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The 21st century cottage economy model that reunites work and home.

Kathryn Lukas-Damer & Erin Szuma

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. –Buckminster Fuller

change is inevitable Now more than ever, we have the resources, skills, and wisdom to imagine and build something better – together. We don’t need to be economists to imagine new models that allow us to do business with our neighbors. Information age technologies provide the opportunity to completely reimagine how we we work and live together. There is no need to tear systems down. Instead, we must leverage our collective strengths to create new homegrown models that coexist peacefully with the system. Models that, in addition to measuring economic wealth, also use metrics to value human and societal wellbeing. Models that prioritize and encourage human flourishing. But before we start building, let’s take a moment to assess where we are now...

the market economy a very brief history:

and women

Capitalism is an economic framework introduced by Adam Smith in 1776. His free market model is characterized by private ownership of labor and production and the pursuit of profit. The market economy is the operating system that provides the decentralized processes through which capitalist goals are achieved. The market economy found its roots in the industrial era as production of goods transitioned from the agrarian-based cottage economy to factory production. During this time, capitalism became the dominant economic model and catalyzed unprecedented economic growth. It spearheaded urbanization, birthed the middle class, and laid the groundwork for the extraordinary wealth and comfort that the developed West enjoys today. The market economy brought about profound changes for women, radically reshaping their roles and responsibilities. Before its rise, women's labor was primarily centered in the home, with tasks like food production, textile making, and other domestic work, demanding long, strenuous hours. Industrial era technologies like washing machines, refrigeration, automobiles and the availability of ready-made goods dramatically reduced the time women spent on domestic labor. The market economy opened up new avenues for employment, allowing women to participate more actively in the public sphere and to seek financial independence. Although the shift from the agrarian era to the industrial era’s market economy pulled women away from their homes and families, it undeniably played a positive role in broadening their horizons, giving them greater agency and choice in both personal and public spheres. For all its benefits, capitalism and the market economy are not without problems, placing a disproportionate emphasis on profit over human, societal and planetary well-being. And because the market owns and controls the means of production and labor, women are often forced to leave their homes and their children in order to earn income in the market economy.

long supply chains impact our wallets and well-being

Long and complex supply chains drive inflated prices for consumers and put food security at risk, should they fail. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, global supply chains can account for up to 90% of production costs, driving up the retail prices. Corporations often prioritize profits over healthy ingredients, humane treatment of animals and environmental stewardship. Foods produced at scale are more affordable but are often highly processed and/or lacking essential nutrients. Companies often heavily market these unhealthy products, which has adverse effects on public health. Government subsidies can sometimes lead to market distortions. In agriculture, subsidies favor conventional farming, influencing the final prices of goods in the market and putting smaller, more sustainable producers at a distinct disadvantage. Inefficient and corporate-influenced regulatory bodies hinder competition, allowing monopolistic practices and price manipulation. This, along with excessively high regulatory fees and unreasonable requirements, hinders small producers' ability to compete on price. The erosion of community bonds is partly due to an increased reliance on distant supply chains. Market economy options isolates us, weakening connections with neighbors we once relied on, and can diminish our sense of community and belonging. The cumulative effect of these factors can disproportionately impact the prices of essential goods and services, making high quality options unaffordable for many individuals and families.

drawing inspiration from our past and the future In our first chapbook, Hearthstory, Kathryn recounts noticing a disturbing trend during her travels: as cultures modernized and women moved from the domestic sphere into market economy jobs, the knowledge, wisdom and expertise they had once been revered for seemed to lose its social status. Inspired by the traditional cultures she loved and the wise women who kept them alive, Kathryn developed a line of healthy fermented foods and launched a natural food company in 2008. She was soon frustrated with the high cost of getting her product to market knowing that her healthy foods were often unaffordable for the people she'd hoped to reach. Around this time, she was also thinking about some of her girlfriends who had so much love to offer, but who had never had children. Instead, they had spent their lives drifting between unsatisfying jobs in the market economy just to make ends meet. She thought about her own life, and about her son who didn’t have brothers or sisters because she had devoted herself to cooking and entertaining in the market economy instead of building her own family.

