A luxury e-commerce platform for Indigenous artisans
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Sold in 90+ high end boutiques across the globe, ETKIE is a jewelry company that collaborates with Navajo women in New Mexico. As the bridge between Native artisans in rural communities and luxury markets, our SOLVE solution is to open our e-commerce platform to other Native and indigenous women worldwide.
Native Americans are the most technologically isolated group in the US with 54% of the population having access to broadband. The Navajo Nation, where we currently operate, has an unemployment rate of 42% with an extreme poverty rate of 38%. Yet, the wealth of cultural creation is immense. An estimated 60% of Native families have at least one family member producing crafts. The problem is that entering high-end markets is unattainable for many artisans. Our solution is to provide a marketplace to match their skill set with luxury customers willing to pay for the quality and authenticity of their products.
Why our solution will solve the problem:
Our proposal will solve this problem because we have identified a market opportunity and proven that our team has the capabilities, connections and community support to execute.
According to a McKinsey report, the jewelry and accessories industry will have an addressable market size of $37B by 2020. Similar to the growing trends of sustainable food and beauty, ethical fashion is poised to become more mainstream as consumers gravitate towards brands that align with their values.
We are often asked to consult for other Native jewelry companies that lack design, distribution and marketing to access high-end markets—we plan to change this.
Our target outcomes:
Our solution will provide a marketplace to match Native American craftsmanship with luxury customers willing to pay for the quality and authenticity of their products and therefore enable artisans to earn a better income and have agency over how their culture and stories are portrayed.
We do not work with individuals, our platform will be deployed by local community entities such as the tribal economic development branch or an existing women's cooperative that has demonstrated commitment and interest in helping artisan women in their community develop their business.
How we will measure our progress:
The populations we will benefit initially:
The regions we will benefit initially:
The technologies we employ:
Why our solution is unique:
While there is an abundance of existing online marketplaces, they cater to a population that has the knowledge to run a business. Our ecommerce platform is unique because we have experience starting an artisan business in a Native community.
In addition to boosting sales, our platform provides communities with the resources to manage the backend of their business. Known as the “ARTISAN PORTAL”, we created content for community-based design workshops, supply chain management, production and forecasting templates, as well as branding and marketing resources.
The finalized portal will track sales, outstanding tasks, and create reports to assist with financial modeling.
Why our solution is human-centered:
Our ARTISAN PORTAL will be built at the same time we pilot the first artisan group. UX | UI will be based on iterations from the community. Our goal is to provide a platform for indigenous artisans to sell their products but more importantly, to provide them with the knowledge to independently operate.
Etkie has retained 9 of 10 of our artisans because our company culture embraces community. We signed a contract with a non-profit to conduct due diligence to become a worker-owned cooperative. We understand that, especially in indigenous communities, it’s important to cultivate a shared sense of ownership.
How people will access our solution:
Retailers and galleries take up 60% of the retail price and our platform will take 30%. We’ve experienced firsthand how traditional retail model demolishes any profit margin for artisans. By taking half the markup of traditional retailers as well as providing access to the backend support of our ARTISAN PORTAL, our platform will enable artisan groups to succeed through the most critical juncture of launching their products. We’ve already had tribes reach out to us asking for advice. Once we have the resources to build this platform they are interested in joining.
Technology-Readiness Level:4-5 (Prototyping)
Where we are located:
How we will sustain our team financially:
We’re currently profitable and can slowly invest in resources to grow. However, we are seeking impact investment to scale faster.
The factors limiting our success:
The future factors limiting our success are: 1. lack of access to "slow" capital. 2. connections within the fashion industry.
We recognize it is a big jump to change the mindset of selling at local markets and trading posts to selling online. It took three years to build trust within our team of artisans and we are cognizant of the realities of working with Native communities. Maintaining integrity amongst the communities in which we work is of utmost importance and ensuring our business and investment structure aligns with our values could be challenging.
How long we have been working on our solution:3 years
How long it will take to develop a pilot:6-12 months
How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:6-12 months
Our expected annual budget:
How much of our budget we've secured to date:
Our promotional materials:
We're looking for partners in these fields:
Why we're applying to Solve:
We dream of being the ultimate destination for exquisite jewelry and accessories—a brand known for exquisitely made products that enable Indigenous women to preserve their cultural heritage.
Software engineer contractor to help build the artisan portal with a custom API to track key metrics of each group, training for our staff so we can manage the platform in house.
Introductions to tier-1 publications such as New York Times, Town + Country, Vogue USA and Harpers Bazaar
Introductions to mentors with similar profiles as senior VP of digital at Burberry andVP of social commerce at Net-a-Porter.
Our current partners:
Creative Startups, an accelerator for creative entrepreneurs
NEIR, Native Entrepreneurs in Residence accelerator
VAF, Venture Accelerator Fund of Los Alamos Laboratories
- Sydney Alfonso Founder & CEO