Maker Faire is one of the most interesting and unique events around. Put on by Make Magazine, the event is described on their website as a "two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things."
An estimated 60,000 people showed up this weekend to attend the show and see the 600 exhibits -everything from a giant replica of the old mousetrap game that covered hundreds of square feet, to life sized mechanical dinosaurs, to robotic model warships, to light emitting jewelry. The big, outdoor exhibits (like the mousetrap game) get most of the attention. But the halls are filled with lots of interesting crafts, toys and electronics.
While the purpose of the event is to celebrate people building things on their own, this is also a business show. I talked to dozens of "makers" who sell their creations and many others that hope to turn their Maker Faire projects into a business. There were also lots of companies exhibiting who sell tools and supplies to the makers. While some big corporations were there, most were small businesses.
In our research we've seen many small businesses that started as hobbies. The progression often goes from hobby to part-time small business, to personal business, to small business. Usually the driver to start a part-time business is either someone asks to buy a product, or the hobbyist wants to fund the cost of hobby supplies. We heard both stories many times this weekend at Maker Faire.
The DIY movement continues to grow. So does the related craft movement and the related consumer movement we call the emerging buy local coalition. These combination of these trends is creating new opportunities for small and personal businesses.