Etsy, the online store for handmade items and vintage (pre-1990) goods, had 1.4 million registered vendors in January 2015 with sales topping $1.9 billion. This year Mission joined Austin and Dallas as the only Texas cities allowed to present the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship program. The Mission EDC negotiated to present the five-session training course, which is designed to help small craft entrepreneurs strengthen the business side of their operations. Alex Meade, Mission EDC CEO, said the goal is simple. “We hope to get more businesses started.”
The training, which also supports active Etsy shopkeepers, was led by successful Valley Etsy vendor Rebecca Monroe. She sells custom-made, crocheted baby clothes and toys on her Etsy site BabyByBecca.
Monroe guided the 12 participants through standard business practices of tracking expenses, pricing for profit and calculating packaging and shipping costs. “Look at others’ sites. Customize their policies on payment, shipping, and refunds to match your product. Don’t let fear of shipping keep you from making sales.”
The entrepreneurship course covers the steps of choosing a shop name (it should help identify what you make), titling and then listing an item in as many ways as possible with searchable phrases and keywords, and then opening an online shop.
Etsy differs from other online stores because its customers have a desire to connect to the maker, Monroe said. “For many customers on Etsy, how the item was made and who made it can be just as important as the item itself.” She emphasized that the About page was where to share information about why and how the items are made. “Incorporate details that make you stand out from the crowd. Say what you love most about making your items and how you learned your craft. You need to toot your own horn.”
The entrepreneurship program devotes an entire session to building and marketing a craft brand. “Branding is the personality of your business and how you communicate that. It’s the message, the emotion, people come away with,” Monroe said. For example, she uses the phrase “From my hand to your heart.”
Retrain your brain for marketing, she advised. “All roads should lead to where people can use their credit card. You can put in 13 tags (searchable phrases or words) for each item. Use them all.” In each item’s description, Monroe recommended using bullet points to state dimensions, materials, colors, sizes, unique details and time to delivery.
Etsy is closely linked to social media such as Facebook and Pinterest. “I have so much business that starts in Facebook and ends up in Etsy,” said the crafter who is also a middle school teacher. For business security, make sure all your conversations about sales take place in Etsy, not on Facebook.
Because beautiful images make a handmade product standout, the curriculum included a workshop on photographing crafted goods using a professional lighting box that the EDC has made available to Etsy vendors.
The best Etsy photographs use natural light or light boxes, never flash. They are in sharp focus, displayed on a clean, neutral background and shot from multiple angles and up close without a zoom. “Experiment, move around and don’t always center the product,” Monroe said. “Photography creates the experience beyond the visual.” Each item is allowed five photos and they should show texture, details, scale, colors, ways to use it and packaging. You want reviews to note the “product looks exactly like the listing.”
Clothing and jewelry look better when on a model, but don’t have the model making eye contact — even if it means cutting off a head, photographically, when displaying a necklace.
Overall, each shop should look cohesive, with photos using similar background colors and design. Snapseed is an app that allows photos to be edited on a smart phone and then posted to Etsy.
Etsy provides traffic and sales statistics for its vendors who do not pay to open a shop but do pay for each item listed and sold.
Michelle Young, who creates Boho wrap jewelry, had established an Etsy shop, but didn’t run it until going through the course. “I get pumped after the class. It makes you think of everything you want to do and gives you extra tools. You look at other shops as a shop owner.” Robert DeLeon of McAllen has made wooden and metal pet pendants with his wife for friends and plans to sell them online. “This is providing me the opportunity to learn how to jump into Etsy. My social media skills are strong. Now I can sell more.”
Mission EDC will offer the Etsy Entrepreneurship course again later this year.
This story by Eileen Mattei is featured in the May 2016 edition of Valley Business Report