Artisanry Co. is a social enterprise that is dedicated to giving back to the UK-based community of makers and artists. Many of the artists in our community are social enterprises in their own right.

For example, Andy Lang, from the Potter of Leith, hosts workshops as a form of therapy for those struggling with mental health. Another maker, Renae Bell, runs Made in Midlothian, which was set up to help members of the community enjoy, explore and celebrate the creative arts in Midlothian.

But what does this mean? And how does this translate in our business structure?

Understanding a Social Enterprise

A social enterprise is a business model that puts the interests of people and planet before shareholder gain. The keyword in this is “business”, meaning that this model does not equal charity or not for profit.

A look at where this idea came from and how it has evolved in the world. There are examples of forms of social enterprise businesses that date back to the Victorian era, but here are more recent references.  

It’s widely agreed that Freer Spreckley’s piece published by Beechwood College (Leeds) in 1981, “Social Audit: A Management Tool for Co-operative Working” provides the most relevant description of what a social enterprise is and what it means in business terms. The paper explores in great detail the idea that what has traditionally denoted a successful business, has not been measured by its true cost, i.e. cost to workers, local communities and of course cost to the environment.

Fast forward to today and you see companies where CEOs and Directors are earning 100 times (at least) more than the average workers of that company.

made in midlothian
Artist: Renae Bell, Made in Midlothian

Descriptive Guidelines

Spreckley went on to define short descriptive guidelines that social enterprises in the UK could look to follow. He does not argue that these principles are the only guidelines to follow, but rather to view them as guiding principles.

  1. Be financially and trading independent and viable
  2. Create social wealth
  3. Operate in an environmentally friendly way

Why Did Artisanry Co. Choose this Model?

The Founder of Artisanry Co., Bhawna Sarin knew she wanted to create something that addressed two issues in the UK. The first was helping artists, crafters and makers in the United Kingdom to gain greater exposure via a digital platform to showcase and sell their goods. Most importantly, the revenue share to the artist is transparent and fair. 

The second was to go beyond creating the eCommerce digital platform and build a community. A bridge between the communities and the artists with a sustained programme of workshops and events, funded directly from the profits generated by the platform.

Moreover, the aim of Artisanry Co. is to create an impact and positive change in local communities, across the United Kingdom.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this sounds too good to be true, or perhaps you think it’s not possible to do so as a business. But that’s where the social comes into the enterprise. Case studies have shown that it’s entirely possible to create a thriving business using the social enterprise model that generates a healthy revenue, pays its workers well and has enough left over to put back into the community that sustains it. Take a look at just 2 examples below.

andy lang potter of leith
Artist: Andy Lang, Potter of Leith

Toms Shoes

Black Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes with its headquarters in the United States has built a $400 million social enterprise business. It started as a simple pledge after a trip to Argentina in 2006, to donate one pair of shoes for every pair sold.

From a simple idea this successful company has gone on to extend its work to other developing countries and continues to make a tremendous social impact, globally.

Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus is the founder of a microfinance and microcredit social enterprise called Grameen Bank. The idea behind this business was simple. It exists to lend money to those who need it at reasonable rates of interest and without collateral.

Grameen Bank is owned by the borrowers of the bank. The majority shareholders in the bank are the borrowers themselves, estimated at 96% and the remaining 6% belongs to the Bangladesh government. Since inception a total of $ 29,566.40 million has been lent and a total of $ 27,281.43 million has been repaid.

The founding principles of Grameen Bank are trust and empowerment. As of 2017, Grameen America had 19 branches in eleven US cities. Its nearly 100,000 borrowers are all women.

Jenna Hopkins colourful pixie
Artist: Jenna Hopkins, Colourful Pixie

Art and business

Artisanry Co. recognises that for far too long artists, crafters and makers have been living and operating in an isolated world to figure out how to make a decent living from their work. The road to success for these makers is often littered with stories of agents, gallery owners or other eCommerce platforms taking financial advantage of their talents.

Those that are lucky enough to be in a position of success, usually in the later stages of their career, speak of the bumpy ride in getting there. But for an unexpected windfall, sometimes inheritance, an angel investor in the arts or those rare government grants, artists are out there all alone.

They often have day jobs to keep the lights on resorting to making their art in whatever spare time they can get.

Artisanry Co. identifies that an eCommerce platform will not only help these makers gain much-needed exposure but create a sustainable income stream too.

Our world is a far better place for artists who help us see more colour and texture in our everyday lives. Artisanry Co. is launching our online shop in the coming days and if you are a small, independent maker in the UK, then you can be part of building this grassroots movement.

Find out more about how to join us.

“Creativity takes courage” Henri Matisse

Written by Lizelle Ellmann van Rhyn