Why Our Makers are Hard to Find

Have you ever stopped to consider how different maker businesses are from other businesses? We hope to dig a little into why makers are hard to find, but before we answer that, let's talk about why people make.

Makers Gonna Make...

Maker businesses are perhaps some of the oldest and varied businesses in the planet. Since the beginning of societies, humans have been making and trading items. The tradition continues today, even as so many people lose their attention spans to the internet, others persist in nobler causes, and devote countless hours to making objects, hoping to be compensated (FAIRLY) for the time they put in.

But some things have changed a bit from our primitive days. Our society has gotten a LOT more sprawling, both geographically and through technology. A village crafter in a Medieval town would be known throughout the town, and customers would stop by and purchase goods as needed. Nowadays, however, many craftsmen work, hidden in the recesses of their home workshops, known only by their friends and fans. Their private home addresses are NOT their business addresses. In fact, they don't even have a business address. They have a website (on the worldwide web), at BEST. Some have pretty good social media, but it was surprising to us recently, to meet many craftsmen who don't have a website, don't have social media, and literally only have a single day or two's presence at a market... every year.

Bangor's Goats Milk Soap Maker, Hens on the Hill, has great social media! ...and still has to field questions weekly about "where to find local goats milk soap"...

Bangor's goats milk soapmaker, Hens on the Hill, has great social media! ...and still has to field questions weekly about "where to find local goats milk soap"... It makes us want to tear our hair out.

The Nature of the Internet

So, here we are in 2024, with our talented makers hidden and overworked, trying to be seen, appreciated, and recognized on a GLOBAL stage. And who is the emcee of the global stage? Google.

Oh, Google.

Let's remember, Google is a tech company. Google is pretty amazing, but Google is algorithms. And Google loves money, has a lot of it, and wants more of it. Google has allies in all spheres, whether political, economical, and geographical. So, pardon me while I state my humble opinion: Google does not give TWO HOOTS about the Lehigh Valley community and our makers.

To ingratiate yourself with a company like Google, you have to 1) Have a lot of time and patience to build your business around their system  and 2) Have a lot of technological skills to optimize your business to their system. Makers... spend their time making. Makers' skills are primarily in their art. Unless a maker is multitalented and has lots of hired help, how exactly are they supposed to do this? The sad fact is, many of them can't and aren't.

Local author Frank Stangle signs books at a summer vendor fair.

Local author Frank Stangle signs books at a summer vendor fair.

Etsy... *sigh*

Etsy is another company that is sort of the co-emcee of the handmakers' arena. They did a fair job, til they started: giving search preference to free shipping and "sponsored" ads, allowing international makers to copy and plagiarize works of art and sell them for cheaper on Etsy, allowing people to sell A.I. products, and charging higher and higher commissions (as if makers really have that much of a margin to lose). If you want to learn all of the ways that Etsy has let artists and crafters down, just do a quick search on Youtube and you will find rant videos galore..


It can be confusing to navigate around all of the ads in Etsy and find local makers instead.

These aren't the only problems, though-- From a consumer perspective, Etsy is much harder to use than you might realize. The location filter is not available in all searches, the location filter keeps turning off, and the "Lehigh Valley" is not a location on their website. So, when you are trying to find a Lehigh Valley maker on Etsy, you literally have to know their municipality.  A search for Bethlehem does not yield Bath results, even though they are like 5 miles apart.

We have found this to be an incredible impediment to finding local makers on Etsy. If you see a person selling things at a fair in Macungie, and you know they have an Etsy store, but forget their shop name (or, God forbid, spell it wrong), you then also need to guess the town where they live. Coopersburg? Macungie? Slatington? It's impossible. It's just impossible.

Finally, Etsy doesn't allow their artisans to tag things that they are able to make. It only allows customers to search current inventory. For example, if a vendor makes 3D printed hermit crab toys, and you want to buy one, searching Etsy for "3D Printed Hermit Crabs in Nazareth PA" doesn't work if that vendor doesn't have any hermit crabs for sale in their Etsy shop. If this example seems oddly specific, it's because it actually happened to me. LOL


Google favors companies with addresses. Many times, in order to be searchable, you must sign up for an"API" that gives your business a searchable location for everyone to find. Which is great, unless you want your physical location to be PRIVATE. Makers have a right to privacy, as they should. But Google doesn't like that. And social media also doesn't like that. (Editorial miff: How dare they set up the system to be so intrusive??)

At Made in the Lehigh Valley, we list everyone by the town where they create (eg. Northampton), but we don't go any farther into their location unless they want to share it with their customers. The location is general. They make things... here! And that's all the internet needs to know.

That said, they are still competing on the larger stage. So our website gives the makers the searchability they require, in combination with added SEO on Google and the major search engines, WITH the privacy makers are entitled to.


Let's talk about manufacturing for a sec. Many people see "makers" as just craftsmen and artists, but manufacturing companies and their employees are making things every day too, just on a larger scale! Surprisingly (to us, at least) it is pretty hard to find manufacturers too. Just ask any Lehigh Valley middle schooler who has participated in the "What's So Cool About Manufacturing" competition-- there's no highly searchable customer-friendly list of manufacturers. You just have to find them one at a time. But really cool things are being made here! And as a person who likes to shop local, there is just as much value in buying things manufactured here as things that are handmade here.

Local goods require less transport, support local jobs, and they add to the social capital of our region (dare we say, pride?). I'll write about my own experience with locally manufactured goods later. But for now, let's talk about how easy it is to find manufactured products on Google. Actually, let's just save time. It's not easy. It's downright impossible. SHOCKER.

How MiLV is Different

Made in the Lehigh Valley is a website and directory built with our region and makers at the center. We love the Lehigh Valley, and we want to support everyone making things here, from the largest manufacturer to the smallest-scale maker. Businesses pay a small monthly subscription fee to join, and they can exit and rejoin as they see fit. Their profiles are beautiful, thorough, curated, personalized, and tagged with keywords. They have the flexibility of working with a private, local company... not some tech company who just got rid of their entire customer service department.

Manufacturers can also enjoy a newfound market of customers who appreciate their products and the value of buying local. Manufacturer profiles can feature photos of their factories, products, and people, and humanize their business within the wider community.

Made in the Lehigh Valley is local. It is not global (though we do have fun ideas for working with our international sister cities at some point!!). Makers don't need to compete with 500,000+ results for fine abstract art. They are in a regional community of fine artists, selling to their community who appreciates them. If the handmaker's internet is a blizzard, Made in the Lehigh Valley is a warm bath.

Joining Made in the Lehigh Valley

It's easy to join Made in the Lehigh Valley. Click here to read about our subscription packages and sign up. You and your customers will be so happy you did!