Digital painting by: Martin Mannette

Handmade Downtown Eastside

In early 2017, the Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee and LEDlab collaborated on a listening project to better understand the needs of low income entrepreneurs in the DTES, in particular those working in the informal economy and who have home-based businesses. Through this work we identified micro-food and catering businesses, and artists and makers (carvers, sewers, etc.) as two groups of low income entrepreneurs who might benefit from a strategic response to their identified needs.

Through the listening project, we heard that low income entrepreneurs, specifically makers, need:

  • Places to sell things (outside the DTES) where they can charge a better price for their goods
  • Places to produce/make things and store materials; low barrier makerspace, affordable commissary kitchen space, etc.
  • Specific self-employment training (e.g. pricing goods and services, selling things online) in accessible formats (one on one, low barrier micro-workshops, peer-mentorship, support network)

The “Handmade Downtown Eastside” project will help to inform the self-employment training offered at the Lux, while building a broader movement of support for DTES micro-enterprises. The goal of the project “Handmade Downtown Eastside” is to develop a program that intentionally and strategically connects low income DTES entrepreneurs (specifically makers) to existing community assets (production facilities) and new sales and distribution opportunities outside of the neighbourhood, in order to help grow their personal incomes and capacities in entrepreneurship. Ultimately, we hope that this work lays the foundation for collective advocacy, marketing, and a network of support for residents considering entrepreneurship to increase their livelihoods.

LEDlab will support EMBERS to:

  • Identify sales/distribution channels outside of the neighbourhood for DTES entrepreneurs
  • Demonstrate financial feasibility for identified sales/distribution channels
  • Research and expand a list of community assets that can be used for production and materials storage
  • Compile and produce a list of self-employment resources to be used by Lux staff and low-income entrepreneurs
  • Design and implement information sharing / management processes and determine appropriate infrastructure to support this collaborative endeavor
  • Maintain effective working partnerships with various organizations, agencies, and institutions who contribute to the project
  • Support EMBERS in the development and implementation of a low barrier self-employment training model at the Lux, as required