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A Guide To “Artisanal Innovation,” For The Hip Small Business Looking To Thrive

Makeway magazine hopes to offer tips on the way small businesses are run, but it also aims to help eager corporate trend hunters navigate the rapidly changing consumer landscape.

What kind of best business practices does the artisan coffee roaster have to offer the corporate giant? According to Kyle Studstill, quite a few. Along with partners Caleb Kramer and Mitch Kapler, he’s created Makeway, “a guide to artisanal innovation” that’s one part business magazine for small companies, another part marketing tool for the team’s consulting agency.

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“The content that you’ll see on the site will always be first and foremost for small business owners,” according to Studstill, a weekly mix of interviews with entrepreneurs, case studies of brands like Holstee, and features on “innovative new platforms that are helping small businesses thrive,” like Square. Special reports–like the pilot, focused on the future of small business–will be released on quarterly and focus on trend forecasting.


Studstill clarifies that the content isn’t directed at each and every small business. “We’re talking about those that live in the world that we’re calling ‘artisanal innovation.'” That’s defined loosely as the intersection of being “purpose-” or “craft-driven” with a savvy embrace of affordable new technologies that can help a business grow or market itself. The target audience of business-owners are “not serial entrepreneurs who are trying to take advantage of some opportunity. We think of them as artists, in a way. The medium of their art–instead of being painting or sculpture–happens to be business.”

Taking that metaphor seriously means that Makeway is like the art critic or historian who distills the wisdom of the avant-garde to an eager market of corporate trend-hunters. Studstill and his partners come out of trend-forecasting and brand-strategy backgrounds, working with companies like MTV and Samsung. “The consulting work we’ve done in the past is generally with an internal intelligence group who just wants to be aware of what’s happening out there in the world. It’s less like ‘Here’s the right answer to solve all your product problems,'” and more about “here’s what’s up-and-coming.” He adds, “We’re not the Bain and Company of the world, who are going in and structurally reorganizing big companies.”

Studying the practices of successful young businesses for a couple years, “what we’ve noticed is a really powerful shift in how businesses are either surviving or failing to survive in a ‘power consumer’ era.” Studstill points to companies like clothing-retailer Everlane who have grown quickly using innovative practices–like a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and test the market for expansion into Canada–as a potential inspiration for corporate actors struggling to make sense of current shifts in consumption practices. “We’re really interested in what’s going on with smaller operations that are operating with fewer resources and still killing it,” he says.

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About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in TheAtlantic.com, NYMag.com, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.

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