In this post, we’ll share information about our data tracking systems and how they were developed in the event that our membership, broader audience, or other cooperatives (P6 baby!) are interested in learning more about the weeds through which we’ve navigated and the considerations we had at each step.
In order to make Artisans Cooperative as accessible to everyone as possible, we have created some beautiful policies that govern how the marketplace will operate and the pathway to membership for artisans and supporters.
Whenever we first talked to the advisors in our support system about these intricately linked policies, particularly the points involved with each, there was generally a universal reaction of “that sounds great… but how are you going to track it all?”
As a person who wears many hats (both literally as a hatmaker and metaphorically as both an artisan and a data nerd), I was excited for the challenge of creating the startup systems to deliver on these policies to make a truly accessible, cooperatively owned, authentically handmade marketplace.
Choosing technology and setting up systems creates tensions that any startup business faces – both in the financial realm and in the form of people power. Our goals for these systems:
- Protect the privacy of the people choosing to share their data with us
- Create a centralized database for multiple data streams from different places
- Create feedback loops for our members on their points-earning progress
- Create clear workflows across a very distributed group of volunteer organizers
- AND….. do this all on a tight budget
We knew we had the potential to have a tsunami of data coming from sources like:
- Membership applications
- Waitlist and survey responses
- Interest forms for folks looking to participate in teams and work areas to help launch the co-op
- A growing email list
- Paypal and Stripe, where people are making payments towards their memberships or sending donations
- Forms to document the membership activities that members are doing to earn points towards their memberships
- The general structure of how profit sharing will be dependent on membership activities and tiers
- Soon: applications for shops on the marketplace and the process for shops becoming verified as handmade. And after that, marketplace sales!
Since we just launched, these systems are going to be a work in progress for a while still, and we appreciate your patience as we work out the kinks. Our setup time investment at this point is about 40 hours in the first month. This includes setting up the forms and the database they dump data into, lots of programming and testing of our membership forms, creating connections between applications to have everything going into one place, and a lot of searching workarounds for the errors that pop up at each step!!
But our research has paid off: we have laid good groundwork for robust systems that will grow and change with us. These are the systems we’re using (costs as of June 2023):
Data Collection Tool
Jotform (cost: $34 per month)
We have previously relied on Google Forms to collect data for interest forms and polls to the community about marketplace priorities, the definition of handmade, and other efforts. When launching a membership drive, we knew our data collection needs were going to be more complex. We needed a way to ask which configuration of payment and points members wanted for their membership, to perform calculations in the form based on these choices, to have them sign membership agreements and for us to approve and countersign these agreements, and we needed to collect payment directly in the form. We explored the free version of Jotform to test out the functionality and then committed to a paid plan that meets our current needs in terms of number of forms, number of fields, number of processed payments, and number of signatures. We continue to use Google forms for a lot of our data collection needs, but as time goes on, we want to move to unifying our systems to have everything in one data collection tool. Other tools that we explored that did not quite meet our needs: Typeform and Airtable Forms.
Airtable (cost: $12 per month)
Airtable is a very accessible tool that has pretty robust functionality in the free version! This allows us to create a relational database with the different streams of data coming in- for example from forms, from Shopify, from Stripe, from Paypal, etc. We chose to upgrade to the lowest-cost plan in order to have more functionality around syncing data from other places and to create more complex workflows with data that are needed to process data related to earning points, for example.
These tools are the tape that we use to hold our systems together. They allow us to do things like tag emails in Mailchimp depending on the membership status of someone and to have up to date info from payment apps about people’s progress on their payment plans for their membership. It is unfortunately pretty clunky to make these integrations work, but we have been able to Frankenstein solutions together in the ways we need to get started, so far.
Mailchimp (cost: $13 per month + additional costs for more contacts and emails)
This not only allows us to manage our mailing campaigns but also to send tailored emails based on the type of membership folks have selected. This will also be how we automate regular emails about payment plans and monthly emails about the points to date that our members earn towards their membership.
And that’s where we are so far! We would love to hear from you all if you have more ideas about how we can improve or build on our systems or would want to work with us to develop them further. Looking forward to connecting with other split-brain artsy data folks about this.
About Artisans Cooperative
We are growing an online handmade marketplace for an inclusive network of creatives: a co-op alternative to Etsy.
Shop the marketplace!