Painters, potters, designers and artists have found another forum to display and sell their work.
Etsy, an online community for creative entrepreneurs who sell homemade and vintage gifts, art and supplies, hosts shops in a setting similar to Amazon or eBay. But unlike other websites, Etsy has created a community specifically for those who sell handmade goods and requires sellers to prove their items are authentic.
“Etsy gives all these small microbusinesses a place to start,” said Tim Adam, author of “Learn How to Make Money Using Etsy” and editor of the blog Handmadeology.com.
Pamela Gordon and her fiance, Bryan Loconto, started selling decorative sticker decals for Apple products, like MacBook laptops and iPad tablets, in December. They design, print and ship the unique color skins and images from their Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office. They have sold more than 300 items through Etsy, Gordon said.
“Etsy is more affordable than sites like Amazon and eBay,” she said. “We sell items on our own website too, but we’ll always keep an Etsy account for that residual traffic we get because of the Etsy name.”
Etsy charges sellers 20 cents to list an item for up to four months, and takes 3.5 percent of the cost when an item sells. EBay charges sellers an initial insertion fee, which varies, and takes 9 percent of the cost when the item sells.
The site has more than 17 million active users, and 800,000 shops have opened since it launched in 2005. Sales reached more than $525 million in 2011, according to the Etsy website.
Etsy users must prove their products are homemade by sending photos of the process.
Gordon said the traffic they’ve seen on Etsy has helped them land bigger sales, which include corporate clients that want to buy hundreds of identical decals at once.
Jacqueline Allard, of Plantation, Fla., has been selling her homemade pottery, tile dishware and other unique home decor creations on Etsy for three years.
“Etsy changed my life,” said Allard, whose shop, IslandGirlPottery.etsy.com, has sold more than 1,100 unique pieces through her Etsy shop. “There came a time in my life when I wondered if I could make this work as a full-time job. There’s no doubt in my mind now.”
Allard said she was drawn to Etsy over other sites because of the sense of community it offers. She’s joined a pottery “team” so she can communicate with others who sell pottery items on Etsy.
“There’s a level of sophistication on Etsy you don’t see on other sites,” she said. “EBay attracts buyers who want to buy something for a discount. Etsy buyers are ones that appreciate handmade goods.”
Shelley Mitchell, of Hollywood, Fla., has two Etsy shops. She makes feminine aprons that mimic the look and feel of dresses on KitschyAprons.etsy.com and makes homemade stuffed animals and dolls for children at her ShelleyFaye.etsy.com shop.
“I’ve been sewing all my life, and this was just another way for me to continue doing it,” Mitchell said.
In the late 1990s, Mitchell sold items on eBay as a full-time job. She said Etsy is a much more enjoyable site to work on.
“Prices on Etsy may be a little more than Amazon or eBay,” she said. “It’s hard to explain the value of homemade to people who are used to buying the same items in a chain store for much less. It can take me an hour to create one item I sell by hand.”