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Artisan Accelerator Expands to Support More Business Leaders

Since 2018, Nest’s Artisan Accelerator has been a key pillar of our holistic artisan programming which is thoughtfully designed to support handcraft businesses at all stages of the business lifecycle.

In early 2021, in an effort to leverage the success of the Artisan Accelerator and significantly increase the program’s impact, Nest reimagined the structure of the Artisan Accelerator to reach more enterprises. The result was a model that provides increasingly intensive programming to participants. This ensures each participant receives tailored support that matches their current capacity and directs resources toward high-impact, growth-driven businesses.

With support from our program partners—The Winn Family Foundation, Alwaleed Philanthropies, and the Swarovski Foundation—the 2021 Artisan Accelerator welcomed fifty members when it launched in March 2021, representing a capacity increase of +400% over previous cohorts.

In November 2021, twenty participants were selected to move on and received a business grant of $5,000 to prepare for both direct-to-consumer markets and some of the top wholesale trade shows around the world. Recipients were empowered to use the funding as they saw fit based on the findings in their strategic growth assessment. Most opted to use their grants to afford registration fees and travel to industry tradeshows where they could network and meet brand buyers and, eventually, secure sourcing contracts.

In addition to this funding, Nest extended an offer to all businesses who moved on to this stage to join Maison&Objet, a digital tradeshow and wholesale platform that connects producers and brand buyers virtually. While the platform is not a fit for all artisan businesses, thirteen participants opted into this offering and are currently in the process of onboarding and listing their goods.

In March 2022, the program entered its final stage. Ten businesses were selected to enroll in Nest’s Ethical Handcraft program, which provides a clear path to access the Nest Seal of Ethical Handcraft. Since the program’s launch in 2018, a number of Artisan Accelerator participants have gone on to complete the Ethical Handcraft program and are eligible to receive the Seal, which is an additional value-add and market differentiator for these businesses.

At Nest, we regularly evaluate the efficacy and impact of our programs to ensure they are supporting our artisan partners in meaningful ways. Our aim is that the Artisan Accelerator remains innovative and intensive—providing high-potential business leaders from the Nest Artisan & Maker Guild with the support they need to strengthen their enterprises to become vital players in the international marketplace for home and fashion design.

The majority of Artisan Accelerator participants are founded to achieve a social mission beyond turning a profit. They often employ majority-female workforces, sponsor work training and other educational programming for their employees, and make structural investments in their local communities. This makes supporting these businesses even more impactful.

To understand how the impact of the Artisan Accelerator fares compared to the industry standard, Nest benchmarked our performance indicators against available global economic data on small business growth. In its first two years, participating businesses outpaced global small businesses in revenue growth and sustainability. 2018 data from Goldfale Consulting looked at 573 global product-based small businesses and found only 52% of the small businesses saw growth in 2018, with 36% staying constant compared with 70% of Artisan Accelerator businesses growing with 20% staying constant after their first year in the program.

To date, the Artisan Accelerator has achieved tremendous impacts like bringing in millions of dollars in new revenue through sourcing contracts between program participants and Nest’s brand partners. We look forward to measuring the impact of this new approach over the coming months and years to understand how we can continue to best support these important enterprises as they sustain their communities while creating beautiful, handcrafted products.