The online marketplace is the 'birthplace' of the movement, she says, but Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Survey Monkey similarly shatter old top-down business strategies.

The Grommet, an online marketplace and product-discovery platform, calls itself “The birthplace of citizen commerce.” The approach, which allows consumers to use their collective power to buy products from companies that reflect their values by voting with their dollars, has helped the company gain a following of 3.5 million consumer supporters.

Internet Retailer recently got the lowdown from Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. Her responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO, The Grommet

Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO, The Grommet

What is “citizen commerce?”

“Right now the best ideas aren’t winning. Right now big companies are getting better at selling but worse at bringing you things worth buying. That’s where The Grommet comes in. We shine a light on great ideas and the people behind them and arm them with the tools that the big guys have… What we bring you… It’s a choice. It’s a future. It’s a world where better ideas win.”

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How did the term come about?

“It’s a term that we trademarked several years ago. It was early days in the business, and I was fundraising and pitching a potential investor in Philadelphia, and he listened to what I had to say about what we were doing. He said, ‘This reminds me of citizen journalism, it reminds me of citizen science… But you’re taking on business. You’re taking on giving people a way to sort of permeate and shape business in a very individual way. That sounds like citizen commerce.’ It was one of those light-bulb moments. It was such a gift.”

How does the notion of “citizen commerce” play out in the broader digital industry?

“The term described to me a broader movement that, say, Kickstarter and Indiegogo would be part of. These are businesses that enable other businesses and individuals to participate in shaping what succeeds. Instagram [has] become such a phenomenon for product discovery for individuals—particularly with direct-to-consumer products. But it would be also represented by a company like Survey Monkey, where you can do credible market research.”

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