The Allure of Etsy Culture and B Corporations (but can they survive?

As this fabulous article showcases on Etsy’s Dream of a Post-Capitalist Business @ The Cut, founder Rob Kalin has created an enviable company culture.

Listen to this (excerpt from article):

…the people keeping the Etsy servers up and running and everything else — work in something like an extremely cozy private welfare state. There is free lunch, there is on-site continuing education, there is someone with pink hair to reinflate the tires of the bike you were sweetly encouraged to ride to work. Every Etsy employee is given 40 paid hours off annually to devote to volunteer work; the company covers 100 percent of health-care premiums and for years made a point of paying American salaries at least 40 percent above the local living wage. Just last month, Etsy announced a near-unprecedented paid-parental-leave policy—26 weeks for men and women, applicable to birth, adoption, or surrogacy.

Plus there’s Eatsy and “Etsy school, which runs on a semester basis. Etsy school is colleagues teaching colleagues, and recent offerings have included jazz appreciation, earring-making, a guided tour of Central Park” and a post-child bearing class on what happens including all the “gross stuff.”

Seriously, who does this? Certainly not the anti-Etsy Amazon, which for a many a year hasn’t produced a profit or barely one, and whose company culture is reported to be draconian.

Unlike Amazon and most other corporate businesses, “It wants to rewrite the idea of what it is to be corporate, all the while erasing the line between making money and doing good — going so far as to suggest that these two things are essentially the same.”

Etsy is what’s known as a B Corp, with the idea of doing good and being socially responsible rather than beholden to investors written into it’s corporate warp.

It sounds like a great place to work. Certainly the kind of company that current wisdom says is a millennial-aged workforce’s dream.

The question that the article raises is whether Etsy specifically, and other B Corps or companies that aren’t set up based on capitalist all mighty dollar worship survive.  At its IPO Etsy was worth $4B, now it’s only $1B. Amazon investors bought into Jeff Bezos vision of foregoing profits to create a huge loyal customer base and drive every other company out of its business space (targeting Etsy, apparently, now that they’ve started Handmade).

But isn’t it doubtful that Etsy investors will tolerate a dwindling market capitalization and no profits for very long (much less as long as Amazon investors)?  And without some money to pour back into the business to support those fantastic employee benes and artisan-makers who want to go their own way making stuff, how is survival possible?

For all their idealism, one article I read (forgot where) says that millennials support the socialist (read: sharing) economic model until they get into the workforce. And I guess have to pay bills and want stuff. Good stuff. Like an apartment all their own. Or to eat. More than ramen noodles and cheap beer.

 

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