I can’t make anything. OK, I occasionally make the bed and make up my mind, but I have no aptitude for creating a product or piece of art with my hands. Luckily, Cincinnati is seeing an explosion of talent right now that turns out an incredible array of handmade and homegrown products, so I’m off the hook.
This month’s cover package, “Rise of the Makers,” profiles nine people or groups who are among the cream of this new crop. They’re producing packaged food, jewelry, home goods, and a lot of specialty items—we highlight small-batch manufacturers of skis, decorative metalwork, beard care supplies, and mascot costumes. Yes, they make skis (and snowboards soon) in Over-the-Rhine.
Two separate trends are driving this talent explosion. One is a robust support network encouraging Cincinnati makers to sell, grow, and interact with each other; in some cases, funding is available to help entrepreneurs bring new concepts to market. The result is a positive feedback loop that includes successful startups, wider availability and acceptance of locally made products, the promotion of Cincinnati as a city of makers, and talented individuals who believe they too can turn an idea into a business and seek opportunities to be mentored by the successful startups.
Cincinnati has always been a manufacturing town, but this support for entrepreneurship—from consumers, banks, government, real estate developers, and even corporations—is a new phenomenon here over the past 10 years or so.
The second trend driving the rise of the makers is a general turn to valuing handmade and locally sourced products again. Marie Kondo has tapped into this feeling in her “tidying up” books and Netflix series, where she equates what you own with how you view yourself and says our possessions should spark joy.
More of us these days want to learn the stories behind the products we consume and the people or companies making them. It’s a new kind of relationship that I’m sure will result in more, and happier, Cincinnati makers.