Hosted by the U.S. State Department and TreadRight’s Heritage Initiative partners at the Aspen Institute’s Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, Artisan Enterprise: The New Startup Economy represented the kick-off of a global campaign meant to change the world’s perception of a severely underserved, but profoundly valuable, sector.  

The three-day forum had been in development from the earliest days of the launch of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise in 2012, by then U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Since its inception, the Alliance has recognized the need to bring the splintered sector together in order to better illustrate to those with the power to generate change that artisan enterprise could be a key driver of economic growth in regions in desperate need of exactly that.

“Our mission is to elevate the sector,” Gina Rogari, a fellow at the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise told TreadRight. “We want to raise awareness in the corporate sphere and with policy makers.”

Throughout the event, thought leaders like The Ethical Fashion Initiative’s Simone Cipriani, Kiva’s Lisa Hogen, and Willy Foote of Root Capital came together to exchange ideas and learnings on how the fragmented and under-resourced artisan sector could be transformed into one capable of taking advantage of new opportunities and then flourishing as the world’s fourth largest industry. It was unlike anything ever hosted before and the stakeholders took note.

“It was pretty extraordinary,” said Rogari. “We’ve never seen this kind of crowd before, it was really something special. One thing I heard over and over again from those who attended was how they didn’t realize so many people were engaged in doing what they are doing. They realized they are not alone. They are realizing their work matters.”

During his remarks at the event, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talked about the earnest undertaking the Alliance has made its mandate, and how crucial the organization is in leading an otherwise overlooked sector into a new era.

“The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise reflects exactly the kind of innovative thinking that we need to engage in if we’re going to expand this playing field as rapidly as we need to if we’re going to be able to implement our very ambitious post-2015 development goals and agenda. And the Alliance is the epitome of a collaborative approach, by definition,” said Kerry (click here for a full video of John Kerry’s speech).

While Artisan Enterprise: The New Startup Economy was a huge success as an event, for the Alliance and its partners like TreadRight, it represents the starting line much more so than a milestone. The September event introduced the Alliance’s Thunderclap campaign – join the Thunderclap here – with the intention of allowing everyone to voice their support for artisans with one voice on Friday, November 6, when everyone's #ChooseArtisan messages are blasted out simultaneously to share with the world the value and impact of choosing artisan.

“This is just the beginning,” said Rogari. “It’s not a one-off effort. This could be a whole new frontier.” 

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