Qiyas Ergashev, a carpenter in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan, builds houses for a living. In his spare time, he crafts wooden gifts—nut crackers, containers, cups, etc.—for foreigners who visit his city. He aspires to make more money from his woodcraft, but he lacks the means to market his products to a larger audience.
A San Francisco startup called GlobeIn has solved Qiyas’s problem.
GlobeIn is an online marketplace that allows users to buy goods that were handmade by people in remote parts of the world. Chief Executive Vladimir Ermakov has said that his business aims to “bring local artisans to the global market.” GlobeIn’s website has been described as “Etsy with a decidedly international feel to it.”
Site users can search for artisans by region, country or craft medium. Artists from over forty countries are represented on the site, selling a panoply of items that range from musical instruments to jewelry to furniture and more.
GlobeIn’s method is simple but effective. The company employs “Artisan Helpers” who travel to the artisans’ locations. During their meeting with a helper, an artistan gets their photograph taken, tells the helper about him or herself (for marketing purposes) and learns how to use any required technologies.
Afterward, the artisan’s work is posted on the website, immediately introducing him or her into the global marketplace. GlobeIn profits by marking prices up anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent—a form of commission.
In 2013, the company raised more than $1 million in order to develop new platforms, like its newly launched iOS app, which allows users to quickly search for and purchase crafts from around the world.
Investors included former IBM executive Doug Maine, as well as renowned author and physician Deepak Chopra. This latter investor also convinced Ermakov to shift his company’s marketing strategy away from a more traditional approach toward a storytelling approach. Now, each artisan’s website profile includes both his or her work and a short biography.
Chopra said he chose to invest in GlobeIn partly because of the company’s potential to “eradicate poverty.”
Indeed, GlobeIn seems uniquely capable of improving the standard of living for a traditionally impoverished group in developing countries—the craftspeople.
For example, the poorest denizens of the Indian state of Bihar rely on their “traditional cultural industries” for their livelihood. If these people could access the resources needed to market their cultural products to a global audience, their income could increase substantially. GlobeIn is actively providing these sorts of populations with the requisite resources.
Thus, as GlobeIn’s website suggests, the world is now open for business.
– Ryan Yanke