If you would like the short version, start here, but if you have the time, we encourage you to read our entire philosophy about our pricing structure.
Why we care about transparency in pricing (a note from Nick)
I once made over $100,000 in one year. According to the How Rich Am I? calculator, that put me safely in the top 1% of global earners. I was the 1%, and so were many of the people that I worked with, even while we were blindly complaining about the 1% all the time. Though I was making a lot of money, by comparison to those “above” me, it didn’t seem like I was making that much. I was constantly comparing myself to those around me, purchasing new clothes to fulfill the look I thought I needed to succeed, paying for expensive lunches out with friends and colleagues to show my amiability. But as time went on, and I asked more questions, it felt less and less like I was striving for purpose and more like I was a small speck of metal making up part of the enormous bulldozer that is modern capitalism, plowing through every natural resource and logical argument along the way.
Once I started that job, a job that allowed me lots of paid time off, I spent at least a month each year traveling to new places. I got to see how people throughout the world lived, the majority on the equivalent of less than two US dollars per day. What I saw was not just relative financial poverty, but an undeterred resilience to live, create, and survive. A wealth of culture and community that still survived in ways from thousands of years ago, and adaptation to new ways after experiencing atrocities, after being taken advantage of, and after being forced to give up ancient ways of being.
I won’t ignore the immense challenges most people in the world face in terms of education, sanitation, access to food and safe drinking water, and fear for their safety and basic human rights. What I will say is that I believe our natural tendency as a species is toward peacefulness, survival, and togetherness. As I traveled, I experienced nothing but hospitality and connection from people who had every right to hate me for my position of privilege and my ignorance toward the role I was playing in their culture. Because of that hospitality, and because of my privilege of not worrying about my basic needs, I was able to begin to understand why my simply being there, spending the exorbitant amounts of money I was being paid, was a danger to every culture and community I was welcomed into.
By traveling to a place, you become part of their economy, but typically only for a very short period of time. If you travel to a place where the average person makes exponentially less money than you do, and then you go around spending that money like it is nothing, then you begin to change the economy of that place. It adapts because people realize that you can afford to pay more for the services that they are being paid very little for. The problem is that, because of our current economic systems, very few people end up benefiting from the change in that economy, and usually it is the people with the least ethics that benefit most. Those that don’t benefit from the increases in income end up getting priced out of their own communities because more and more people begin to travel there, possibly buying property, vacation homes, and never taking the time to fully understand the implications of their spending money in that place. It’s the basics of gentrification.
People lose the ability to buy shelter and land, they lose the ability to provide for themselves. Then the resources they newly rely on become more expensive, they get priced out of their own health. Eventually, if they don’t adapt to the changes, they get priced out of the place altogether by rising rents and costs of living. It’s a vicious cycle that repeats itself over and over again throughout our world. But the privileged don’t notice it, because they’re not priced out, yet.
Worst of all, we now realize that our planet is heating at a rate greater than any time in recorded history. Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, fresh water and soil are disappearing, and we are rapidly destroying the resources that sustain all life on this planet, the oceans, the forests, the soil, the vital links in the global chain of ecosystems. And once again, those with the most privilege, the most power, have to deal with the consequences last. Sadly, we are not historically a species that preempts disaster.
So what does all of this existentialism have to do with the way we price our spoons and pottery?
We don’t want to get rich, and we don’t think you should either
We have no desire to live a busy life in New York City, nor where I grew up, in Seattle. Most of the larger cities in the world are completely unsustainable, and have gotten to the point where the average person cannot afford to live in them. We want to live in rural Ireland so that we can afford to own a home in our lifetime. We want to try to live entirely off of the few acres we will eventually own, and to reduce our costs as much as possible so that we can sell our products at affordable prices to the average person in our community.
Our global economies have been in the hands of people who, for hundreds of years, have profited from either not telling us, or lying to us about how much it actually costs to produce something, all the while driving down the price they pay to the people who actually make it. They have been continually moving production to countries that can produce their products at the cheapest price, with the cheapest labor, without taking any time to consider the environmental and human ethics of doing so. The effects of that business philosophy have been catastrophic. From child labor, to collapsing factories, to widening global income inequality, to the global climate crisis, it can all be traced to one very simple explanation: Profit.
We price our products based on science, psychology, and the communities we are a part of
We base the amount we pay ourselves on the amount that it costs us to live a healthy, stress-free life in the community we are a part of. We hope to be based in a rural part of southern Ireland, southwest of the city of Cork. Using Numbeo, a website that tracks cost of living around the world and then compares those places to the cost of living in New York City, we can see that Cork has a cost of living index of 81.43. What this literally means is that in order to live the same life you might have chosen to live in New York City, you need to make about 81.43% of the income you would have made in New York City.
