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Can one of the founders of the craft website Etsy.com – valued in the billions of dollars – lead a change in the way we do business?

It’s one thing to hear Pope Francis talk about eradicating poverty and the need to change the way we do business for the sake of our souls and the planet; it’s another to hear that sort of talk coming from entrepreneurs whose bread and butter is commerce. But that’s just what one hears from Etsy – the world’s largest certified socially responsible business. Not satisfied with pioneering a $3 billion global craftsmarket, earlier this year, Etsy launched a business education program for businesspeople who want to make a better world.

At the head of the Regenerative Entrepreneur program is Etsy.com’s former Vice President of Values and Impact Matthew Stinchcomb. Judson Memorial Church minister Donna Schaper acts as the program’s facilitator. They both joined The Laura Flanders Show recently to discuss their high hopes for new program.

Twenty-two businesses were selected for the pilot program, from a variety of industries including food, clothing and skincare to web development and education support. Some have been in business for 35 years, in the case of KD dids, which has been churning out knit and dancewear in the Bronx since 1980. Others are just getting started, like the two separate underwear shops opening up, both with a focus on women’s health around the world.

The program focuses on alternatives to the high-growth, high-returns “ideals” presented by most business development programs. In addition to marketing and basic business principles, it touches on topics a little more foreign to the genre — empathy, authenticity, happiness within one’s business.

“I think you begin by building a base of successful change agents, who happier, more satisfied,” said Schaper. “We’re not against making money in this program. It’ll be great if somebody makes lots of money, as long as the objective is not just that aggressive ‘more’.”

The inaugural class called a “cohort” meets weekly, not sticking to the classroom.

Already they’ve visited Greyston Bakery – an oft-cited example of a business that isn’t just chasing profit. And for good reason, said Stinchcomb. Greyston practices an open hiring policy, drawing from a potential employee pool left out in the cold by hiring practices that automatically reject people with criminal records, among other reasons.

“Anyone can walk through the door. A homeless person, a formerly incarcerated person, and they put their name on a list and when a job comes up – that’s their job,” he said.

“What I became convinced of over 10 years at Etsy is that business is very powerful,” Stinchcomb said. “The problem is very large businesses can shape communities in ways that are really degenerative, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”


 

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On her weekly interview show, former Air America Radio host and author Laura Flanders talks with forward-thinking people from around the world of politics, business, and culture, and introduces the cutting edge social movements that are making tomorrow’s world today. For intelligent, eclectic conversation with the world’s most creative thinkers and doers, watch the “Laura Flanders Show“, produced by GRITtv.org.


The Laura Flanders Show airs nationally, exclusively in the U.S. on Link TV network Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on DirecTV 375 and DISH 9410. “Can Etsy Change The World?” airs tonight at 9 p.m. For more information on Laura Flanders on Link TV please visit
LinkTV.org/LauraFlanders.

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