The future is not in building a new tower of Babel, but in cultivating well trodden paths from house to house –Raimon Panikkar

an idea is born Still involved in the food business, Kathryn had been keeping a close eye on the ‘sharing’ economy model (like and, but once again, saw too many hands in the cookie jar and too many people getting rich off the backs of ordinary workers. When the blockchain and something called Decentralized Autonomous Organizations came on her radar, she was intrigued. DAO’s are essentially legal structures with no central governing body whose members share a common goal to act in the best interest of the entity. She soon realized that this model was unnecessarily complex for what she was imagining. Online direct-to-consumer models like goodeggs were also interesting, but again, she discovered the prices were out of reach for most people. Then, while speaking at an event and recalling a home-based restaurant she used to frequent in Mexico – a mother and daughter venture where the neighbors would show up every day for lunch – something clicked. During her time studying traditional food systems, Kathryn visited many women owned, home-based restaurants, all of them in second and third world countries. Much like the cottage businesses of the agrarian era, these women were integrating childcare and homemaking with income-earning right from their homes. Why couldn’t we do the same in the US and other first world countries? A Neighbor-to-Neighbor concept started to take shape in her mind – a model that could not only drastically cut traditional business overhead, but also provide a platform for householders and mothers for a wide variety of businesses.

how we re-value, re-think and re-source home and hearth in the new era A PRIMER:

What if, right in your neighborhood, a skilled expert could provide you with any number of services or goods like childcare and homemade food to help your family flourish?

Or, perhaps you're interested in building a home-based cottage business that meaningfully contributes to your family’s income and helps others in your community flourish?

Wouldn't it feel great to know that some of your money went directly into the pockets of neighbor families and enriched your local community?

What if, together, we could build strong relationships within our immediate communities through networks that we control and manage ourselves?



Domesteconomy (noun) [doh-mest-ih-kawn-uh-mee] Definition: A business or economic model in which homemade products and services are produced and purchased within the domestic sphere, usually involving small groups situated in close geographic proximity. This contrasts with the market economy, where larger-scale, impersonal transactions take place. While a market economy typically relies on vast networks of suppliers, consumers, and intermediaries that are often spread across great distances, a domesteconomy emphasizes localized trade, direct community interaction, and minimal transportation or distribution chains.

Usage: Homemade foods, crafts and services sold to neighbors or local community members are often part of a domesteconomy, drawing a sharp distinction from mass-produced items available in the broader market economy. The local farmers market operates on a domesteconomy model, with neighborhood growers selling directly to nearby residents.

Related Terms: Localism - A preference or policy of local production and consumption of goods. Microeconomy – An economic system that operates on a small scale, typically referring to the economic activities of an individual, household, or community. Hyperlocal - Relating to or focused on a very specific geographic community or audience.

Etymology: From ‘domestic,’ meaning home or native to a country, and ‘economy,’ referring to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

a new vision starts to add up But there was a legal hurdle – selling homemade goods and services to neighbors was mostly prohibited in her state.

30 affordable meals 3 X per week = $45,000 net income

According to Kathryn’s projections, by serving 30 affordable meals three times a week at an affordable price per meal, a home-based restaurant could net around $45K annually, with impressive net margins of around 50% as opposed to the 4-6% in the market economy. The financial projections were consistent across almost every business she evaluated. In this model, producers not only earn a fair wage but also retain a significant portion of their profits, free from the burdensome expenses typical of the market economy. Consumers benefit from more affordable pricing, and crucially, money stays within the community, bolstering the local economy.

With a little more research, she discovered a potential solution. A model similar to a DAO but without the blockchain. A decentralized, community owned, Neighbor to Neighbor Network, with enough members for Householders to sell their goods and services to but small enough for everyone to know each other. Together, these hyperlocal Neighbor to Neighbor businesses would form a DOMESTECONOMY and a new way for householders and mothers to make a living while making home.

it just makes cents a tale of two hearths LAURA earns $52,000 per year working 40 hours per week outside of her home

OLIVIA, a householder, earns $52,000 per year from her NTN Network business and has a flexible schedule.





INCOME TAX (32%)....


BUSINESS TAX (15%)....