Using other data from a study in the journal Nature, which studied income satiation (the point at which more money no longer makes you happier), we can see that the average point at which income satiation happens for “emotional well-being” is between 60,000 and 75,000 USD. Using the high end of the scale and then multiplying it by .8143, we can estimate that in order to reach a state of high emotional well-being near where we hope to live, we should make about 61,072 USD per year per person. This currently, on July 30, 2020, equates to about 51,560 euros per year per person.
We incentivize ourselves to make our products less expensive
If we want to hit our goal of paying ourselves about 61,000 dollars per year, we would have to pay ourselves almost $30 per hour, but that would put most of our products well out of reach of the average person in our community. To cover our costs and avoid overpricing our products, we set a base price of $20 for every product, then we add $15 per hour in 20 minute increments. This means that if we make less expensive products, we actually make more money. Here are some examples using products we have already made:
Example 1: Tea scoop | No. 69
Time taken to make: 20 minutes
Breakdown: Base fee ($20) + 20 minutes ($5)
If I could carve and sell these tea scoops every 20 minutes for eight hours each day. I would have a gross revenue of $600 per day, or $156,000 per year.
Example 2: Cooking spoon | No. 40
Time taken to make: 2 hours
Breakdown: Base fee ($20) + 2 hours ($30)
In comparison, if I took two hours to carve and sell each product, I would have a gross revenue of $200 per day, or $52,000 per year.
These examples are at extreme ends of the spectrum. It is physically challenging to be able to carve for eight hours every day. I also don’t believe I would enjoy always trying to make a product every twenty minutes. That is why we have adopted this pricing structure. It allows us freedom to do a variety of work while also encouraging us to keep our prices low for our customers.
The real cost of our products
In reality, pricing is much more complicated than just paying ourselves a salary. We have to account for the costs of tools, maintenance, packaging, shipping, rent/mortgage, insurance, advertising, admin, design, and all of the other things that every business has to manage. We consider ourselves a 100% transparent business, so we will be sharing all of our costs and profits with you over time. Since we are only getting started right now (I’m writing this on July 30, 2020), we don’t have everything figured out, but we aim to create, at least, an annual transparency and sustainability report.
Additionally, our products have benefits and costs that are not just financial. The wood we use to carve our products comes from trees that take carbon out of the air and store it inside of their cells. By making products from a rapidly renewable resource like wood, and then keeping them from decaying for a lifetime, we successfully create a carbon sink. That is of great value to humanity at the moment. I’m certainly not saying that we can solve global heating by carving spoons, but if more companies accounted for living capital, or the income and expenses of natural materials, then our world would likely be in a much better state.
Our products also have experiential value. The activities we do and the products we use every day have an effect on us. The blue light coming from the screen that you are reading this from changes your circadian rhythm if you use it too late in the day, and doing small acts of mindfulness, noticing the small things, throughout your day is shown to decrease stress and increase levels of life satisfaction. If these things are true, then it doesn’t seem at all far fetched to think that buying and using products that you know are hand made locally and created and shipped using only sustainable, recyclable, and compostable resources will make you feel more satisfied in your life. Of course, this isn’t scientific, but it is logical, and we believe you should always feel good about doing things that help small businesses and the planet.
These other forms of capital we talk about, living and experiential, come from an article titled 8 Forms of Capital by Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua. These two writers and permaculturists argue that part of the reason why our world is in shock at the moment is because businesses only account for one type of capital, financial, but that financial capital is only a small part of the world that we live in, and that we should all strive to account for the many other types of capital that we are constantly dealing with and trading. We encourage you to read the original article, as it is a very interesting take on modern business.
The reason we care
If you’ve found our shop, you probably know enough about the world to realize how much self improvement we need to do as a species. The difficulty for many of us seems to be turning our thoughts and words into action. After working for some of the least transparent and most profitable businesses in the world, and realizing that they care about no one but their chief executives and shareholders, we are stepping away from the status quo and trying to show people that business can be done differently.
We want strong, local communities built on regenerative economies and ecosystems. We want to grow, and enjoy, our food in a way that doesn’t destroy the soil it comes from. We want to leave our small corner of this planet better than when we found it. If you agree, we hope you choose to support us by buying one of our unique, hand made products or telling a few friends about us. If you have any questions about our pricing structure or how we run our business, please feel free to contact us.
Man is the most extravagant accelerator of waste the world has ever endured. His withering blight has fallen upon every living thing within his reach, himself not excepted; and his besom of destruction in the uncontrolled hands of a generation has swept into the sea soil fertility which only centuries of life could accumulate, and yet this fertility is the substratum of all that is living.—F.H. King, Farmers of Forty Centuries, 1911