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Madewell Elevates 100 ‘Hometown Heroes’ Through Small Business Collective

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Madewell’s recent community-centric initiative just hit a milestone: Its “Hometown Heroes Collective” program launched in 2019 has reached over 100 makers in U.S. 23 states.

Madewell developed the program in partnership with Nest, a nonprofit that supports craftspeople to promote inclusivity in the workforce, with a goal of helping artisans and small business owners around the country grow their livelihoods. Four times a year, both partnering companies select a class of new artisans to feature on Madewell’s website, offering their products online and in-store at the retailer’s more than 140 stores.

In addition to exposure, artisans can enroll in a year-long program that offers networking opportunities as well as Madewell mentorship and access to Nest’s Guild, a global community that delivers pro bono business education and resources to artisan entrepreneurs. They also receive $1,500 in grants to help cover expenses related to production and promotion of their goods on Madewell’s site.

Artisans in the collective are guaranteed placement on the online Madewell Marketplace, as well as marketing at launch and one unique feature on Madewell’s Instagram. Products sold through the Marketplace are listed right alongside Madewell products on the site, and makers are given the opportunity to sign up for in-store popups as part of the Hometown Heroes Collective. Madewell takes an undisclosed percentage of sales.

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Featured artisans include ceramicist Virginia Sin of Sin ceramics, jewelry maker Benh Pham of Year 901, artist Lacie RZ Porta of Framed Florals and more. Madewell’s merchandising team works to select makers based on similar products’ sales performance on the Madewell site, as well as what’s trending in the market. Artisans submit an application online that are reviewed by internal partners at Madewell and Nest.

Before it was a collective, Madewell’s Hometown Heroes program invited artists and artisans, musicians and makers, and other local creatives to leverage Madewell stores as community spaces. Events included everything from popups to panel discussions.

Large brands and organizations throughout the fashion industry and beyond are stepping up to the plate to help promote local entrepreneurs. American Express started Small Business Saturday, a promotion that elevates local businesses on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, in 2010 and recently tapped three streetwear designers to shine a light on local small businesses. As part of its “Let’s Go Shop Small” summer campaign in August, the company matched the designers with their favorite small business to create a unique item that would to inspire consumers to shop small.  

Tommy Hilfiger is also partial to young creatives. In 2020, the brand launched Tommy’s Drop Shop, a series of micro capsule collections of genderless T-shirts designed by a rotating roster of emerging creatives. Its New Legacy Challenge also supports up-and-coming designers and focuses on advancing the representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) within the fashion and creative industries.

New platforms have also been created to give small businesses a boost, including digital wholesale marketplace Qalara, which connect a network of artisans and small-batch suppliers across Southeast Asia to retailers around the globe, and To the Market, a platform connecting hundreds of global manufacturers and artisans with potential clients.

Madewell plans to continue its expansion of Hometown Heroes Collective, and aims to include makers from all 50 states by 2025. Madewell and Nest invite craftspeople who hand-make jewelry, home décor and “gifty” items to apply for the collective on either of their websites.