~ Sell Your Crafts at a Craft Cooperative ~
We Organized a Craftsman's Cooperative!
Last update 03/04
When the Hudson Valley Artisans’ Guild was first organized, there were no craft cooperatives in New York's Hudson Valley area. As a direct result of the Guild network, some of us organized a crafts cooperative called Under the Apple Tree .
As part of our initial research, I went to the local S.C.O.R.E. office in Poughkeepsie for advice. I was matched up with a man who had managed a fabric cooperative during World War II. When I told him our plans, he told me, "In a cooperative, you need a benevolent dictator. I made the decisions, and it was a success. Democracies do not work in business!"
What a bombshell to bring home to the group. As we discussed it, we could see a terrible sort of logic behind it.
Our first president, was indeed, a benevolent dictator who made things happen on schedule. (We grumbled when the workload got heavy; starting a new venture always means a heavy workload.)
We all wanted to gear up production and sell a zillion dollars worth of crafts overnight! We stuffed fliers into mailboxes and beat the bushes to get the customers into the shop. We worked hard, and many good things happened, and we did some very creative brainstorming when they didn’t!
‘Sharing’ was more than a word, -we were a family. When I fell ill, everyone took turns working my spot until I was back on my feet.
A cooperative is an incredible commitment in terms of time, work, and the anxiety factor. There were months when we wondered how to meet the rent, and some months we were assessed an extra $20 or $30 to meet our financial obligations!
There were months when the money flowed in, and it was hard just to keep the shelves stocked. Of course, the busiest time of year for the co-op happened just when we were all busy with craft shows. We worked long hours in the shop to take advantage of holiday business.
Within a year, in Cold Spring, another craftsman from the Guild network organized Courtyard Crafts cooperative. Courtyard Crafts became the second successful cooperative in this area. Since that time period, almost eight years ago, Courtyard Crafts closed its doors, but Under the Apple Tree still flourished in Rhinebeck until the year 2000.*
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I have often been asked, "What kind of income can you expect from a cooperative?" That really depends on the market, the location, and your ability to produce a desirable item in quantity. You can expect year-round income, to help you over the ‘dead’ period in the Spring, when show returns are meager at best.
If you expect to make money, you MUST keep good inventory. You won’t sell all your stock, only a percentage of it, so it makes sense to restock generously when things sell.
Don’t be lazy about checking up on the ‘holes’ in your line. You can’t sell $500 worth, if that is your entire inventory! The more stock you have, the better your sales!
I had good income from both cooperatives until health problems slowed me down, but the things that I valued most were the friendships formed, the good (and bad) times we shared, and the sense of each of us helping to reach a goal!
*Note to File: Summer - The landlord raised the rent $300 a month. We'd been there almost seven years, -and were good tenants, did our own repairs, floor refinishing, painting, etc. We paid other rent raises, but we couldn't afford this one, so we left. Eight months later the building was still vacant, with a 'For Rent' sign on it. It was vacant for almost two years.
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