From Rags to Riches Using Etsy
If you don't know, Etsy is the worlds biggest online craft marketplace.
Etsy was conceived by Rob Kalin in early 2005 when he discovered that there was no viable online marketplace to exhibit and sell his creative creations. There were lots of e-commerce sites of course, but most of them tend to lean towards overstocked electronics, appliances, those kinds of things. But Rob wanted a site for crafters and artisans to sell their wares.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Etsy really wants to change the world. In fact, it is part of its mission statement. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson says that the company is seeking to create what he calls “an Etsy economy.” As he says, “An Etsy economy is a people powered economy with person to person commerce, it feels kind of like a farmers market instead of a supermarket. We want to bring the Etsy ethos into the larger retail ecosystem.”
And since it launched in 2005 the Brooklyn-based company has grown steadily. It now has over 25 million members, employs more than 400 people in the U.S. and abroad, and has helped facilitate transactions in nearly 200 countries with its member sales reaching over $1 billion dollars last year.
So let's look at how two microentrepreneurs have used Etsy to create their own rags to riches Etsy success stories.
1. $750,000 in Etsy sales
Amy Stringer-Mowat and her husband Bill Mowat have built a really interesting little business called A.Heirloom. The couple are both architects and for there wedding they decided to create some cutting boards that were shaped in the shape of different states. After their wedding they decided to take one of their state cutting boards and put it on Etsy and see what happened.
And what happened? Well, the business took off. Soon after first posting in May 2010 the Michigan shaped cutting board was featured on Etsy’s homepage called The Treasury. The Treasury had a themed collection of selected products by members and selected also by the Etsy merchandising team. Once it made it to The Treasury, A.Heirlooms product was noticed by a journalist from Real Simple who featured the boards on the magazine's holiday gift guide. Well, how great is that?
By the end of the year the couple had filled more than 3,000 orders at about $50 each. Someone from Real Simple found it and found it great, wrote about it. And to date, what happened? They’ve sold more than 30,000 boards and that includes, also, their own website. In 2012 gross sales grew more than 20% to $750,000. They employ other people and according to Amy she says, “We see ourselves at an Etsy brand. We were discovered on Etsy, we feel intensely loyal to Etsy, they’ve been so supportive of us as we’ve grown.”
Is there any downside to Etsy, according to Amy? Well, people do forget that it’s a product being made by a small company by hand, so it’s not going to arrive the next day. They don’t understand the extra effort that comes with having somethings that’s handmade, but that is the cool thing about Etsy. You make something handmade, people find it, that’s where they look for it, and look what happened with A.Heirloom.
More than $750,000 in sales.
2. “Suddenly all of my checks had an extra zero at the end.”
And what about Downing Pottery? Sarah Woodson created Downing Pottery several years ago and it grew slowly like so many small businesses do until Etsy contacted her about selling her mugs in its first new partnership with none other than Nordstrom. Yes, Etsy contacted Sarah and said, “Would you sell your pots with Nordstrom?”
So it started this way. A gallery owner asked Sarah to create a mug with the drawing of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle on it. And according to Sarah, she really has the drawing skills of a second grader. But she says that people loved them and they sold out right away. So from that success Sarah created her handmade neighborhood mugs that feature simple drawings of local landmarks selling for $36 each. They were really popular at art fairs and local shops and, as she says, “Suddenly all of my checks had an extra zero at the end.”
The Nordstrom's order was for 40 mugs and it sold out in a week. It’s next order was for 60 mugs and Woodson, who joined Etsy in 2006, works alone and needs about a month to make an order of 40 mugs. But Sarah says that her Etsy shop has been a boost in that the Nordstrom partnership has been incredible. It really has been a downside to selling her items on Etsy she says is that, “some people feel that its gotten to big and its easy to get lost in the mix but I haven’t found that, I’ve had great success on Etsy. And you know what? 25 million sellers can’t be wrong”