As the current Coronavirus crisis looms over our economic stability and stay-at-home orders close businesses and negatively impact jobs, starting a business may seem counterintuitive—but now is the perfect time!
A look at the 2008 recession shows a promising outlook for crafting during a downturn. The 2008 holiday season had craft retailers seeing a massive uptick in sales, against the general trend. As disposable income became less, more and more people turned to making gifts themselves, finding the materials more affordable than a similar finished product. In addition to gifts, the unemployed and underemployed turned to selling crafts for the sake of income, creating a boom of craft-based businesses. (2)
Those without the skills to make what they wanted turned to buying gifts from crafters. As the stock markets plunged, craft sales on sites like Etsy and eBay reached record highs. Some small craft-based businesses saw sales rise as much as 300% as consumers turned to local business and unique, affordable items in place of expensive purchases from big box stores. (2)
So crafts flourished in the 2008 recession, but what does that mean for the current crisis?
Simply put, it’ll probably happen again—only this time, it’ll be even bigger.
First, crafting always seems to flourish during economic recessions. Even during the Great Depression, many turned to crafts to clothe their families with flour sack dresses and the like; decorate their homes with decoupage; and create functional pieces with personal flair. Quilts, rag rugs, and knitting could be seen everywhere, often in even the poorest of homes. (4)
The present is no different. Humans need art. There’s an incredible need to create and to see beautiful things ingrained in the human psyche, and it’s good for your mental health to make whatever it is that you make. So, now is the perfect time to turn your crafting into the business of your dreams. (3)
Twitter is already abuzz (a-tweet?) with reminders to support local, small, and independent businesses over major corporations, and people are social creatures, always looking to support their communities, be it in person or online.
Add to that a few key differences between the 2008 recession and the pandemic-influenced panic we’re now seeing, and today (or, you know, the next few months) is the perfect time to start a craft or fashion-based business.
Time, of course, is probably a major factor in why you haven’t started yet. But that’s changed.
With the exception of essential workers, most people are either out of work or working from home, and have, at least, gained the time that they used to commute. The US has an average one-way commute time of just under half an hour, for a total of five extra hours each week.(7) That’s plenty of time to spend polishing your skills, patterning a new dress, knitting a couple of hats, or crocheting a toy or two.
Now add the time where some might normally go out: Movie theatres and other entertainment venues are closed, gatherings and conventions have been canceled, and everyone is, at the very least, highly encouraged to stay inside. So now you’ve got a few more extra hours: Use it to create a logo and name for your business—it can just be your name, unless your name is John Smith, then you might want something a bit more unique; look into setting up a web store; and make new social media accounts so that you can get the word out there.
This sudden abundance of time is also a benefit in terms of consumers. As people are staying home, they’re shopping online, spending more time on social media, and looking at and learning about all sorts of new things. It’s perfect for getting a new business on the radar, especially if you can take advantage of social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram that weren’t available back in 2008. Facebook is always a good place to promote your products, especially with the existence of Marketplace.
But how, if people are out of work, will they pay for all these new goods? That’s another thing that makes this crisis different.
The average person will have more disposable income during this time than previous recessions. Coming off of a massive global economic boom and some of the lowest unemployment rates ever, the current crisis came on suddenly. This means that more people still have their savings, and weren’t run dry by the slow grind down into a recession.
More support is available thanks to the recently signed CARES Act, too. Workers that may not have previously been eligible for unemployment are now able to receive not only their state benefits but also an additional $600 a month. Plus, many adults in the US will be getting a check soon for up to $1200 specifically to help boost business. (1)
The astute crafter might put some of that money into supplies or equipment (hopefully ordering from other small businesses to help spread the love) and get to making stock for their new business.
But everyone is going to spend their money, and there’s a good chance they’ll want to spend it on your crafts. As stated before, people love nice stuff. Especially if you start with smaller items at a lower cost, people will buy them—affordable luxuries make them feel a little better during turbulent times.
It’ll take some work, and some time, but starting a new business during a difficult time like now has another benefit: If you can make it work now, you’re set up for a successful future, able to weather whatever other ups and downs life throws at you.
So, if you craft, create, fashion, or make, now is the time to start selling it!
Bernard, Tara Siegel, and Ron Lieber. “F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Bill.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-stimulus-package-questions-answers.html.
Miller, Claire Cain. “For Craft Sales, the Recession Is a Help.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/business/23craft.html.
Johnson, Laura. “Crafting Helped My Grandma Treat Her Depression.” Healthline, 19 May 2017, www.healthline.com/health/diy-depression-therapy-how-the-arts-can-heal#1.
Heichelbech, Rose. “1930s Crafts Show Just How Much People Struggled (and Triumphed).” Dusty Old Thing, 9 Sept. 2019, dustyoldthing.com/9-depression-arts-and-crafts/.
Clifton, Jane. “Craft Resurgence in Economic Recession.” Noted, 10 June 2011, www.noted.co.nz/archive/archive-listener-nz-2011/craft-resurgence-in-economic-recession.
Jakob, Doreen. “[PDF] Crafting Your Way out of the Recession? New Craft Entrepreneurs and the Global Economic Downturn: Semantic Scholar.” [PDF] Crafting Your Way out of the Recession? New Craft Entrepreneurs and the Global Economic Downturn | Semantic Scholar, 1 Jan. 1970, www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Crafting-your-way-out-of-the-recession-New-craft-Jakob/765a9dcdde891d328f2ea59848188d5339373b7d.
Berger, Sarah. “These Are the States with the Longest and Shortest Commutes - How Does Yours Stack up?” CNBC, CNBC, 23 Feb. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/study-states-with-the-longest-and-shortest-commutes.html.