Shop Etsy

Craft Entrepreneurship: Year in Review

Dec 20, 2013

by Dana Mauriello

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

For the last few months, we have been incredibly lucky to work with the communities of Rockford, Illinois, and New York City to launch the first pilots of Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship program. Now that those pilots have wrapped up, we wanted to share the results and celebrate the talented Etsy sellers who have joined our community.

Nearly a year ago, we started collaborating with Mayor Larry Morrissey of Rockford and the Rockford Etsy Team to create a new type of economic development program. While local economic development is frequently focused on creating new full-time jobs and training residents to fill them, we believed that there was room for an approach that leveraged the community’s existing skills and emphasized supplemental income and entrepreneurship.

The Craft Entrepreneurship Program now includes an in-person class that uses Etsy as a learning lab. In these courses, low-income individuals with craft skills learn how to earn supplemental income selling their handmade items. We partnered with the Housing Authority in Rockford for one pilot class and the Department of Small Business Services in New York City for three pilot classes, and we had a total of 69 participants who opened 22 Etsy shops and made 41 sales on Etsy. Some participants also felt inspired to sell at craft fairs and have generated additional income there as well.

Today we want to introduce you to two students who really blew us away.

ingrid_craft_entrepreneurship

INGMade

Ingrid knitting her latest creation.

Meet Ingrid

A life-long resident of the Bronx, Ingrid joined a knitting circle her freshman year of college and has been giving her creations to family and friends ever since. She signed up for programming at the NYC Department of Small Business Services when she was let go from her job as a mental health therapy aide. Ingrid had heard of Etsy, but felt overwhelmed by the notion of being an entrepreneur; when the invitation came to participate in Craft Entrepreneurship, it seemed like a perfect fit. She opened INGMade and has made seven sales from her collection of knitted headbands and cowls. She wants to add baby accessories and patterns to her shop, refine her photography skills and invest her earnings back into her shop — all while juggling her new full-time job as a counselor.

Her biggest surprise from the program? “How supportive people are of each other in the Etsy community. People [from my class] have kept in touch, favorited my shop, purchased, and shared their tips on how to promote [myself]. People I don’t know convo me on Etsy to tell me that they are from the Bronx, too, and love my product. In the future, I want to support other people as well.”

bill_craft_entrepreneurship

Old Farm Products

Bill in his workshop.

Meet Bill

Bill, 66, has been a woodworker in Rockford for most of his life, shuttering his custom furniture shop about a year and a half ago when the housing market crash dried up demand. Unable to find other work, Bill moved into an apartment under the jurisdiction of the Rockford Housing Authority. Bill loved his craft, especially the feeling of being valued and appreciated that came with making and selling his work, so this was a low point for him. Craft Entrepreneurship appealed to him because it presented an opportunity to use his craft again and succeed on his own terms.

“It’s my chance to have a second time around to do the things that I always wanted to do,” said Bill. Instead of waiting for clients to request custom orders, he created his own designs for frames, tables and coat hook stations. Shopper reaction has been strong and immediate — Bill has sold four items in his Etsy shop, Old Farm Products, and many more at craft fairs over the last three months. He explained the big impact that these sales have had on his confidence and his finances: “I feel like people really enjoy what I’m doing and they all make me feel very special. Now I can pay my bills on time and it’s only getting better. I used to have to borrow money from my son every month and I’m able to pay it on my own now. It’s a good feeling to be able to do it on my own.”

Craft Entrepreneurship participants have told us that the Etsy community is amazingly friendly and supportive and that it plays a big role in their confidence and excitement for what may lie ahead for their businesses. Thank you to our community! Find all of the Craft Entrepreneurship Etsy shops here.

So, what’s next? We’re refining the curriculum based on our learnings and launching additional classes early next year. After that, we’ll follow through on our commitment to roll out the program in more cities and make the program available for any community, anywhere.

We’ll be back with fresh updates in the new year. We’re excited to celebrate the impact that we’ve created so far, and we are looking forward to making an even bigger impact together in 2014.

65 comments

  • WomanShopsWorld

    Carter Seibels Singh from WomanShopsWorld said 3 years ago

    Wow, this just gave me chills. Honestly. Every day I am blown away by the camaraderie and human kindness on etsy. I am so touched by reading this, and am so glad to know that etsy is giving back to the community like this. I really admire etsy for creating this program. It is heartwarming and inspiring. Hats off etsy!

  • WriteOp

    Mel Zuydgeest from StunwithFun said 3 years ago

    Great initiative! Love, love, love that Etsy has taken the time, inspiration, experience and knowledge gathered from and through all those already online sellers and buyers to reach out and give people a sense of hope, identity, value, ability and belonging. Well done...

  • chicvintageforever

    Vanessa Forbes from VintageChicForever said 3 years ago

    i am new to etsy and love the community! i enjoy logging on everyday seeing creatives,artists,designers and others fulfilling their dreams and creating new businesses. its a great place! with in the first 24 hours of being on etsy I even had a sale. therefore now that etsy is "paying it forward" it makes that much more appealing to be a part of etsy.

  • christinabrimage

    Chrissy Ink Design from ScarvesChrissyInk said 3 years ago

    It's lovely to see collaboration amongst artists. Etsy always delights!

  • thetullebox

    Chrystal Simmons from thetullebox said 3 years ago

    I Iove, love, love what is being established here. It's awesome that the pilots have been successful and that we can look forward to more news from this imitative. Sometimes, someone just needs an honest chance to change their lives and circumstances. I am so thankful for the people that saw promise in my talents and helped cultivate my creativity. I wouldn't be where I am today without those people....

  • thetullebox

    Chrystal Simmons from thetullebox said 3 years ago

    *initiative

  • VintageRescueSquad

    VintageRescueSquad from VintageRescueSquad said 3 years ago

    What a fabulous idea; it makes me warm and tingly. I live just outside Washington DC. Although I don't need the program, I'd love to see it come here!

