An annual report is a typical document produced by cooperatives for their member-owners, just like any business produces for their shareholders. This year-end report usually includes a message to members summarizing the state of the business, documentation of its activities during the year, and the financials.
Since we’ve only been in existence for a few months now, our first annual report is, we hope, charmingly simple. We hope someday we can look back on this report with a smile and remember how small and how humble our beginnings were.
Our first annual report is also an opportunity to show our potential members how we intend to operate. This is a first glimpse into what it’s like to be a member-owner of a cooperative business. We report on our activities with openness and transparency and hard numbers.
What We Did in 2022
2022 was the year that makers, crafters, and artists had had enough with the way Wall Street was running our marketplace. After Etsy’s announcement of record profits paired with a 30% fee increase and the resulting #EtsyStrike, creatives and their supporters gathered to begin a co-op alternative to Etsy.
(Read more: 2022: The Year that Etsy Crafters Started to Revolt)
In less than a half a year, we grew from a nugget of an idea to a blog-website filled with quality content, a growing email list, social media presence, Discord server, and a community of 700+:
- Email list: 331 subscribers
- Discord server: 168 members
- Facebook: 53 followers
- Instagram: 131 followers
- Mastodon: 43 followers
- Reddit: 27 members
- Twitter: 37 followers
Our organizer team started in July with 3 people, and over the course of 2022, 15 people of diverse skills and backgrounds cycled through the organizers team as volunteers or advisors. At year-end, we counted 12 official organizers and advisors on our Who We Are page. (Although it may sound like a lot, as an all-volunteer organization of people with full-time jobs and an ambitious task ahead, we still need more volunteers to achieve lift-off.)
We established the foundational ideas for our cooperative concept through detailed blog content and received positive responses on our early ideas:
- Announcement! We’re Building a Co-op Marketplace for Artisans Online
- What Makes Our Handmade Marketplace Different
- Platform Cooperativism: A “Bill of Rights” for Artisans Selling Online
But our most important work was in validating those ideas through polls. We conducted several polls to tap into the “wisdom of the crowd” when it came to major decisions. In August, we conducted a Name Poll, which is how we landed on “Artisans Cooperative.”
We have an ongoing “Interest Survey” that tells us what people want in a co-op. Preliminary results show us that 86% of respondents want a better online marketplace, while 49% want lower fees. As we would hope, fees are important, but who’s in charge of the marketplace and how they run it matters more.
From November to January, we conducted a “Marketplace Priorities Poll” to establish what kind of marketplace artisans and shoppers want – and what features they need (results coming in January!). As of this writing, we have over 100 responses to the marketplace poll.
We began fundraising through donations to cover early start-up costs, like productivity software, membership dues to the US Federation of Worker Co-ops, and legal incorporation. Organizers donated services and subscriptions in-kind, Artisans donated through a physical goods fundraiser and Supporters donated cash through Paypal and Ko-fi. Together, we raised over $1,200.
And last but not least, we joined the US Federation of Worker Co-ops, a supportive nonprofit that helps cooperatives like ours grow and thrive. Their Co-op Clinic will give us the technical advice we need to formally incorporate our cooperative business in 2023.
“Spreading the word about Artisans Cooperative is the best way to support us. Tell your friends, share us on social media, and try out some of our grassroots tips, like adding us to your email signature or putting up a flyer.”
Where We’re Going in 2023
We have an ambitious agenda for 2023, with a realistic goal of launching the basic marketplace in October – in time for the holiday shopping season. The next 9 months are going to be a flurry of organizing, recruiting, incorporating, polling, and website-building.
We have already begun evaluating the Marketplace Priorities poll results and coming up with a working business plan for presentation and feedback. Once we are in agreement, then the work of building the marketplace website will begin.
The two biggest challenges right away will be defining “handmade” and a handmade verification process, and determining membership details, rules, and bylaws. With those details worked out, we’ll be hiring an attorney for formal legal incorporation.
We’ve also applied to the Start.coop incubator program. There are two of these in 2023: in Spring and in Fall. We might not catch the Spring one, but their incubator program, designed for cooperatives that intend to scale, is a perfect match for us and will help us grow.
A cooperative is a shared business, and we need your involvement for success!
A journey of a million dollars starts with $1, and we’re grateful to all our early donors who made it possible to secure our domain and set up a website, purchase productivity software for organizational efficiency, join the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (Federation), and begin marketing and legal incorporation.
Each investment is paying dividends: with productivity software, fewer organizers can have more of an impact with less effort. Joining the Federation already appears to be bearing fruit: coming in January, we expect to announce that the Federation allocated USDA Rural Development Grant funds to cover start-up expenses: $250 grew into $2500.
Because we are not yet formally incorporated and organized, all funds are being held in a separate Paypal account registered to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, and organizer Valerie Franklin of Walnut Studiolo has volunteered to be the US address of record on the account. Donations to both Paypal and Ko-fi go directly into the Paypal account and when possible, bills are paid directly from the Paypal account.
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!