EXCLUSIVE: Mara Hoffman, Nest, Target Foundation Announce Artisan Accelerator 2023

Nonprofit Nest is continuing to put artisan craft on the map, and with help along the way.

For the past decade, Nest has been harnessing the power of craft to fuel women’s economic parity with equitable partnerships. This year, the Winn Family Foundation and the Target Foundation are the funding partners with Mara Hoffman and more eco-experts as judges.

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The Artisan Accelerator is an 18-month program with immersive mentorship, consulting and grants valued at $850,000 total. After receiving a host of applicants last month, the program will be narrowed down to 50 businesses on Monday. Since 2018, the Artisan Accelerator has helped handcraft businesses directly increase their market access, with Nest reporting that participating businesses grew by 34 percent in that time — to the tune of $1.4 million in new revenue.

Though mentors are still being determined, the program is said to be flush with fashion industry experts, as evidenced in its judging pool. Among the judges are designer Mara Hoffman and Eco-Age’s creative director Livia Firth, as well as sustainability journalists from Vogue to EcoCult.

The program spans five focus areas — social responsibility and gender equality; sustainable sourcing and supply chain transparency; natural resource conservation and environmental impact; technology and operational innovation; and entrepreneurship and financial equity.

What’s unique about the program is it provides a suite of targeted artisan programming to drive business growth, market access and social impact in the handcraft sector, according to Nest founder Rebecca van Bergen. “It is uniquely designed to meet businesses where they’re at in their entrepreneurial journeys.”

The program also paces its learnings. There will be 30 businesses who receive expert consulting on specific projects and deliverables, valued at $3,000 per business. By the end of the fourth quarter, 20 businesses with the “greatest sourcing potential” will advance to receive a $5,000 grant that will anchor their strategic business plan. By spring 2024, 10 entrepreneurs will be selected to advance into the final module, which is the “Ethical Handcraft” program. Valued at $13,500, the program opens the company up to accessing the “Nest Seal.” The seal provides businesses with a visual marker of dignified, ethical handcraft and involves intensive training prior to certification.

Throughout the program, entrepreneurs can expect to receive high-quality learnings that address their business needs, as well as individualized guidance from industry experts — and the Nest team — to address a range of timely challenges.

The program, moreover, focuses on the humanity of fashion. Success metrics may measure an increase in production volume (over time), market linkages, revenue created through these new market linkages, and overall supply chain transparency and worker well-being.

“Recognizing that climate change will impact the lives and livelihoods of artisan communities globally, this year’s program aims to support creative entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability, circularity, or building adaptive business models that consider the changing weather patterns and the possibility of extreme, climate-related events,” van Bergen said.

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