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)

In 2017/18 LEDlab Project Coordinator Austin Lui supported EMBERS Eastside Works in developing a database of business and social enterprise partners that could collaborate on service provision to a micro-enterprise program. LEDlab funds were used to hire and train peer facilitators who are themselves micro-entrepreneurs, and who will be offering one-to-one business support to informal economy workers at Eastside Works. Private donors have also been engaged to build a small grant fund that will be available to micro-entrepreneurs through Eastside Works. This work has received support from the Sprott Foundation and will be continuing at EMBERS Eastside Works through 2020.