Building a Community, Building a Culture: An Interview with Big Cartel

February 16, 2017
Guest Post
Friend of Drafted

Big Cartel – a big family with a mission

The mission statement that headlines Big Cartel’s career page is concise: “We help artists make a living doing what they love”. The company is dedicated to giving artists successful eCommerce outlets by letting artists set up their own online shops to sell their work. Big Cartel arms its clients – a wide community of over a million artists and creators – with robust retail tools and sleek website design capabilities to create their unique digital space. Part of what makes the company so successful, and compelling, is the creative, individualistic culture that reflects the community they serve.

The crossroads of culture & community

Richard Laing joined Big Cartel in 2015 as Director of Community, after a career in the music industry that included work in radio and as Director of Sales for an alternative rock record label.

He currently sits at the intersection of Big Cartel’s artist community and the Big Cartel team culture.

“We’re building two things here at Big Cartel– We’re building a company, and we’re building a product to serve artists,” Richard told Drafted in a recent interview. “There’s a lot of focus on building internal culture and creating an environment that’s balanced and healthy, but then there’s also focus on building something external, something great for the people who are using what we’re making.”

Richard says he was struck by Big Cartel’s sincerity. The team showed dedication to treating all of Big Cartel’s customers well, just as they treated one another well. “We treat customers well from a core desire to run the business with that mentality. And not only because we think we can get more out of people, or get them to stick around longer. How we treat each other and how we treat our employees is super important to us.”

Taking a creative culture to the next level

Something unusual about the Big Cartel team is how decentralized it is. Only about a third of the company work in or around their headquarters in Salt Lake City, with the other two thirds across the country. Richard was initially concerned that the lack of direct communication would hamper a strong sense of culture, but the company has a strong commitment to being a connected, remote team.

He says they’re completely committed, “whether we’re sitting next to each other or halfway around the world.” Tools such as Slack and Trello help bridge the distance, and video calls are common.One of the factors that drives this level of commitment is that the company is almost entirely comprised of people, like Richard, who are artists themselves. One way that Big Cartel emphasizes this, is by blurring the lines between their community and team through and highlighting their team’s creativity through their “Meet Our Team” page.

In addition to a Jobs page that touts a 90-second video all about “believing in the artist”, Big Cartel’s Team Page looks more like an Instagram profile than a company’s typical staff page. A collection of square photos are laid out in a neat grid, names and titles written in white space underneath, almost resembling a scrapbook of Polaroids. Clicking on the photo plays a short, Vine-like video that each team member has made, introducing themselves in a unique snapshot.

big cartel team page

Above the photos, a short blurb proudly states that the company is built “by and for artists.” As much as Big Cartel serves artists, Big Cartel employees are artists. The scrapbook of looping videos shows employees with drums, guitars, sketchpads and skateboards, in their own creative element and often out of the office. The project was beginning right as Richard came on board, and everyone was given free reign for self-expression within their videos.

The page helps the artists express themselves and align with the companies values of individuality and commitment to art. Surprisingly, Big Cartel isn’t actively scouting for new hires. They’re 100% independently owned and operated, so customers and employees are the only stakeholders. Instead, they let their team’s artistry attract applicants who are impassioned by the Big Cartel cause and can work independently while contributing to the broader Big Cartel community.

It’s an intentionally blurred line between company culture and client community that serves the purpose of attracting the right talent, while staying true to their artistic roots and community.

“It’s important that when people come to our site,” Richard explained, “ that they not only understand what we are and what we offer, but who we are, and why we do it.”

About Drafted

At Drafted, we believe that your company network is your single biggest competitive advantage when it comes to hiring. Our mission is to make it easy for you to leverage your network in the hiring process to find the best candidates. Your network is already powerful, it’s just too much work to make it a priority over the day-to-day of recruiting. Companies that use Drafted see their employee referral numbers go up by 2x, their time to hire drop by 30% and their overall hiring efficiency increase significantly within just a few months.