A Handmade Marketplace for Social Good – A Conversation with goimagine Founder Jon Lincoln

I recently invited Jon Lincoln, Founder of goimagine, a handmade marketplace for social good, to the Handmade CEO Podcast. Jon founded the world’s first handmade marketplace that donates 100 percent of its profits to charity. Join us as we dive into Jon’s entrepreneurial journey, the creation of goimagine, and his advice for both makers and those looking to build their own marketplace. Click here to listen to the full episode.

Launching a Handmade Marketplace

Jon Lincoln’s entrepreneurial path has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, filled with diverse experiences that have shaped his journey. He describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, a title he has lived up to for two decades. His journey commenced in the early 2000s, straight out of his college dorm in Boston.

He humorously shares how he ventured into stand-up comedy for a decade, opening and managing a stand-up comedy club, first in Cape Cod and later in Faneuil Hall. This phase of his life might seem unrelated to the handmade world, but it was a pivotal part of his entrepreneurial journey.

A significant turning point in Jon’s life occurred when he approached the age of 30, ready to embrace the responsibilities of adulthood, including starting a family. At that juncture, he transitioned into the realm of software and insurance technology. This marked his entry into the world of serious, professional endeavors, quite different from the vibrant comedy scene.

Jon Lincoln - Founder of the goimagine marketplace

His experience in the insurance tech industry fueled his entrepreneurial spirit once again, leading him to create another insurance tech company. Jon developed an insurance app on Salesforce, focusing on insurance agency technology solutions. This venture turned out to be incredibly successful, raising over $8 million in the first few years. Jon’s journey culminated in a noteworthy exit from the company, with a valuation of $44 million.

Around 2019, Jon’s desire to make a philanthropic impact on the world led him to contemplate his next endeavor. He envisioned a marketplace that would donate all its profits to children in need, a platform driven by a sense of purpose rather than just profit.

This vision coincided with Jon’s observation that Etsy, a prominent handmade marketplace, was gradually drifting away from its handmade roots and embracing mass-produced items. Recognizing the gap left by Etsy’s evolution, Jon saw an opportunity to create a new handmade marketplace. He believed that makers and artists would rally around a platform that directed all its profits toward charitable causes, as opposed to traditional profit-seeking platforms.

To bring his vision to life, John embarked on the journey of creating goimagine. He initiated a Facebook group, forming a community and gathering feedback from makers. Jon, with his tech background, focused on building the platform, while his partner, Stephanie Romkey, contributed her insights and expertise from the perspective of a maker and artist.

Today, goimagine stands as a testament to Jon Lincoln’s resilience and determination in making a positive impact on the world through his unique handmade marketplace. It’s a marketplace that not only fosters the growth of creative businesses but also channels its profits towards philanthropic causes.

A Marketplace That Gives Back

During our conversation, Jon elaborated on the organizations goimagine supports. Their focus centers on aiding children in need, a cause that transcends political boundaries and garners support from a wide range of people.

One of the charities that goimagine supports is “Horizons for Homeless Children,” which provides a safe space for children under five years old living in shelters. They offer preschool, food, education, and healthcare, helping these young children during a challenging phase in their lives.

Another supported charity, “Relief Nursery” in Oregon, assists children in domestic abuse households. goimagine’s commitment to helping children also extends to organizations like the “Shine Initiative,” dedicated to adolescent mental health, and “Curious Learning,” a nonprofit tech company that empowers impoverished children by teaching them to read through technology.

Jon expressed his desire to involve the maker community in the process of choosing which charities to support. He envisions a democratic approach where the community has a say in deciding where goimagine directs its funds.

As we discussed the intricacies of building a successful handmade shop within the goimagine marketplace, Jon shares valuable advice. He emphasizes the importance of defining the purpose and goals of one’s business. Whether it’s a full-time venture, a part-time endeavor, or a hobby, understanding the desired outcome is crucial.

Jon encourages makers to take ownership of their brand identity. He believes that joining a marketplace shouldn’t diminish one’s individual brand. Sellers should consider their marketplace presence as an extension of their brand and maintain consistency in their shop names across platforms.

Diversifying Your Craft Sales Channels

A handmade business owner diversifying their sales channels.

In a rapidly evolving e-commerce landscape, Jon highlighted the significance of diversification. He suggests starting on sites like Etsy and goimagine, harnessing their organic traffic, while simultaneously building a personal brand through a privately owned website such as a Shopify store. By doing so, makers can secure the best of both worlds. Jon’s advice underlines the importance of differentiation and understanding one’s business goals.

Building a Marketplace

goimagine - handmade marketplace for social good - etsy alternatives
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We of course chatted about building a handmade marketplace – what it takes, and how to market one. Jon underscored the value of collaboration and the need for complementary skill sets. He recommends finding a technical co-founder if you’re not well-versed in technology.

Jon advised against replicating existing marketplaces, urging entrepreneurs to create something unique and valuable. He suggests focusing on differentiation, identifying unmet needs, and offering something that isn’t already available in the market.

Read my story about building a handmade marketplace for $50K that failed.

Goals for 2023 and Beyond

goimagine - handmade marketplace for social good

The last thing we chatted about were the goals for goimagine in 2023 and beyond. Jon outlined the company’s three major objectives. Firstly, they plan to implement shared ownership, giving governance rights and legal ownership to their maker community. Secondly, they aim to enhance their platform by introducing a modern seller dashboard and integrating an Etsy sync feature.

Lastly, goimagine is committed to expanding its buyer acquisition efforts. This involves investing in organic SEO, Google ad campaigns, and other marketing initiatives to increase buyer awareness. Jon’s goals for goimagine reflect the platform’s dedication to creating a unique and supportive environment for makers and creative entrepreneurs.