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|Articles - December 2011|
|Tuesday, November 15, 2011|
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By Jennifer Roland
Oregonians are buying artisan, whether it is gloves they purchase from a crafter on the website Etsy, home-brewed beer they buy from a co-worker, or specialty cheese they pick up at a farmer’s market. Add to the list: handcrafted bar soap.
The growth in the number of Oregon’s artisan soapmakers has been impressive over the past 25 years. In 1986, when Laurie Fiesel of Laurelstone Soaps in Oregon City began selling her handcrafted soap, she found only two other soapmakers in the state. Now there are 125 active businesses registered with “soap” in the name in the state. The industry’s only trade association, the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, has seen steady national growth of about 150 members per year for the past six years, says Marie Gale, former president of the guild and owner of Chandler’s Soaps in Broadbent. Oregon is a national player in the handcrafted soap market; the guild’s 2012 conference will be held in Portland in May.
Oregon’s soapmakers sell their wares at craft and county fairs, retail locations and on Etsy. Although Etsy is only one channel in the market for handcrafted products, it has been a poster child for the handcrafted movement. The company doesn’t take credit for creating the movement, but it serves as a representative snapshot of the market. Since it launched in 2005, Etsy sales have grown to more than $300 million each year and are on track to top $400 million this year. Handcrafted soaps make up about 6% of the products currently offered for sale on Etsy.
Within this market niche, variety has grown with the number of producers. Fiesel’s flagship soaps are made with goat’s milk, and Gale’s are known for including no animal products. The price point for most handcrafted soaps is similar, about $4–$6 per bar, compared to as low as $1 for other bar soaps, so consumer preference for a particular formulation or fragrance is usually the deciding factor. Jamie Futoran, owner of Soap Dreams in Medford, which is known for the use of beer in its soaps, says she initially worried the market was oversaturated, “but once I got to a certain point, it just didn’t feel like competition.”
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Oregon Business reports on the visa squeeze, the skills gap and foreign-born residents who are revitalizing rural Oregon.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.
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