by Sarah Wu
Photo courtesy of Laurel Greenfield
With over 1.5 million sellers, almost 22 million active users and 32 million items up for sale, Etsy.com has made a name for itself, raking in an estimated 1.93 billion dollars in 2014 alone.
Founded in 2005, the online marketplace has become a home for creative thinkers. Etsy allowsusers to sell handmade goods, set their own prices and ship and package their own work,enabling artists’ creativity to shine. On Etsy’s website, you can find just about any specialty item—whether it’s a beautiful photograph, beaded jewelry or paintings of food that make your stomach growl.
“The heart and soul of Etsy is our global community,” the Etsy ‘about’ page says. “The creative entrepreneurs who use Etsy to sell what they make or curate, the shoppers looking for things they can’t find anywhere else, the manufacturers who partner with Etsy sellers to help them grow and the Etsy employees who maintain and nurture our marketplace.”
Etsy is headquartered in DUMBO—Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, for those of you not familiar with New York’s crazy acronymic neighborhoods. In addition to its New York HQ, Etsy has additional offices in eight other cities, including Berlin, Melbourne and Toronto.
Boston University student Cassie Kramer (SED ’17) opened her own Etsy shop this past July. Despite making jewelry for years, she just recently began vending her items online. Kramer sells handmade chain link, beaded and wire wrap jewelry. She’s still in the process of perfecting the site, much like Joe Curtin (COM ’17), who sells prints of his photographs taken at places like Machu Picchu and Cuba.
“I’m still learning, but so far Etsy has taught me about running a business,” said Kramer.She had no experience prior to opening her shop. She finally found a platform that meets her needs and provides a creative outlet for her work.Unlike Kramer and Curtin, Laurel Greenfield’s (SHA ’14, MET ’16) shop, Will Paint for Dessert, has been up and running for about a year. Greenfield, a Gastronomy student, has participated in Boston art shows, but wanted to reach a wider audience. She sells original paintings, prints and painted decorative items that mostly revolve around food.
“My best selling items are always the ones that have any kind of ice cream in them!” Greenfield said.
Kramer’s pieces can be labor-intensive.
“The time it takes me to create a piece of jewelry completely depends on the piece,” she said.“Some of the more simple items take me five minutes, but more complex beaded items can take an hour or so.”
Appropriately, the cost of the item reflects the time and effort put into the piece.
“I hope the shop will begin to make some money, but I do not plan on trying to support myselfwith this shop,” Kramer said. “The benefit of working with Etsy is that I can work at my own pace since everything is online. The site generates and takes care of the bill and pays me when I sell an item.”
Curtin emphasizes that although the printing process for his photographs is simple, taking thephotographs themselves takes much more time.These three BU students have all welcomed the support of their friends, who frequently purchaseitems and according to Curtin, “almost always insist on paying the full price.” Curtin, who completed a paid internship while at BU and currently holds an on-campus job,appreciates the extra funds.
“It gave me some extra spending money on a recent trip to Europe,” said Curtin. “Being on acollege budget, it always helps to have even a little more cash.”
As tough as it is to be a full-time student at a university, these students take great care in balancing both work and leisure and maintaining the highest quality products.
“It can take a while to get all the prints packaged and shipped perfectly—I always send them in photo-friendly envelopes so they don’t bend while getting mailed,” said Curtin.
Similarly, Greenfield, while dreaming big, puts great time and care into providing her customers with a satisfying product.
“What’s nice about being small is that each order receives my full attention and is packed and shipped with the utmost care,” said Greenfield.
The accessibility and user-friendly interface attract sellers like Kramer to the constantly growingnetwork of artists that want to sell and share their work with the world, without having to open a physical store of their own. No lease, no landlord, no problem. The Internet has allowed them tobe able to do everything from home, and often as a side job.
“It caters to a more specific audience, and everything on there is thought out,” said Curtin. “Instead of having millions of items on eBay or Amazon, Etsy has fewer items, but most of thosei tems are higher quality.”