The Heurich Urban Manufacturing Incubator: (Re)introducing our commitment to local small scale manufacturers in DC


We started supporting local small businesses through the museum’s annual 3-day Christmas Markt, and the incubation & management of the DC Brewers’ Guild. 


A new generation of supporting DC’s small manufacturers with the establishment of the Heurich Urban Manufacturing Incubator. 

The mission of the Heurich Urban Manufacturing Incubator is to provide economic opportunities to our local small-scale manufacturing communities through: appropriate interventions in business life cycles, collective action, and social enterprises. 

Our Community: 

The local small-scale manufacturing community in DC is composed of two groups: Artisan Makers + Craft Beverage Producers. These groups are directly related to Heurich history - the historic mansion was built and decorated by local craftspeople from 1892-1894 and the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. (1872-1956) produced DC’s hometown beer brand for over 80 years.

Artisan Makers are the smallest scale of manufacturing businesses. They are people who use a creative process to turn raw materials into a finished product for sale in the retail market, but often have no additional employees. The majority of makers in the DC region identify as people of color, women, queer, and/or immigrants. Having a skill and a computer are the only requirements to start a maker business, which makes this one of the most accessible paths to economic stability. Maker businesses offer flexibility for people who work multiple jobs, have limited access to participation in the workforce, and/or cannot work full-time outside of their home. 

Craft Beverage Producers are good for our city and are essential to our local identity. Their taprooms and restaurants serve as “3rd places” – neighborhood amenities or gathering places and anchors, each with its own unique individual character that centers and supports other cultures like artists & artisans, musicians, museums, and community groups. According to the Brewers Association’s 2021 economic impact survey, the DC craft breweries contributed $193M to the local economy and created 1,401 jobs; having a local craft beer industry provides another avenue of trade labor in our city. The owners of these manufacturing businesses sit on Main Streets boards and the boards of other local non-profits. 

Incubator Programs:

Lifecycle Interventions: In order for local manufacturing businesses to thrive, they need pathways to running a sustainable business. The museum’s long standing relationship with artisan makers through Christmas Markt and partnerships with local craft breweries through the DC Brewers’ Guild have allowed the Incubator staff to identify the needs of these businesses that have not been met in the DC marketplace. Over the last two years we tested the expansion of our Markt program to include regular no-cost “Mini Markts” for new businesses looking to gain experience. Brand new as of today, “Maker-Led Workshops” will give businesses looking to diversify their revenue streams a platform to develop and test their workshops. For local craft beverage producers we have brought back our signature program, “History & Hops,” which works to promote and introduce new craft breweries to the DC community, and we actively invite local craft breweries to engage with our audience at all public programming.   

As part of our artisan maker programming - markts and workshops - businesses self select which lifecycle they are currently operating in. Lifecycles are meant to identify areas for growth and support, but do not necessarily mean businesses will follow this trajectory Oftentimes maker businesses are temporary and are used as a financial jumping off point for individuals. 

Collective Action: Despite the growing number of manufacturing businesses in and around DC, many of which are affiliated with the Brewers’ and Makers’ Guilds, no other organizations exist to support small-scale manufacturers on the individual and collective levels. The Guilds, however, provide its members the tools and structure for both individual growth and positive systemic change. By sharing knowledge and resources with each other, businesses are  better equipped to enter a competitive market. This collaboration leads to business’ success and increases their bandwidth for community organizing in the pursuit of governmental and retail policies that allow the entire industry to flourish. 

The Incubator founded and currently professionally manages the DC Makers’ Guild and DC Brewers’ Guild. Museum CEO, Kim Bender, and Incubator Director, Alex Fraioli, serve as the Executive Director and Assistant Director of both organizations. 

Social Enterprises: In order to continue the museum’s dual mission of labor-focused public history education and public service, we have developed a robust set of social enterprises. Our local craft beverage biergarten - 1921, studio spaces for creative entrepreneurs - Brewmaster Studios, and our historically accurate beverage revivals, Senate Beer (with Right Proper Brewing Co.) and Liberty Apple Cider (with ANXO cidery) are all key to creating an accessible way for public to engage with their local historic and modern manufacturing communities. Each of these enterprises gives the museum a platform to discuss labor at the turn of the century while also giving the Incubator a platform to support the healthy growth of our local manufacturing industry. These social enterprises are based in the museum’s core belief that museums should be relevant to their modern communities and are a vehicle to engage with the city we call home, DC! 

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