What is a cooperative?
In the words of the International Co-Operative Alliance: “a co-operative is a people-centered enterprise(s) owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realize their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.” Learn more about cooperatives in our blog post, What is a Cooperative?
Why make the marketplace a cooperative?
Because we believe in cooperative values: self-help, self-determination, and self-responsibility. We believe that history has shown that the best people to take care of ourselves in the long term is us. We believe that our customers want to support us, too, and not Wall Street.
Wall Street owned marketplaces have shown us time and time again that their priority is to make profits for their shareholders, not to create a vibrant artisan community that supports artist livelihoods. Those profits come out of our pockets. Privately-owned marketplaces have shown us time and time again that their priority is to sell their marketplace to Wall Street, the highest bidder, which is what happened when Etsy bought Depop and Elo7.
We don’t want to fight Wall Street. We want to skip around them entirely and create our own business, and our own alternative economy. When Etsy announced they had earned $161 million in net profits in the same breath as another fee hike on artisans, we imagined the social good a co-op could give by distributing $161 million equitably into the pockets of its artists.
What are the benefits of a cooperative online marketplace?
The Artisans Cooperative is building a co-op alternative to Etsy. It will not only provide a better shopping experience for artisans and customers alike by being a vetted handcrafted marketplace – it will also be more supportive of its community by using cooperative business models and values. Unlike private- and investor-owned marketplaces, the artisans themselves will own it and manage it to their own benefit. And unlike other co-op marketplaces, ours will be inclusive, and accessible to all genuine artisans, their supporters and partners.
Learn more about the benefits in our blog post, What Makes Our Artisan Marketplace Different.
How would it actually work?
What we envision is a website where artisans’ unique items are for sale. The items could be in multiple formats: subscriptions or commissions or digital downloads in addition to ready-made or made-to-order physical goods. When a sale happens, the artisan/seller fulfills the sale like normal on their end and the co-op earns a commission (whatever amount the members agree to).
The commission pays first for the co-op’s costs of doing business: the operation of the website and any staff we may hire. Then after the end of the year at an annual meeting, the treasurer will release the financial reports. If the co-op made a profit that year, then collectively we can decide what to do with it: issue dividends to member-owners or re-invest the profits back into the business (or a combination of both).
Each member will have their own running account that tallies their input to the co-op: their investments, hours, and sales. Dividends would be proportioned by the amount of input the member had: perhaps some combination of the hours put in and the sales they made. So artisan-members could earn income two ways: through sales and through dividends. We also envision a membership role for supporters and partners, who would also get rewards (whatever the members decide during business planning).
There are a lot of critical and complex details that we need to figure out together, along with international, legal, and financial advice. We will figure out those details together with our professional advisors as we create an organization together from the ground up.
By all working together, we bring all our customers together, and pool our resources to market our products as authentically handmade. And as Etsy gets less and less handmade, we would stand out more and more.
What are your biggest challenges to this becoming a reality?
The biggest challenge to creating the co-op is getting enough people on board to start it together. There are resources for funding, and there are resources for legal and financial advice, and there are resources for co-op specific issues.
For a successful marketplace, we will need a critical mass of artisans and a critical mass of customers.
For a successful co-operative, we will need a critical mass of active and committed organizers willing to put in the work to make this happen.
Join us to help make this a reality.
What do you mean by “Artisan”, “Supporter”, and “Partner”?
Defining these terms officially is a critical question that the group will decide together as a whole. But for now, our working definition is: an artisan is an artist, maker, crafter, illustrator, creative, designer, or creator of original works. A partner is a fellow small business owner that doesn’t create their own products, but helps businesses that do. A supporter is a fan or customer of artisans.
Join us to help shape who the cooperative members will be.
What kinds of artisans will you let in? What does “handmade” mean?
Defining “artisan” and “handmade” is a critical question that the group will decide together as a whole.
Join us to help shape who the cooperative members will be.
How do I join?
We are in the early stages of development. Take our interest survey today to join the waitlist, register your interest, give us feedback and join our email list.
How can I support what you’re doing?
Spread the word. Share the work. Donate. Stay in touch.
Go to Join Us for links to our Paypal, social media channels, Discord invite, email list, interest survey, and more.
How can I get involved in planning?
1) Take our interest survey today – there is a question on there asking if you would like to help plan. We will follow up with more options, including joining the organizing team and subcommittees.
2) Join us on Discord. Discord is a free voice and chat platform. On our server, we host regular “clubhouse” voice calls and have social channels for interacting with organizers, artisans, supporters, and partners. It’s a great place to meet people and find friends. There are a lot of new users on our Discord server and a welcome guide for new users. Join us!
Are you affiliated with the Indie Sellers Guild?
We are not affiliated with the Indie Sellers Guild (ISG). The ISG is a nonprofit dedicated to collective bargaining against Etsy and other platforms on behalf of artisans, while the Artisans Cooperative is building a self-owned cooperative alternative to Big Tech platforms.
Our founding members did meet through the #EtsyStrike and some were actively involved in the early leadership of the ISG. We are separate organizations but we have many members in common.
Are you affiliated with Etsy?
We are not affiliated with Etsy.
Are you a nonprofit organization? Will my donations be tax-deductible?
No. The cooperative will be a democratically-owned business, not a nonprofit organization. Donations are not tax-deductible. Learn more about what a cooperative business is in our blog post, What is a Cooperative?
Who are the leaders? How is it controlled?
We are currently a democratic and cooperative “round table” of organizers without a hierarchy. We are actively recruiting more organizers and advisors. Professional cooperative business advisors will be giving us technical assistance in writing by-laws and formalizing the organization democratically. Learn more about our organizers and advisors on the Who We Are page.
How do you / will you earn enough revenue?
Currently we are volunteer-run and operating on small donations. For the marketplace, we are writing a business plan with technical assistance from the cooperative development community.
I don’t live in the United States, can I still join?
Yes, we are international in scope. Members of our organizing team are located worldwide.
How did you choose the name and logo?
Our name was democratically chosen from a series of votes on our early Discord community. Learn more about branding in our blog post, The Story Behind Our Branding (and Chickens!).