In addition to her eight hour workday and daily commute, Laura comes home to an additional four hours of work in her home. She's exhausted, missing out on valuable time with her children, all for less than half the net income of her neighbor Olivia who works from home.

Between caring for other children in her NTN Network and her clothing business, Olivia is able to generate income in her home, while looking after her own kids.


NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR NETWORK the hyperlocal commerce upgrade for the information age THE NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR NETWORK MODEL reimagines our ancestors’ cottage economy with an information age upgrade that meets the needs of modern families. Our vision is a homemade alternative to marketmade products and services that unites producers and consumers in a home-based "sharing" economy model. Unlike profit-driven models such as, or, where the producers must share their profits, Neighbor to Neighbor Networks are decentralized and owned and operated by its members, a win-win approach that prioritizes human flourishing over profits.

NETWORK MEMBER CONSUMERS reap the benefits of higher quality products and services, at more affordable prices than the market can deliver because many of the financial barriers between producers and consumers are reduced or eliminated.

NETWORK MEMBER PRODUCERS (HOUSEHOLDERS) benefit by earning more money, working fewer hours from home than they could in the same jobs in the market economy. This empowers householders and mothers to shape fulfilling lives that align with their needs, rather than the market's demands.

the model in action

Picture a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box filled with organic, local produce from a nearby farmer. Now imagine that is also filled with homemade bread, pastries, and granola. Or how about adding in artisanal cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, or even pantry staples like ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, and pickles. Consider beverages such as kombucha, fresh juice, or keto coffee concoctions. Think about homemade cleaning supplies and beauty care products. What if you could also include ready-to-eat dinners for the upcoming days? All crafted by local householders at prices more affordable than their market-made counterparts. And imagine making your purchases seamlessly from your phone in the comfort of your home. This is just a small sampling of all of that is possible within the Neighbor to Neighbor Network model. Sounds too good to be true, right? The answer is yes and no. Depending on where you live, this is either entirely realistic or completely illegal. In either case, there's also the operational challenge of connecting producers with consumers, then consolidating products into a single box and distributing. Yet, orchestrating this within the Neighbor to Neighbor Network framework is simpler than you might think.

the community in action While anyone can start a Network in any community anywhere, a Network coordinator/founder should have excellent organizational and communication skills and a space where community members can meet to pick up their boxes. This person is effectively the manager of the membership and will also likely be a producer.

The Neighbor to Neighbor Network model is a membership based community of approximately 150 people including children. This figure aligns with British anthropologist Robin Dunbar's theory, which proposes this number as a cognitive threshold for the number of individuals one can sustain meaningful social relationships with. As part of the legal strategy, intended to eliminate or reduce obstacles like unreasonable and/or expensive fees and regulations that typically stand between producers and consumers, the membership model should include an application and screening process along with a small monthly fee ($25-30). How the fee is allocated is at the discretion of the community and can be used for any number of things including paying a coordinator to manage orders, build infrastructure (like extra refrigeration) or even small loans to new householder businesses.

Producers make their offerings available to members through an online portal that the coordinator manages. Once Members place their orders, producers fill the orders by dropping off their goods at the coordinator’s home (could be a community location as well). The coordinator assembles the goods into boxes and sets a time when members can pick up their goods hopefully bumping into each other and sharing a story or a cup of coffee while there. Much like agrarian era villages where everyone knew everyone, the close proximity between producers and consumers in this model means that transparency and reputation drive high levels of trust and quality products. This model works much the same way with services.

how it stacks up

market economy vs. domesteconomy core values Prioritizes productivity, efficiency, and profit. Economic value is determined by the supply and demand of goods and services.

Prioritizes productive households and caregiving. Values human flourishing and activities that sustain the human family.

value of work Values competition, constant growth, sometimes at the expense of the individual, society and the planet.

Resurgence of appreciation for hearth values like nurturing, family life, interdependent communities, and sustainability.

concept of home Often regards the home as a consumer space or an asset, with its value determined by market forces.

Views the home as a multifaceted space beyond physical walls, focusing on connection, nourishment, wisdom and care.

balance between work and home Emphasizes workforce participation and worker productivity, often at the cost of personal or family time.

