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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Etsy Shop: Going for the Handmade Win!

 I was linked to this very interesting post about the "new etsy".

On wired.com, they posted:

Can Etsy Go Pro Without Losing Its Soul?

 Now go on over there and read the entire post for yourselves but this is what I mainly got out of it. 

It looks like as Etsy is growing and becoming a much bigger handmade art community, and thus changing the perks of a handmade goods shop. As my friend (who linked this article to me) said beautifully, "The new etsy wants to embrace the designing of ideas in addition to, and hopefully not in lieu of, the handcrafting of them."

Now how does this make you feel? Can you confide in that statement or do you feel like you are feeling/hearing this for the first time? How do you define handmade?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zsoD75oP7Cc/TPCeDcW91OI/AAAAAAAAE-w/6i2gxYOPu1w/s1600/Etsy+Handmade+Collage.jpg

Think about those shops that have booming business and how recently, etsy wrote a blog post about how you can hire people to help you with labor such as shipping. They even said we could open our shop to interns by posting on one of college board internship lists. Now... as cool as all of this sounds... I can't help but think that the "handmade" part of the business gets thrown out when you need to be on machine-mode to get your orders done and shipped. 

On busy days where I run around packaging orders, I get a rush of "Wow, this is a lot for one day. But how awesome. I get to make more things and re-stock! Yay!" But never do I ever feel like I need to sit around and restock all the time, make my shop beyond professional, and just spend all this time making a handmade goods shop look pro. No, I'm the shop that sends you fun samples and little handwritten notes in re-used boxes. I don't have perfect synchronized packaging or products and I probably never will. I have school and other responsibilities and customers understand that!

And isn't that the beauty of handmade?! The freshness, uniqueness, the one-of-kind experience?

http://mediadelivery.kidstylefile.com.au/2012/02/20120215-bestyofetsy.jpg 

According to this article, some etsy shop owners don't even have time to breathe. They have no time for themselves or their family... which is awful! I started selling my artwork for fun. This is all in the end hobby-based. Of course, I'm really glad that the shop covers my gas and food expenses (especially since I am a student) but I don't want the joy of crafting to be taken over by wholesale ideals. 

To insiders like Stinchcomb, Johnson is a foot soldier in the battle to revolutionize manufacturing: “The real opportunity for change: collaborative production,” he says. “You get a wholesale order and you have to make 100 sweaters. Could Etsy bring together 100 knitters in the community to produce those?”
Sure, but couldn’t that be loosely interpreted to mean “hire 100 workers in a factory somewhere to sew garments for you at a wholesale-friendly price”? It’s a question that the community is still wrestling with. In a forum on the Ecologica Malibu topic, the proprietor of the kachinadesigns shop wrote in April 2012: “Soooo. A designer can design a shirt. And send the plans to a SWEATSHOP in thailand and then SELL those products here and call them handmade? I bet Walmart will be happy to hear this news.”

I actually noted this fairly recently with shops that function like a wholesale store for mainly cosmetics and jewelry. I think some customers are starting to forget that etsy is handmade as well. I haven't had this problem yet since everything in the shop is already in stock but for people who put up listings and require custom order turn around time... it may become a problem. It seems weird to hire people to do labor for your handmade goods shop. It sounds like they just need to move to a more wholesale friendly platform and away from etsy at that point.

So where is etsy heading? Where are you heading as a shop owner or a customer?
For owners: do you still run your business under the same set of rules and ideals as you once did?
For customers: do you see etsy shops as small businesses that require time for production?



http://www.handmadeology.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/august-etsy-stats-2012.jpg

It's evident and inevitable that etsy is facing these problems. When people are unfamiliar with etsy, I tend to explain it as the ebay of handmade and vintage goods. No auctions, just purchases but the search and sale process typically works the same way. Maybe I need to stop saying that and say that it's just a site for handmade goods. To think that I associate ebay to be the equivalent of etsy but handmade makes me worry about how much I have changed as well...

The thing is... I am still a student and was just starting college when I got the shop going. I had no intention of quitting my day job like some of the etsy shop owners who now permanently work from home.

For shop owners who have etsy as a second responsibility, I feel as though we are safe in staying more grounded in these matters, because our shop doesn't need to transform for us. For a mother of three who knits during her spare time, her commitment is to her family with the extra perk of putting her hobbies to entrepreneurial use. For a handmade soap shop owner that also has a physical shop somewhere who wants to live off of making soaps, their priorities are to the shop. I don't know... it's all stuff to consider and to think about.

Sorry I jumped around a lot. This article covered a lot of information.

There is a growing concern as to how to define handmade, wholesale, and working around the sensitive lines of managing an etsy shop. I leave you with these thoughts so you can think about the wholesale industry and where our sources of labor come from. Do you think about where the shirt you are wearing was made or by whom? Would you have considered that handmade even if it's mass produced? Comment below!

Fairly recently, I was interviewed on a blog and they asked me what kind of advice I would offer to etsy shops and small businesses. What I said then applies well to this topic:

Don’t lose sight of what you want to accomplish with your shop. Don’t get caught up in quantity but quality and definitely take your time with the development of your shop. What you have to offer to the world may not get traffic as fast as another shop but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something special to offer. All good things take time!
Cheers,
Dana

25 comments:

  1. This is such a great post, Dana - jumping around or not! I've got to go and read that whole article at the top, because you've got me wondering what else it says.
    We started our Etsy shop as a hobby, something to do together as a family. As a shop owner, I pretty much have run the shop the same since opening. Like you, we don't have the same product packaging with each order, because we always change it up and use what we have on hand. We have some items in our shop that are custom, and people {usually} realize that it will take a bit longer to ship out than normal, because we work around my daughter's busy school schedule.
    As a customer, I do see Etsy shops as small businesses, but because it's a handmade community, I expect the shopping experience to be a bit more personal than shopping on eBay, for example. Because with Etsy, I'd like to assume that all sellers make their items with great care.
    And that IS the beauty of it - the handmade item, with the handwritten note, the extra care.

    Yep, that's my two cents for ya. Hope you're having a great day,
    Kim
    2justByou.blogspot.com

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  2. There is a lot to be said about this - we ship ourselves and don't use anything other than our own hands in production from sourcing to actually packaging and selling at the markets. The only things we outsource are photos, web stuff and advertising/marketing.

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