Back in April, we shared the news that our Etsy shop was unhappy with changes at Etsy and joined the #EtsyStrike. Since then, we banded together with a team of fellow artisans and supportive customers to begin building an alternative handmade marketplace called Artisans Cooperative. In this post, we'll tell you all about it!
Our cooperative formed as a result of the #EtsyStrike. Strike leaders went on to form a seller advocacy nonprofit, called the Indie Sellers Guild. But a group of us Etsy sellers who met through the strike wanted an alternative to Etsy. Even more, we wanted the alternative to be a worker-owned cooperative, so we could realize the value of what we were building.
Spearheaded by Valerie from Walnut with Geoff's full support, Walnut has been a key part of forming this new organization as part of a team. Today, we are announcing our intention to form a cooperative handmade marketplace together.
Why a Cooperative?
Cooperatives are different from traditional businesses: they are democratically-run and owned by a principle of "one member, one vote." They operate by a set of universal principles recognized by the United Nations that put people and communities over profits. Most importantly, in cooperative businesses, the co-op members are the ones who financially benefit from its success.
There may be other "alternative marketplaces" out there (we'll get into that in another post) but they are all subject to the same problems Etsy has. History has shown us that privately-owned alternatives get bought by Etsy to hold their monopoly, which is what happened with Reverb, Depop and Elo7. And time and time again publicly-traded companies make decisions that squeeze users for the interests of the shareholders -- which they are actually legally required to do.
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 that $161 million equitably into the pockets of its artists instead. But in addition to the social good that a cooperative would be for artisans, we also believe that a co-op will create a better marketplace.
What's the Marketplace About?
Together, we envision a better online shopping experience for artisans and customers alike by using the cooperative business model.
Etsy sellers and customers are fed up: the Google search trend shows the interest in Etsy alternatives is on the rise. Sellers are tired of being squeezed by rising fees, falling sales, and punitive policies. Customers are tired of wading through all the resellers and dropshippers, with one user calling the handmade filter "utterly broken."
Our co-op is trying to create a solution to this problem. By using cooperative business models and values, we want to create a marketplace filled with unique, creative, and authentically-handmade goods with a social purpose.
How's It Going to Work?
Artisans Cooperative is in the early stages of development. The original organizers have outlined our vision for the organization on the FAQ page and a series of blog posts. But ultimately, all the details of our co-op will be decided democratically with our potential members.
We are currently gathering our virtual community of artisans, supporters, and partners through our website, https://artisans.coop. We are soliciting input through an interest survey. We already have support and advisors from the professional cooperative development community and are applying to start-up accelerators and incubator programs to get technical assistance and funding.
An online handmade marketplace co-op is an ambitious and exciting project that we're proud to be part of. But it will be nothing without people, so we're reaching out to everyone we know to talk about it.
To support, take a moment to:
- Subscribe to the Artisans Cooperative email newsletter
- Donate any amount to help us cover start-up costs (like domain hosting and task management software)
- Join our Discord for lively engagement and behind-the-scenes progress
- Tell your friendswho love to buy handmade and your friends who are artisans themselves
Stay tuned and watch this space for future updates and announcements as we grow this organization of creative independent crafters and makers.