Reunites work and home. Advocates for a balance between market participation and essential hearth-related activities.

metrics used to value work and home Uses market metrics that undervalue non-market roles, placing a premium on roles that generate market salaries and shareholder value.

Uses human and societal well being metrics to value the essential labor of householders and provides a pathway to income within the domestic economy.

economic strategy Targets economic growth, equity, and wealth generation, sometimes at the expense of our personal and societal well being and without regard for sustainability metrics.

Aims for economic, personal and societal well-being through a sustainable domestic economic model that prioritizes homemade over marketmade.

in closing While all Neighbor to Neighbor Network members benefit from our envisioned model, householders and mothers stand the most to gain when we reunite work and home. This model empowers them to create home-based businesses that increase their financial resilience while providing them with the flexible schedules they need to manage their busy households and/or care for their children. It also provides a way for families to transition from the reliance on two market incomes and the heavy burden of childcare expenses. As Householder Feminists, we are committed to finding realistic, deployable solutions for the householders who provide so much love and care to our human family. We know that when they thrive, our communities and all of society flourishes along with them. We think this model is a good start towards that goal. If you’re interested in starting a prototype Network in your own community, Hearth Matters will provide the support and guidance you need to get started. A HOW TO GUIDE for how to start your own NTNN is in the works.

UP NEXT stay tuned for the next chap book in The Hearth Matters Series, where we’ll introduce our how-to guides for householders gain the education, skills, training, mentorship, and resources needed to start a Neighbor to Neighbor Network of your own. For now, read A Tale of Two Hearths, a short story about what family life can look like when we reunite work and home in a Neighbor to Neighbor Network.




We envision a world where mothers and householders are empowered with the respect, knowledge and resources necessary to create nurturing homes, and every child is given the essential care they need to thrive.

We are on a mission to improve the social and economic status of mothers and householders by reuniting home and work.

OUR INITIATIVES REVIVE HOME & HEARTH CHAMPION THE DOMESTIC SPHERE We embrace the philosophy of early feminists who viewed home as a sanctuary that required loving and skilled leadership, and saw the roles of householders as essential to human well-being. Our goal is to reintroduce and amplify this perspective in our cultural consciousness through our podcast, social media, speaking engagements, strategic partnerships, and a forthcoming book. We also actively engage with tech leaders to ensure their technologies are aligned with human flourishing.

REUNITE WORK & HOME WITH A DOMESTECONOMY Our Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network model reimagines and upgrades our ancestors’ cottage economy by uniting producers and consumers in a homebased "sharing" economy model. This model prioritizes human flourishing and makes financial sense. Multiple NTN Networks form a Domesteconomy that coexists with the Market Economy.

REIGNITE THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT OF HOME Our business training program for home-based ‘cottage’ businesses provides a viable route for those trying to escape the ‘two-income trap,’ and significantly reduces the economic vulnerability of full and part-time householders and mothers.

TEACH HUMAN FLOURISHING The skills and knowledge required to manage a household, find a mate, start a family and successfully navigate the complexities of our new era are now largely absent in our academic institutions. Taking inspiration from both the practical skills taught in early Home Economics and the ‘whole person’ educational philosophy of the 19th century Scandinavian ‘Bildung’ movement, our 21st century version will aggregate online classes from best-inclass thinkers from around the world and blend them with our own courses to create a ‘Hearthology‘ curricula that teaches human flourishing.

how you can take action together we are strong

out more: Read/listen/watch the thinkers who inform and 1. Find inspire us in our resource library HERE. And be sure to read our full chapbook series HERE and share our nonprofit: Help us spread the word and 2. Support ignite a movement by subscribing to our Substack or making a donation. See our Case for Support for more information about our fundraising effort. tuned: More chapbooks are on the way and new episodes 3. Stay of our Hearth Matters podcast debut weekly. Stay in the know by following us on social media.


Join our movement: Does our vision spark you? Do you have skills or resources that could help us accelerate positive change for the future? Now is the time to build your voice into our mission and platform. Thanks so much for your time! We’re interested in connecting with researchers, householders, media and anyone interested in our work. With love, Kathryn & Erin Online: Email: On Social:

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