Denver's Handmade Homemade Market Club: Fostering 'Producer' Commerce

01/20/2011 12:50 pm 12:50:14 | Updated May 25, 2011

Once a month in 2010, a few hundred locals gathered in Denver's River North neighborhood to network, shop, and engage in a new kind of commerce.

"We really want to encourage people to see themselves as producers as well as consumers," says Matt Gettleman of Denver's Handmade Homemade Market Club (HaHo for short), which he co-founded in 2010.

The Market, which is currently in its off-season, but will resume in April, seeks to provide an accessible venue for locals to market homemade goods that they produce.

HaHo vendors produce everything from baked goods to goat cheese to chai tea to homemade soap, all made with local ingredients where possible.

In general, Gettleman says vendors have viewed their crafts only as hobbies, or as products for personal consumption.

"These are things that people feel really passionate about, but have never thought to put it out in the community," he says.

To encourage local craftsmen, agriculturalists and cooks to take their products public, Gettleman and HaHo co-founder Kylie Manson created a venue with minimal red tape or financial barriers.

At HaHo, which operates out of Greenspaces on 26th and Walnut, vendors and guests sign up at the door to become members of the Handmade Homemade Market Club. Transactions are all based on suggested donations and bartering, so there are technically no "sales;" just trading amongst friends.

Nonetheless, Gettleman sees an entrepreneurial element in the HaHo Market's model. That's why he's hosting a 4-part workshop series over the next several months aimed educating the public on the basics of starting a business. The workshop, entitled "How to turn your business idea into a business," covers everything from where to find funding, to legal issues.

We want to be "[an] incubator for those really small businesses and people who are thinking about starting businesses," Gettleman explains.

Over the course of the 2010 season, the Handmade Homemade Market grew from about 20 vendors to 35-40. This year, Gettleman hopes more people will barter services like bike repairs and haircuts in addition to physical products.

He says he doesn't know how big the HaHo market will grow, but hopes that it develops into a self-sustaining community that continues well after he's moved on. The ultimate goal, Gettleman says, is for plant the seeds for a new way of thinking about the local economy by encouraging encouraging a "do it yourself" mindset toward production of goods.

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