Many Etsy sellers are enjoying success as new phases of their lives unfold — through career changes, after their children are grown, and in some cases even after retirement. What do these people have in common? A bone-deep confidence in their personal aesthetics and values, vibrant curiosity that opens new doors, and the rewards of building lasting customer relationships. A desire to keep learning and their willingness to take risks keeps things fresh. As artist Christine Daly emphasizes in this oft-repeated quote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Here are the stories of four sellers.
Joan Babb of Anything Goes Here
Joan Babb has nurtured a lifelong passion for collecting and presenting vintage objects — a passion she continues since opening her Etsy shop in 2009. “The first things I collected were limestone fossils I found in our gravel driveway when I was five years old. How I was different from my friends is that they might put their finds in a box under their bed, but I displayed mine artistically all over my room.” Although she has spent 45 years collecting and selling antiques and vintage finds, this 67-year-old pursued other careers as well. “I might be in my fourth or fifth career by now,” she said. “I quit my corporate job in 1987 to sell antiques full time.” She credits her success to something that she says cannot be learned – “I have a good eye” – and to discovering beauty and pleasure in everyday objects like old keys, faucet handles and vintage croquet balls. “I can see the potential in the humblest things,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be valuable, rare, or expensive.”
Like collecting, her philosophy for success has been a connecting thread throughout her life. “One of the things that made me a better person was to stop taking things personally,” she said. “My life motto is take the long view and I take the long view in relationship to my business. For example, while I was buying and selling all through the years I always kept certain things that I especially liked. Many of those things are smaller in size and they are perfect now for selling online, something I never had any idea I would do. What I enjoy most about selling on Etsy is that at the end of my antiques selling career I am selling those things I have loved for years to people worldwide. I am living out my philosophy of giving new life to old things.”
Christine Daly of Daly Studios
When Christine Daly opened her Etsy shop in early 2012, she ventured into a new area of life and craft – making jewelry. Previously, she had always worked as a two-dimensional visual artist. “Despite the fact that I’m new to the physical craft of making jewelry, I have the benefit of making aesthetic decisions as a result of both my fine arts education and decades of painting and design,” she said. “What I enjoy most is the happy accident when I surprise myself with a combination of elements that makes my heart bounce.” Christine has learned to trust that “bounce,” knowing that it signals when she has discovered something truly special. “I know that I have to please my own eye, as that is the one thing that is uniquely mine and distinguishes my work from everyone else’s,” she said.
Through the years, Christine and her husband have fed, sheltered and educated their children exclusively through the sale of their artwork. “We have learned the value of excellent customer service,” she said. “Repeat customers have sustained us. I am proud of the fact that I threw open a door and acquired a whole new skill set since opening my Etsy shop. I’m learning about product photography, branding, marketing, SEO, packaging, and more. My business is steadily growing and I have managed to muddle along and do it all myself. It’s gratifying.”
Toni Cartisano of Kensington Fused Glass
Since opening her Etsy shop in 2012, artist Toni Cartisano has succeeded by applying her past business experience to a new love – fused glass. “I am a retired retailer,” she said. “I worked for many years in department stores – as a buyer, customer service manager, sales audit manager, and computer operator manager.” Toni always enjoyed making things, but only recently considered doing it professionally. “I have always enjoyed crafts of all sorts,” she said. “I sew, crochet, do cross stitch, and needlepoint. It’s an interest I inherited from a very creative mother. After retirement, I went to a neighborhood center to enroll in a class to learn to speak Italian. While waiting to sign up, I read a brochure on other classes offered and discovered fused glass. I went home and read all I could find on the subject and was fascinated by it.”
Today, Toni sees her creative and professional interests as intimately connected. “Creating something new and beautiful from a few sheets of colored glass is rewarding in its own right, and even more so when thoughtful customers take the time to write and tell me how much they enjoy my creations. I love getting customers’ suggestions and special orders. One of the most satisfying parts of the Etsy experience, for buyer and seller, is this personal relationship between artists and customers.”
“I never did learn to speak Italian,” she adds, “But I earned enough to buy Rosetta software, so I’ll get there!”
Linda Hoffmann of Keeping It Natural
Linda Hoffman is enjoying the rewards of a solid career in cosmetics, a profession she began behind a makeup counter in 1973. She advanced to counter manager, then makeup artist, and later became district trainer for a major cosmetic company. “Each step used the skills I had learned from the previous position and gave me a new love for the career I had chosen,” she said. Over the years she learned in depth about skincare, color composition, makeup artistry, and the business of cosmetics.
Linda eventually started a business of her own formulating natural, healthy cosmetics. She opened her Etsy shop in 2011. “I love every aspect of having a shop – from researching ingredient suppliers, formulating and adding new products, to the business end of it. Yes, even the paperwork,” she said. “Etsy has given me a great opportunity to do what I’ve always loved. Now, after retirement, I love getting up in the morning and planning my ‘day in the shop’. Most of all, I love and value my customers. I want to thank each and every one for the chance to work with them, and for making my dreams come true.”
How do you see your career evolving over time?