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Etsy's New Mission to Help Struggling Communities: Good, Evil?

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Etsy's reputation has faltered this year after revelations that the e-commerce giant was allowing vendors to sell products purchased from Chinese factories instead of lovingly hand-stitched in their living rooms. The company is now trying to tap a new pool of crafting talent: unemployed and underemployed men and women living in the Rust Belt—a stretch of communities formerly vitalized by the steel industry—as well as in other struggling towns and cities.

Businessweek reports that the craft collective has launched what they're calling a "Craft Entrepreneurship Program" in Rockford, Illinois and New York City. Working with city government, Etsy is offering a curriculum for residents and students to teach them "how to use their craft skills to build a business and earn income." The idea for the program came from a Tweet sent by mayor of Rockford to Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson asking about assistance in building an "Etsy economy" in his community.

Depending on the success of the Craft Entrepreneurship pilot programs, Etsy will roll the initiative out in other areas across the country. Is this a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, kindhearted effort or—as one Businessweek commenter suggests, a way for Etsy to create new "slave laborers in Etsy's quest to earn yet more millions"? Thoughts?
· Craft Entrepreneurship [Official Site]
· Craft Entrepreneurship Launches in Rockford and NYC [Etsy]
· Etsy Wants to Be the Rust Belt's New Factory [Business Week]
· Why Etsy's Brave New Economy is Crumbling [Daily Dot]