Wren Maczka was nervous about putting the first pairs of arm warmers and fingerless gloves on her Etsy shop that mostly sold trim and lace.
“I knew I liked my stuff. And I knew my friends liked my stuff,” said Maczka, 29, whose Etsy shop, Zen and Coffee Design, is now filled with hundreds of her glove designs, which range from white lacy bridal and black satin corsets to casual stripes and one-color sets. “It is different with someone you don't know.”
Three-and-a-half years later, Maczka spends her days — and sometimes nights — checking for orders, communicating with customers and designing and sewing from her Raleigh, N.C., home studio. She has sold hundreds of her “arm warmers and fingerless gloves for all seasons and styles” to people across the globe. About half of her orders go to Canada, but she also has customers in Great Britain, Australia, Norway and Italy.
Maczka is among the more than 900,000 sellers on Etsy, an online marketplace where people sell handmade and vintage goods that include jewelry, candles, clothes and art. It has more than 300 million members in 200 countries.
The Etsy community generated more than $895 million in sales in 2012. Sellers pay a listing fee of 20 cents for each item added to their shop, and Etsy retains 3.5 percent of the sale.
While Maczka is happy selling just on Etsy, other artists and small-business owners use it to supplement their sales, test their market, get ideas from customization requests and as a steppingstone to wholesale or a larger marketplace.
“Just because you open an Etsy shop, it doesn't mean at all that sales will just roll in. You have to spend just as much time bringing your own traffic to it,” said Kiona van Rhee, who designs and sells her jewelry wholesale through her Raleigh company, Lucky Accessories, to about 40 stores across the nation.
Van Rhee uses her Etsy shop as her retail outlet for her handmade items, which include colorful enameled “lucky penny pendants” and a “peapod” line with freshwater pearls wrapped in silver.
Etsy newcomers can get started by turning to its “Seller Handbook,” the marketplace's business education blog, and by joining Etsy “Teams,” which are self-organized groups that can provide support, Dana Mauriello, Etsy's director of new business opportunities, wrote in an email.
“It's more than just listing a few items in their shop,” Mauriello wrote. Sellers need to spend time thinking about their brand and their target audience, then take steps to engage with the community.
Once an Etsy shop is set up, sellers should think about other ways to expand their business, she said.
“They can consider adding customized items to their shop, look into wholesale opportunities, or marketing opportunities,” Mauriello wrote. “We encourage our seller community to utilize all resources to help grow their businesses.”
Van Rhee learned about Etsy shortly after it was founded in 2005. At first, only crafters knew about the site, van Rhee said, and she used her Etsy shop to sell clearance items.
After a few years, van Rhee noticed customers at shows asking if she had an Etsy shop.
“Then I started to pay a lot more attention and put a lot more products there,” she said.
Van Rhee also experimented with the way she advertised, and found she had a lot more sales when ads directed people to her Etsy shop versus her website.
Over the years, the quality of items and the competition on Etsy has increased, but van Rhee has stuck by the company as it has incorporated improvements that have made it easier for her to accept coupons and print shipping labels.
“I just really like what they do, and I really like how they grow,” she said. “In general, I think they are a huge part of the average consumer buying handmade goods.”
Etsy Inc., an online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, will let its sellers use outside manufacturers and hire as many employees as they need, loosening rules amid confusion over requirements.
The change will allow sellers that cultivated their businesses on Etsy to keep expanding on the site, Chief Executive Officer Chad Dickerson said last week. It will also permit moves that were previously forbidden, such as employing people in another location or producing goods in a factory.
Etsy is home to about 1 million sellers, some of whom are struggling to keep up with demand for their products, the company said. Under the new policy, sellers will have to disclose their business relationships and apply to use manufacturing services. Etsy will try to ensure that goods sold on the site still meet its definition of “handmade.”
“It's no secret that our community has struggled for a long time with Etsy policies,” Dickerson said. “We realized that as the community grows, the policies that we created that frankly didn't work well when the community was smaller were bursting at the seams.”
In order for something to qualify as handmade, a seller has to have “authorship” of a good — meaning it wasn't purchased somewhere else to be resold. The seller also has to take responsibility for the production process.
On the store pages set up by sellers, they'll need to disclose partners and manufacturers to be transparent about how their businesses are structured. That will help prevent the community from finger-pointing at suspected rule breakers, Dickerson said in a blog post. – Bloomberg News