Etsy: Turning Artists into Entrepreneurs, Passion into Possibility

  @cavanshays on January 31 2012 8:28 AM

Assuming the power to change the entire world economy is no small feat, but Etsy is doing just that. Created in 2005 by Rob Kalin, a painter, carpenter and photographer who found there was no practical marketplace in which to sell his handiwork, Etsy now boasts over 12 million active members, 1.5 million Twitter followers and $467.8 million in sales through November 2011.

Etsy is the classic Little Engine That Could story. After all, Etsy was built not on a mountain, but on a molehill; supporting David, not Goliath. Its mission statement says it all:

Our mission is to empower people to change the way the global economy works. We see a world in which very-very small businesses have much-much more sway in shaping the economy, local living economies are thriving everywhere, and people value authorship and provenance as much as price and convenience. We are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.

Promoting the creative genius of even the smallest of businesses has proven to be a brilliant business plan. Etsy is now flourishing - with 12+ million users, 25 million unique visitors per day, 1+ billion page views per month, 1.5 million Twitter followers, 800,000+ active shops, 11+ million items, 150 countries and over 570,000 Facebook likes. Whew.

Aside from the abstract numbers, Etsy is actually changing lives - turning crafters into entrepreneurs, passion into possibility.

Take MJ Handcrafted Jewelry made by Etsy user Mary-Jane Santaite. As a stay-at-home mother of three, Santaite never had plans to start her own business. Always passionate about fashion and styling, she became intrigued by the opportunities presented by Etsy and began selling her own handmade, customized jewelry.

I wouldn't have made the move to sell if it wasn't for Etsy. There really aren't any other platforms like Etsy, it provides everything necessary beyond the creative process, said Santaite.

She began selling her designs - bracelets, necklaces and earrings made with semi-precious gemstones, beads, silk thread, metals, skull/Buddha beads and more - in August. Etsy was the natural choice for setting up shop.

 The interface is very user friendly.  It is easy to add and update my items. Adding PayPal to the checkout process makes it even more convenient; I can print my shipping label and let my customers know their purchase is on its way.

With over 12 million users, 11 million listed handmade items in over 100 countries online, one might assume that Etsy is an depersonalized entity. Conversely, it is anything but. Etsy has offices in DUMBO, Brooklyn; Hudson, NY; San Francisco; and Berlin. Etsy Labs, educational and event spaces for D.I.Y. and artist communities, are located in Brooklyn and Berlin. They exist as pop-up events in Hamburg, Munich, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, Cali. These home bases locations anchor the global Etsy community.

Online, the Etsy community is more close-knit than one might think. The Etsy community is interactive.  For example, I can 'favorite' other shop owners items and keep them in my 'circle,' said Santaite. When there are new items in their shop I am notified.  The crafters are receptive to each other and respectful of each other's shops.

Step by step, Etsy is successfully changing the way the global economy works; or, at least, changing the mindset of consumers. I've browsed and shopped on Etsy, it is such a pleasure to see such beautiful handmade items.  There are so many talented artists.  Etsy makes shopping so convenient and is consumer friendly.  So the decision to sell my jewelry on Etsy was an easy one, said the MJ Handcrafted Jewelry founder.

Without Etsy, many artists would not have a place to sell their goods. Etsy takes away the painstaking apprehension of starting a small business and promotes the passion within each crafter.

I wouldn't consider my own store.  Opening a store for a small jewelry line would not be profitable.  Online retail gives me more time to do what I enjoy and create new pieces.  It also has a much larger market and Etsy users are the ideal market, said the Mary-Jane Santaite.

I consider my venture more artistic than entrepreneurial. But, since I am selling my pieces on Etsy, I guess my venture is entrepreneurial as well. Most of all I enjoy making each piece of jewelry; and knowing someone else can enjoy it is so gratifying. 

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