When it comes to businesses, Jon Lincoln is a wide-ranging maker. The Boston-area entrepreneur has launched a comedy club, as well as a document manager for insurance companies. But his latest product is a maker marketplace with a difference.
Lincoln is the founder of Goimagine, where all after-tax profits go to charities that help children in need. He launched the company in January 2020. He said more than 3,000 makers now sell their wares on the platform. “In an economy that rewards greed over generosity we believe there’s an opportunity to harness the online economy to shift some of the focus from investor returns to providing social good,’’ his LinkedIn profile says.
Lincoln would be the first to say his shift from comedy club owner to maker marketplace is a journey. But the road he travels is simply a love for creating businesses. Still, the road got bumpy during his last turn. “I’ve been running my own businesses since I got out of college. My most recent company that I started six years ago was a software product for the insurance industry. And I had gone through multiple rounds of investment. But I quickly found myself in a position where I was an employee, as the CEO working day and night blood, sweat, and tears to grow a company that, if very successful, is going to make wealthy investors more wealthy,” he said.
That situation obviously didn’t sit well with Lincoln, especially as he considered how individuals were responding to the issue of income equality. “People are starting to recognize nowadays income inequality more than the exorbitant wealth the top is getting. And because of that, …. people are also making their own personal decisions more around that as well.”
With his love for starting businesses and his passion for creating marketplaces, Lincoln began to dream of a platform where buying and selling funded a greater good. He had a role model – Newman’s Own. For close to 40 years, the food company, started by actor Paul Newman, has been donating all its profits to non-profit organizations. Since 2005, those efforts have been channeled through Newman’s Own Foundation.
However, the idea of a maker marketplace came from Lincoln’s business partner and graphic designer Stephanie Romkey. “Every time I’ve run a company or started a company, I would talk to her about the branding, because she’s really good at marketing and branding. So going back two years, when I started thinking about Goimagine, I naturally went to her and I said, “I’m thinking about really building a marketplace that gives all profits to charity.”
Lincoln initially considered creating a service like Vrbo and AirBnB. But Romkey is a maker who vends at craft shows. When she shared her experiences since Etsy’s transformation, Lincoln realized an opportunity existed in the maker community.
“I started doing my own research on Etsy’s growth, and where they’re headed. And that’s when I started seeing, `Here’s a niche, I think we can open up.’”
He brought Romkey along with Bill Rowell, who has 20 years of experience as a full-stack web and e-commerce developer, on board as co-founders. “… I think we’re a good partnership to really build this company. If you have a company, that’s all tech, it won’t really resonate with the makers. If you have one that’s all makers, the tech might not be good.”
Lincoln launched the company with his credit card, understanding that his idea could very well fall flat. Eventually, he raised about $52,000 from makers who became investors in the company. “The good news was I threw it out there and started building the proof of concept. And it drew so many people into our community excited about it. And I want to be clear that the excitement from the maker community fuels me to keep going.”
Lincoln chose to help child advocacy organizations to avoid political or other controversies. After vetting charities in and around Boston, he settled on Horizons for Homeless Children, which helps youngsters under 5 who live in shelters.
In Oregon, makers directed Lincoln to Relief Nursery, which intervenes against child abuse. Jennifer Solomon is their director of philanthropy. She said the organization was impressed by Lincoln’s research on their mission.
“I appreciate Jon’s vision for Goimagine, his energy, his transparency, and of course, his passion for those struggling in our communities. This relationship is just beginning and I look forward to growing it. Honestly, the world could use more Jon Lincoln,” she said in an email. Solomon is also impressed by the community that Goimagine offers for the makers who participate on the platform. “Our Executive Director and I will be the guests on a September Facebook live event and we’re really looking forward to meeting the makers and sharing our story,” she said.
Lincoln’s expansion plans include craft fairs that align with the company’s mission. But his dream is to see other entrepreneurs walk the road he’s traveling. “Well, why can’t someone start an Airbnb that helps the rainforest? Why can’t someone start an eBay that helps cure cancer? “We want to prove a business model that works for marketplaces to help charities. And then that business model can be applied to marketplaces in so many areas.”
Afi Odelia Scruggs
Afi Scruggs is our staff writer. Afi is an award-winning multi-platform journalist and author who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Her articles and columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The U.S. edition of the Guardian, USA Today, and Essence magazine and on washingtonpost.com. Her audio segments have been broadcast on national NPR programs as well on local affiliates in northeast Ohio. She’s also written three books: Jump Rope Magic, published by Scholastic; a genealogical memoir, Claiming Kin: Confronting the History of an African-American Family; and an essay collection entitled Beyond Stitch and Bitch: Reflections on Knitting and Life. The New York Times Book Review called Jump Rope Magic a “magical, spunky book.” Afi learned to knit when she was 7 years old and to sew when she was 9. She’s forever working on reducing her stash.