Intuit has posted a piece about the rising class of "hobbypreneurs" in their Future of Small Business series of articles. The definition is tricky to pin down (but isn't "Maker" too?) so the article is a useful read if you've ever struggled with your own classification.
The full report (warning:PDF) provides some deeper insight into the rising subculture.
An analysis of the exhibitors of the 2009 Maker Faire in San Mateo found, unsurprisingly, that 75% were in business already or were testing the waters for their commercial venture.
Most telling is that 55% of exhibitors were "small" companies or sole proprietorships. This clearly demonstrates the niche nature of a great deal of Maler culture. Intuit's takeaway is that niche markets for the DIY lot are on the rise for 6 reasons:
1. Technology advances lower cost of entry to Make things
2. Technology advances dramatically reduce or eliminate non-manufacturing costs of doing business for small companies
3. Social Networks and highly specific online communities answer the tough questions faster. I'll also throw in that meatspace technology communities are on the rise too: witness the TechShop franchise, hackerspaces worldwide, 2600, Dorkbot, robotics clubs, etc.
4. The down-economy again shows how small boats can turn faster than giant ships. Agile and inherently adaptible Makers slide into the newly open niches with ease
5. The Baby Boomers don't need to or desire (depending on your lot in life) to stop working at "retirement" age. For reasons 1 & 2 above they can affordably turn a lifelong hobby into a profitable venture. And there's lots of 'em. Some of the most excited Makers I've met are in this category! I've met octogenarian ShopBotters! Awesome!
6. Quirky (fleeting?) interest in fringe areas demands agile companies to accomodate by making unique or small-run product. See #4.
So now what are you going to bring to our Make Faire? You are the person with the unique idea that will change people's lives. You.