I've been lucky enough to turn my craft into my career - after making jam with my Gran as a hobby, I started selling it on a small scale in my neighborhood and have since built a company supplying over 2,000 supermarkets around the world. We’ve sold millions of jars and I’m really passionate about the idea that it is possible for anyone to start a small business at home, doing something they love, and maybe even turn it into their career.I recently met some of the guys behind the phenomenally successful site etsy.com. They have built an online market place, kind of like eBay, for artists, crafters and artisan producers to sell their handmade clothes, jewelry, art and home wares direct to consumers. It is a really simple concept and what is amazing about it is that it makes it possible for someone to start making greetings cards from their kitchen table, for instance, and open an online shop in no time.
The company was founded in 2005 by Robert Kalin, himself a furniture maker. He was trying to find a place to sell his furniture online when he had his eureka moment - he set out to create an online marketplace for people to buy and sell goods. He also had the vision of creating a place where artists like him could share advice and ideas with each other, online and off. He set out to create an online community about handmade goods.
Now, Etsy has grown into a community of hundreds of thousands of craft producers all over the world, selling their wares to tens of millions of registered Etsy users. What they’re all about is trying to get consumers to engage with the people who are making the products they are buying. They’re also keen for the artists to connect with each other.
Etsy opens up its offices, ‘Etsy Labs’, for the public to come in and learn how things are made and even have a go themselves. They also organize ‘meetups’ around the world for Etsy sellers to meet one another, share ideas and even work together on new products as ‘Etsy Teams’.
They’ve managed to build a really active community - who are super passionate about what they make - who are an amazing resource for the company. There are hundreds of thousands of people with a vested interest in Etsy’s success and they all do everything they can to help it grow.
With the help of its sellers and its shoppers, who are also really engaged, Etsy is growing at an amazing pace. The company sells almost $1bn of hand produced goods every year and was recently valued at over $300m. I find it really inspiring that such a huge company can be built from individual people making amazing products and selling them direct to consumers. Here’s the best bit - Etsy does all of this by taking only 3.5 percent of sales.
This is one of my articles on starting your own business, from my column on HotFrog. You can see them all here.