that about 67% of all craft sales were made to tourists.
The Handmade organization wrote the book, promoted the region and today all of Western NC is better because of their efforts. Today that region generates more than $500 million from their efforts, new entrepreneurial enterprises have been started and numerous jobs have resulted.
The mission of Handmade continues, with an emphasis upon:
Place-based—assets tied to the region so that they can’t be moved;
Diversified—expanding many sectors rather than only one;
Regional—small towns are better working together rather than fighting each other;
Entrepreneurial—virtually all of the businesses impacted are owned by entrepreneurs;
Collaborative—over 45 partnerships with other organizations have resulted;
Inclusive—over 3,000 citizens have been involved in planning an execution.
My wife and I had a wonderful time touring the Handmade in America region with their book as a guide. We had a great time. I hope that you get a chance to visit the region yourself.