About our Founder and President, John A. Jacobs
I grew up in a home where we had to be crafty. Coming from a low income family with two brothers and one sister, I learned to cook, sew, play the piano and trumpet, and was very much involved with arts and crafts as a low-cost past time in a rural small town. My mom, Kay Jacobs was born with the creative bug and was a serial entrepreneur. But, she always had an uphill battle when it came to selling her wares to support her four children.
My mom's difficulty in selling her creations deeply affected the direction and course of my life. Seeing my mother struggle through failure motivated me to persevere through my own challenges. In fact the struggles that I experienced with my mother still drive me today. I recall traveling the U.S. with my parents to sell hand-made items at craft shows such as CHA (formerly HIA). At almost every show the best outcome was usually just to break even.
It became very clear that show promoters were the only ones profiting on the backs of artisans and crafters and essentially taxing the creativity of artists. In 1997 a new hope for the arts and crafting community was born as a humble and secret underground movement known only as "eBay". The Jacobs family became involved with eBay in 2000 when my mother Kay started listing her handmade designer jewelry on the site. Life on the road, traveling from show to show every weekend in an attempt to grow a fledgling business was finally over. But the tax on creativity remained and this new way of making money on the backs of the artists was just getting started...
At 19, after working in the scorching Arizona copper mines, I left Tucson to serve in the U.S. Air Force and modeling my parents drive, worked hard to both fulfill my service to the country and attend college full time. I graduated from Louisiana Tech University and then returned to Tucson after an honorable discharge from the Air Force. The strong family work ethic served me well as I took over the management of a remodeling and construction firm and continued my education by taking courses for an MBA. I met a future member of the artfire.com team in business school. Tony Ford and I spent many evenings after class talking about his work with community media and my frustrations with the way companies made money from artists by taxing their every sale.
After graduating with an MBA in International Business I started a small jewelry supply eBay company which rapidly grew to Titanium Power Seller status with over 80 employees and tens of thousands of daily auctions. Our core business developed and grew on line, however we found that our customer's challenges with selling finished designer jewelry grew as eBay and the Internet changed. As fewer artisans could make a living on eBay we noticed that many of our customers abandoned selling on eBay all together in search of a marketplace better suited for artisans.
On eBay I have personally felt the burden and constant grind of eBay's repression of sellers and domination over creativity. Sadly over the past several years, most of the brilliant crafts people and artisans to include my mother, have been brow beaten, over taxed, or displaced in return for their trust and loyalty to the eBay machine.
In early 2008 I decided to do more than just watch the artisans disappear from eBay and the Internet. I decided to build a place where creativity wasn't taxed. A community for the artisans, by the artisans that is not about fees and commissions, but about responding to the needs of the community first. A marketplace of collaboration, interaction, and creativity and a home where artisans of all genres can generate significant income from their creativity.
My mom, like other artisans, deserve better. Artisans deserve fairness, support, and empowerment. I want to use the skills I have learned and the success I have been fortunate enough to achieve to build just that community. Welcome to Art Fire!