On October 19, CO.LAB and the Chattanooga Public Library kicked off Startup Week Chattanooga with Chattanooga Maker Day! It was a rainy Saturday, but the Library was brimming with energy as makers and innovators gathered together. 

In case you didn’t know, Maker Day, formerly known as Maker Faire, is a public showcase of artists, builders, scientists, hobbyists, and everyone in between. There are performances, displays, and activities which offer something for all ages to enjoy. About 450 attendees came out to show their support for the participants. 

Chattanooga is home to many makers, and Maker Day serves as a time for them to show and share what they’ve been making and learning. This year, we had around 25 makers show up and show off all of their creations. Makers showcased their inventions, sold handmade jewelry and clothing, allowed people to make music, and so much more. It was an exciting day filled with a wide variety of creators and creations. 

Maker Day was a visual representation of the maker movement in Chattanooga, which is clearly alive and well. In June, the Nation of Makers Conference (NOMCON) chose to host their annual gathering right here in downtown Chattanooga, and CO.LAB was excited to participate through coordinating local food and sharing information about our innovative community. This was a big moment for the movement as it gave national recognition to the strong maker mentality that exists in this city of creators.

“The industrial history of Chattanooga reflects a strong tradition of makers and making, and more recently the Chattanooga Public Library has continued that tradition by developing a Makerspace in its downtown location,” Jackie Anderson, Head Librarian, said. 

The Makerspace opened its doors on the 4th floor of the Library in 2013. With 3D printers, sewing machines, vinyl plotters, and a studio, the Makerspace provides Chattanooga’s maker movement with resources to grow their business or learn a new craft. This space offers direct support to makers in need of equipment and materials that make creating possible.

In relation to Chattanooga as a whole, Anderson said, “The community can better support Makers by asking [them] what they actually need and responding to that direct dialogue.”

CO.LAB aims to streamline that effort and is proud to support local makers by offering tools and resources to foster their growth and development as entrepreneurs. Below is a list of tips you can use to turn your passion into profit.


• Create a plan and know your “why”


It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pursuing your passion, but it’s important to not dive headfirst into this endeavor without really thinking it through. Identify a few goals to keep you on track and create a strategy that will ensure efficiency.

Your “why” is your individual story and purpose in starting this business. Differentiate yourself from your competitors and appeal to your customers by sharing your story and creative process, and making clear why they should buy from you. You know the value of your product, but potential customers don’t, so it’s important to figure out how to clearly convey that message to them. 


• Build out your platform


In the age of Instagram and Etsy, becoming an entrepreneur as a maker and monetizing your passion has never been so accessible. In order to effectively build out your platform, you need to know your audience and product(s) well. What age group is your audience? What social media platforms do they use? Where can your product(s) be sold? These are the questions you need to ask yourself in order to reach your customer and gain the most traction.

Additionally, it’s important to invest in photography that showcases the quality of your product(s). This is where you can really get creative and let your business’ personality shine through. Create a brand for yourself and maintain consistency throughout all of your channels, so your followers are drawn to and stick with you.


• Network with anyone and everyone

Becoming an entrepreneur means you’re going to have to get used to some serious self-promotion. Create an elevator pitch that’s a minute or less about your business so that you’re ready for anyone who asks about what you do. Don’t sell yourself short and be sure to let them know how to find you. 

Reach out to people on social media and attend events to meet individuals who are in the same boat as you. Starting your own business can feel isolating or daunting, so creating a network of fellow makers can inspire and educate you.

Be sure to utilize your existing network by telling your friends, family, and anyone you know about your business, and asking them to share your story. Having a group of supporters goes a long way when you’re first starting out. 


• Schedule a Wayfinding meeting!

Here at CO.LAB, we aim to be a front door for entrepreneurship. Wayfinding meetings exist to serve entrepreneurs at all stages. Whether you just have an idea, or are a growing business looking for resources to scale, a Wayfinding meeting will sit you down with one of our staff advisors to discuss your vision and determine next steps! Schedule a meeting here.  

Turning your passion into a business is an exciting adventure to embark on. Whether you’re a designer, artist, jewelry seller, or a maker of any kind, there are all kinds of opportunities to make money off of doing what you love. However, the challenge comes from just that: loving what you do. It’s important not to lose the enjoyment of being a maker as you get caught up in growing your business and turning your hobby into a job. Take time to appreciate your creativity and creations, so that the excitement and passion for the project never fades.


About the Author:

Katie Smith is a Communications & Design Intern at The Company Lab (CO.LAB). Katie is a senior at Covenant College pursuing her bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in writing.