Small is beautiful but rarely offers much of a living. The new secret sauce of the Artisanal Industrial Revolution is Network Aggregation. This can happen online such as when Artisans aggregate in sites like Etsy or Knitters in Ravelry. But what is really new, and what I think will make a huge impact of Foodies, are face to face aggregators.
Here is what is happening in New York. This example tells me that entrepreneurs can do this anywhere - Put some business oomph behind local food.
Source: New York Times
"Perhaps more than any other entrepreneurs in a borough chock-full of kale and crafts, Mr. Butler and Mr. Demby have helped create, curate and nurture the booming Brooklyn artisanal complex. In just five years, the 40-something fathers have turned the Flea and Smorgasburg into a small-batch empire. They operate four markets in Brooklyn each weekend from early April to late November. Smorgasburg also runs concessions at Central Park’s Summerstage concerts. After Thanksgiving, the Flea moves indoors to the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.
On a sunny weekend when the stalls are filled to capacity and thousands of tourists, hipsters and chowhounds come to graze, the business can gross as much as $60,000, based on the fees the vendors pay.
Mr. Butler and Mr. Demby — whose friends jokingly call him Artisanal Eric — maintain a modest profile when observing their weekend markets with their children in tow. But during the week, the two are doggedly focused on moving beyond their borough’s over-the-top identity as the home of white truffle mayonnaise.
Now they are wading into Manhattan and into the corporate world, at a time when small-scale food makers belong to one of the fastest-growing industries in New York.
Last week, coolness made the reverse commute. The two men began a partnership with the upscale food retailer Whole Foods Market that will bring one vendor a month to the second floor of Whole Foods’ Bowery store in Manhattan. In February, a retail stand, also on the floor, will begin selling packaged items from other Smorgasburg vendors. The plan is for the relationship to continue in Brooklyn when Whole Foods opens in Gowanus and Williamsburg in the next two years."
This approach is I think the keystone of the new artisanal world. 100 years ago artisans made most things we need but were restricted to their local market. Henry Ford replaced them with a process that took the skill out of the work and offered the product to the world. Don't believe me? Here is the story. Now we can take back the skill but also offer scale - by using aggregation and trust.
Few artisan enjoy or have time for the larger business issues. On their own, it is too hard for customers to find them. Trusted Network Aggregators offer a win win solution for us all.
More about this idea in my new book You Don't Need a Job