The Standout Trends for Entrepreneurs and Creators in 2021

Franco Varriano
February 8, 2021
 min read

It's no surprise that 2020 changed our perspectives and needs.  

One of the recurring themes of the year was to redesign and reimagine industries, habits, and exceptions in ways big and small.

Wondering what this means for entrepreneurs and creators? We went through some of the top creative trend reports for 2021 and synthesized the most frequently reported trends. In doing so, we discovered three major themes and sub-trends that are making waves this year.

Here’s what we were reading:

The 2021 trends

Many of this year’s trends for entrepreneurs and creators are interconnected, making them challenging to categorize.

That's why we've instead opted to group trends into three wider themes. Still, it's important to remember these topics are closely connected.

Theme 1: The evolution of entrepreneurship and commerce

Sub-trends: the emergence of side hustle culture and upskilling; the rise in VLEBS, influencers, and creators; and the advent of new forms of commerce.

The emergence of side hustle culture and upskilling

If the Gig Economy was about the standardization of products and services, we’ve now shifted towards the Passion Economy, where individuals and their unique skills, perspectives, and talents become the product (see The Platforms & Tools Powering The Creator Economy).


Individuals (especially Gen Z) are increasingly turning to platforms, services, and spaces that expand their world views and skills—without the constraints of traditional schooling. Photography programs, financial literacy courses, and a range of other offerings allow people to hone skills that aren't often a focus of mainstream education.


We’re also seeing an infinite number of new subreddits, groups, and chats encouraging and supporting the launch of passion projects. These projects are started for all sorts of reasons: for creative discovery, to buy and sell limited-run products or digital assets (GOAT, StockX, Otis), and more—these are modern-day hobbies. Some of these side hustles are monetized (whether it feels that way or not), others may never make a dime.


This spectrum of side hustle and passion-led creation is a breeding ground for new ideas, skills, and businesses.

The rise in VLEBS, influencers, and creators

COVID-19 has taken a toll on physical retailers. In 2021, brands will need to continue the shift online and find other ways of standing out.


Influencer marketing is one way to do that. Business Insider reports that influencer marketing is on track to become a $15 billion industry by 2022. This year, it will become its own distinct channel (rather than falling under a marketing checkbox). More brands will use the relationship that influencers have with their audiences to drive revenue.


Influencers operate at different scales, each with their own audience and reach. This includes nano influencers, celebrity influencers, and the latest digital influencers (or VLEBS—virtual celebrities). Creators may fall within this influencer spectrum, though are often too busy driving their own ambitions to take full advantage.


Together, these players will fuel the shift towards new forms of commerce.

The advent of new forms of commerce

Brands and businesses of all sizes will tap into an emerging generation of commerce, including Social Commerce, Shopatainment, and Recommerce.


Social Commerce is a trend used mostly by nano and micro influencers. It’s this idea that people buy from those they know via their social networks.


Shopatainment is the modern smartphone version of The Shopping Channel. This next generation of host-led shopping is one of the fastest growing verticals, with companies like PopshopLive, ShopShops, Amazon Explore, and Help Jess. Even Google is exploring the space with its video shopping platform, ShopLoop.


Finally, there’s Recommerce, the idea that products can take on a second life. There’s growing consumer demand for this type of business. This model ranges from individuals selling vintage clothing to multinationals like H&M Loop or the IKEA Sell-Backprogram. New direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies such as Loop only recommend and sell products that meet this high environmental threshold. With a climate crisis on our hands, Recommerce demonstrates that the future of business and consumption must be circular.

Theme 2: The virtual experience economy (or metaverse)

We already spend a lot of time in digital worlds. That’s only going to increase with the surge in popularity and capabilities of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (XR). No longer solely for gamers, devices like Facebook's Oculus Quest 2 mean the metaverse is going mainstream.

Linked to that shift, our digital identities and online presence are quickly becoming key for entertainment, culture, and even work.

Here are a few examples of the growing virtual experience economy:

  • Video games: Fortnite and Animal Crossing aren’t only traditional games—they’re social meeting points. These are the new digital shopping malls where people go to hangout, chat, play, and purchase.
  • In-game concerts/events: Before COVID-19, metaverse platforms were already testing in-game events like Travis Scott or Diplo concerts. Roblox did the same with Lil Nas X, garnering 33 million views.
  • Virtual concerts: Not all celebs and artists have the same access to metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite. But there are plenty of other avenues for hosting unique, multimedia-driven events online. In October 2020, Billie Eilish pulled off the best standalone event of the year. Strategists and fans of culture took note, proclaiming her live streamed concert a playbook for future artists.
  •  VR events and sports: While some decided to completely cancel their planned events in 2020, others turned to virtual reality. Take the Fashion Innovation Agency, which launched the first of its kind VR fashion show. Even before the COVID-19 lockdown, sporting events were testing VR courtside games using tools like Facebook Oculus.
  • Work: Technologies like Spatial have created new ways for teams to work and be productive in professional metaverses.
  • Avatars and hubs: VR social hubs like Facebook Horizon have been in-development for some time. In the meantime, mobile apps like Genies have enabled people to visualize themselves as avatars and explore their digital identity.

Theme 3: Personalized product experiences

Sub-trends: on-demand manufacturing and Industry 4.0; individualized products and personalized product experiences; shareable media experiences.

On-demand manufacturing and Industry 4.0

Many companies are looking to change the face of manufacturing and physical production. These efforts fall under the umbrella term Industry 4.0, also known as connect/on-demand manufacturing or smart factories.


The main objective of Industry 4.0 is to move away from bulky mass production (less expensive, uniform products), towards affordable, one-off production runs.


Individualized products and personalized product experiences

Fashion, accessory, and beauty brands like Unspun, Topology, and Prose combine novel data collection (3D or XR scans) and backend manufacturing to deliver individualized products to their customers.


Creative Layer, on the other hand, is revolutionizing personalized product experiences. We make it easy to create and launch unique product experiences that enable your fans to shape products with media and information that is unique to them. Closely aligned with the latest trends, we're democratizing this technology for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and creators of all sizes.


Shareable media experiences

Brands increasingly want to offer personalized experiences, especially if their core product is a utility or service. That's where shareable media experiences come in. These experiences are usually based on interactive data visualizations or other forms of unique media (which has been user generated or modified to some degree).


Spotify Wrapped is a great example. The audio streaming platform’s year-in-review feature has been around since 2016. In 2020, Spotify capitalized on the increasingly popular Instagram Stories format and launched a bite-sized, highly-stylized format that was designed to be shared.

Bonus theme: Creator tools

These themes and trends are pushing us towards an exciting future. It’s one that will not only enable more people to monetize their ideas and audiences, but where customers can interact with each other, creators, brands, and products themselves. The outcome is an experience that is shaped by them and for them.

We need a new generation of tools that will enable creators and brands to do more.

Artificial Intelligence-assisted creativity is just getting started. It's paving the way for a world of dynamic, personalized products and experiences where customers are invited to shape and create products. Technology will bridge the gap between the skills of customers and their aspirational desires.

This future is getting closer each day.

What’s next for entrepreneurs and creators?


These four themes represent an ongoing transformation, one that has only been accelerated by COVID-19 and its dramatic ripple effect on commerce.

Plenty of tools are already powering the Creator Economy, but we need more to meet the diverse and modern needs of entrepreneurs, creators and their fans.

If you’re interested in shaping the future of personalized products for creators, entrepreneurs, brands, and their fans, sign up for early access to Creative Layer and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.