Jules Pieri, Co-founder & CEO, The Grommet

Timing is everything. At The Grommet we understand this quite well. It took far longer than our stress levels would’ve liked for our mission of leveling the playing field for Makers to truly resonate. Trust me, I have the medical bills to prove it. But it’s hard to be too upset about the past, as we’re thrilled to be in the position we find ourselves. People “get” us now.

After a promising 2015, a third straight year of 50%+ growth, we’ve set our sights even higher for 2016. The groundwork for that success is being laid as I type and it will be given a prominent stage starting later this week when we attend SXSW Interactive.

The Grommet at SXSW

For those unfamiliar, SXSW Interactive is a five-day festival of technology and digital creativity. It’s a networking hotspot with panels and presentations from some of the brightest minds in the tech community. It’s a mammoth event with more than 30,000 attendees.

Our attendance this year seems like perfect timing. Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule that companies are required to sit in the shadows for four years before having their “coming out party.” Well, we’ve waited our turn and this year we’re throwing a rager. Our growing community is more and more eager to hear the stories we share, see the products we’ve discovered, and embrace the mission that drives us. Now we want to share that with everyone else.

Click for more information about the Maker Movement

One of the big reasons for this sense of belonging is the Maker Movement. It’s no longer seen as a fleeting fad, but recognized as a force propelling economic growth throughout the country and across industries and we find ourselves an integral part of it.

Maker Faires draw more than 200,000 attendees in San Francisco and New York City and now even the White House is hosting them. Hollywood is seeing the value (the Oscar-nominated film “Joy” is based on the life of Maker Joy Mangano) and it is putting the idea of product development in the spotlight. Shark Tank is making entrepreneurship accessible, inspiring more programs to follow suit and showcase the next bright minds, including a favorite at The Grommet: the Science Channel’s All-American Makers.

Opportunities for Making are popping up everywhere, from maker spaces and libraries to 3D printers and computer-aided design. These resources are commonplace and ideas once considered science fiction become more attainable by the day.

Those quick to chalk this movement up to idealism will be hit even quicker with evidence validating the Maker Movement’s nickname, the next Industrial Revolution. The $20M in revenue for California from the Menlo Park Tech Shop is hardly fantasy. Neither is it fantasy to believe that 3D-printing and crowdfunding platforms are poised to become multi-billion dollar industries within the next decade.

Need something a little closer to home? Look at how the Maker Movement is helping communities. Small businesses have accounted for two out of every three new jobs, totaling eight million, since 1990. For every $100 spent at independent stores, $68 returns to that community. If half of the U.S. population spent $50 locally each month, $42.6 billion would be generated in revenue for local businesses. Your dollars make a difference, folks. That’s why we tell our nationwide community to vote with them. Citizen Commerce is shaping our economic future.

The time to be a Maker is now. Yet despite these growing statistics and opportunities, we still find people unaware of the Maker Movement’s impact. Frankly, the lack of awareness is the big surprise. The good news is it lets us experience the fun part: telling people about it and watching their jaws drop as we show them the products we’ve found that help form the movement. All of these innovation drops in the pond are joining together to create a nationwide ripple effect.

So yes, we want to bring awareness to The Grommet at SXSW, but we look forward to the challenge and honor of serving as ambassadors of the Maker Movement. It’s especially exciting when we think about the audience SXSW attracts: intellectuals, techies, tinkerers, entrepreneurs, and inventors. In some way or another, these people are Makers. They all fit into this ecosystem, even if they don’t realize it yet.

The Grommet SXSW team presented their plan of attack to me last week and while I don’t want to give too much away (I’ll save that for the SXSW recap), I can’t wait to see their execution. This entire team has a palpable personality and I am excited the SXSW audience will get a taste.

I will say, I did give the team one marching order: Put no limit on your level of enthusiasm. When I said that, their eyes lit up, confirming to me that The Grommet and Maker Movement would be represented loudly and proudly. Now, if only time could speed up so we could see them rock Austin.