Etsy: Global Marketplace for Women Sellers & Creators
Story by Cindy Reid
Etsy, Inc. is a global online marketplace where people come together to make, sell, buy, and collect unique items. Founded in 2005, this uniquely American e-commerce company is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, where it started as a digital co-operative of sorts, and is now a hugely successful publicly traded company with 2,338 employees (not sellers).
Everything from artisan jewelry, hand bags, clothing, home décor and furniture to vintage toys, digital art, and craft supplies is available on the Etsy marketplace. If you can think of it—it’s there.
Etsy has 7.5 million active sellers, 96 million active buyers and nearly 100 million items listed for sale. They reported $10.3B annual gross merchandise sales in 2020. Clearly, they have tapped into a global interest for unique goods made and found by everyday people and creative entrepreneurs.
From the beginning, Esty appealed to women as buyers and sellers. Creative women have traditionally dominated the handmade artisan marketplace, and they found Etsy to be a good fit due to their rigorously honest business practices and welcoming website, where ‘hard sell’ doesn’t exist. For many women, an Etsy shop became, and remains, the fastest and easiest way to become an entrepreneur. All that’s needed is a product to sell and a bank account.
The sellers create their own unique shop, list their own items, set their own prices and interact with customers via the platform. Sellers are responsible for their own shipping and restocking. Etsy provides the digital platform and manages the financial end—for nominal listing fees and small percentage of each transaction resulting in a sale. As they say, “Etsy isn't a get-rich-quick scheme...Earning a decent income from your Etsy shop is possible, as long as you've got dedication, perseverance, and a great product.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 12.3 million female entrepreneurs in the United States. They report the percentage of female business owners in 2018 increased by a whopping 31 percent. For many women, an online business is the best option. The startup cost is minimal, and the work can be done from home, usually on their own schedule. There are also women who have recently become small business owners after losing their jobs because of the pandemic. Far from being an outlier in the economy, women-owned businesses are robust and growing.
“No one can deny the impact women-owned businesses have on our economy. Women-led businesses employed 10.1 million workers and accumulated $1.8 trillion in receipts in 2019. The number of employer firms owned by women grew six percent between 2014 and 2016, twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. This exponential growth was mainly driven by an increase in employer businesses owned by minority women, which grew 14 percent.” (Source: www.sba.gov )
According to Etsy’s 2020 Global Seller Census, 81% of their sellers around the world identify as women. Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy, says the online marketplace is an “on-ramp” for women entrepreneurs across the globe.
“It’s dominated by women sellers,” says company spokesperson Marissa Tarabocchia. “Of the platform’s 3.1 million active sellers, more than 90 percent are one-person businesses and 95 percent operate their business out of their homes.” (Source: CNN Business 3/8/21)
Keep Commerce Human
Etsy is invested in female success via their marketplace platform as well as in their own offices. Their history with software engineers bears this out. In 2010, only 6% of the company’s software engineers were women. In 2012 they grew that to 22%, and today more than 30% of Etsy’s engineering team is female, almost double what’s found in similar industries.
Raina Moskowitz, Etsy’s Chief Operations, Strategy, and People Officer explains how the company mission is illustrated through its engineering team. “Etsy’s mission is to ‘Keep Commerce Human’ and an integral part of that mission is our commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. This incorporates gender inclusivity, including for women and all people who are from marginalized genders. Our company remains a long-time leader in gender diversity, with women making up half of our executive team, nearly half of our company, and nearly 44% of our senior leadership. As a workplace of choice for women, we’re able to create a foundation of support and empowerment for the community of female entrepreneurs on our platform,” Moskowitz adds. (Source: www.forbes.com 2021/10/05)
When a company invests in this level of diversity, it shows in their day to day operations. Etsy sellers range from hobbyists to professional artists, many of whom have not sold their work previously. Most of the sellers are businesses of one, and 28% live in rural areas, isolated from cities and craft shows, and far from where many of the customers for expensive handmade goods live. Having a worldwide digital platform—with an emphasis on support and inclusivity—makes selling their goods possible for the first time.
Etsy Question & Answers
What is it about running an Etsy shop that makes it more accessible to women versus other types of small businesses?
Etsy offers a range of services, such as financial tools, and a user friendly platform, which makes getting started easy. There is a wide range of online support and tutorials. Being a strictly online business makes it possible for women who may be limited in their options to maintain a livelihood and bring in extra income.
Do sellers need any special technical equipment?
Sellers need the ability to get online and upload photographs of their items. In addition to the website, they have a very popular app, which can be used for both buying and selling, eliminating the need for expensive computer or photography equipment. A shop can be run entirely on a cell phone.
How much does it cost to sell on Etsy?
It costs $.20 to publish a listing to the marketplace. A listing lasts for four months or until the item is sold. Once an item sells, there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the shipping price you set).
Can I sell/buy antique or vintage items?
Yes. However, all vintage items must be at least 20 years old. Vintage T-shirts, quilts, linens as well as antique furniture can be sold on the site. Mid-century modern is a very popular category, as are toys and games from the 70s.
What makes an Etsy shop successful?
As in any small business, the path to success is putting in the time and effort, not necessarily the money. Good photographs of your product or vintage items, honest and interesting descriptions, fair pricing and fast shipping are all crucial components to being a successful seller. Checking in with your shop on a daily basis, fine tuning listings, responding quickly to customer’s questions are also very important. It’s really no different than having a brick and mortar shop in that regard—customer service is key!
Not every Etsy seller will make a living with their shop, for many it functions best as a supplemental income. But even if that’s the case, most sellers report a feeling of satisfaction from marketing and selling their own products. The ‘happiness factor’ is real and having the ability to send their creative work out into the world is very meaningful for many sellers. Spreading happiness is joyful!
“At the end of the day, a full 76 percent of women business owners report being somewhat or very happy, while just 14 percent report being very or somewhat unhappy. Despite all the challenges of 2020, women business owners have triumphed.” (Source: www.guidantfinancial.com/small-business-trends)
For more information visit www.etsy.com