  • laboubine

    Cat Macary from GypsySoulGoddess said 3 years ago

    Great to support up and coming artists to make money and be financially free in a creative business. Good job ETSY.

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 3 years ago

    Beautiful designs!!!!! Check your inbox

  • ButterflyFeetShop

    Sherri from ButterflyFeetDigital said 3 years ago

    It's great to see what people can do with opportunity and initiative.

  • SassMuffins

    Christy from SassMuffins said 3 years ago

    Super read! Hoping this program rolls out in many cities across the US. There is always so much to learn about starting your own business, but with persistence it can be done. It's so much easier with help though! And for those of us who have sold for awhile, we have so much we would like to offer to others...continuing to pay it forward!!

  • earthstonedesigns

    Karen L Pennebaker from earthstonedesigns said 3 years ago

    Most artists are very friendly and supportive of each other. When our house burned in 2010, the first people to offer help were my artist friends. It is amazing how many wonderful things are here on etsy and the whole concept is inspiring. I haven't sold a lot but it's most likely my own fault for being too lazy to put more things up to sell!

  • artisticangel

    artisticangel from artisticangel said 3 years ago

    This is such a heart warming story. It inspires many to become what they dreamed of. If you have the will nd the motive it can hppen. Kudos to etsy for such a wonderful program. And judos to the new members may there businesses explode with business and they can and will live the American dream. Happy New Year to all and a prosperous one as well!!!

  • foong

    Wendy Boey from foong said 3 years ago

    i love reading all these warm hearted stories in etsy, because this reminds me that i'm not alone in my crafting experience and i can always rely on the etsy community for some warmth even in the coldest day.

  • karenleanneking

    Karen from KLKingDesigns said 3 years ago

    Great Idea~ Would love to see this in L.A. or O.C. .... Southern Cal.

  • dmargheim

    Dirk Margheim from lignarius said 3 years ago

    Sometimes all a person needs to get back on his feet is a small bit of confidence. Few things can boost confidence as much as having someone appreciate the work of your hands to the point that they will open their wallet and purchase a piece for themselves or a friend. That new found confidence often seeps its way into all the nooks and crannies of one's life. We find ourselves more ready to take on other challenges as well. It speaks well of you, Etsy, for giving confidence back to even just a few folks. The success of these programs can never be measured by raw sales numbers alone. I was genuinely encouraged by these stories. Thanks!

  • FreshRetroGallery

    Elizabeth Knaus from FreshRetroGallery said 3 years ago

    It is a great thing to help others learn how to sell their handmade items. Everyone needs a little push from time to time.

  • dorijenn

    Dori from dorijenn said 3 years ago

    Wonderful!

  • GinkgoHillHomewares

    Kerri from GinkgoHillHomewares said 3 years ago

    Well done to all those participants who have taken the next step and opened an Etsy shop. What an awesome program!

  • hennyseashell

    Henny Augustien from hennyseashell said 3 years ago

    Love to read this heartwarming stories! Hope this new program would bring great impact for other Etsy artists and sellers. Wish there would be a program like this in my area - Indonesia, South East Asia. I found Indonesian Etsy sellers is getting increase lately.

  • giveablegreetings

    Steph from GiveableGreetings said 3 years ago

    Giving back to the community and enabling people to do what they love for a living are two things I really love about Etsy. Congrats on starting such a fine program, and all the best with continued success and growth!

  • RealfaerySupplies

    Betti and Jeno from RealfaerySupplies said 3 years ago

    Great article! Thanks. It is so encouraging reading these success stories. I wish all the best to them!

  • celticgran

    Brigid (Brid) from celticgran said 3 years ago

    Etsy has been a shining light of hope for many in dark times, good to hear it's spreading the love.

  • DecoZoneStudio

    Donka Tsaneva from PersaBags said 3 years ago

    Bringing the Etsy economic model to the communities that need it most - love to see this happening! Would love to see this happening for my country - Bulgaria - there is a great potential there!

  • FlowerPowwer

    vanessa from DesignLayout said 3 years ago

    Truly inspiring project. It gives people faith and confidence to believe in themselves and their creative abilities. This template idea should be rolled out across many communities around the globe.

  • Leise02

    Leise02 from SaltpotDesign said 3 years ago

    This is a great project and these stories are so inspiring. I wish we could do something like this in Australia. Keep up the excellent work.

  • MinnaMatildaDesigns

    MinnaMatilda from MinnaMatildaDesigns said 3 years ago

    Reading this article made me very, very happy!

  • limitz

    Limor Haim-Matityahoo from Limitz said 3 years ago

    Super important programme and very inspiring:-)

  • mlpc92

    mlpc92 from AwwwThatsCute said 3 years ago

    As a new shop owner - this is very inspiring. I love to see people do what they love every day!!! Isn't that our goal?

  • mmatese1

    Marie Matese from MateseJewelry said 3 years ago

    What a great idea and that's what Etsy Handmade is truly all about. Good ideas and creative minds that can blossom with a Etsy Shop, and bring out the passion in all of us a gift that keeps giving. Have a Handmade Happy New Year.

  • ValsArtStudio

    Val Hebert from ValsArtStudio said 3 years ago

    I just love this! Another reason why Etsy gets my vote for The Best Company Ever. Always taking the creative way to the next level, embracing a Handmade lifestyle, and looking out for the little guy. Etsy, you rock!

  • flamingidols

    Robin Markle from FlamingIdols said 3 years ago

    This is awesome, I would love to see classes like this in Philly, especially for youth. I'll be keeping an eye out!

  • seamsokay

    Georgia Anderson from GeorgiaGorgeous said 3 years ago

    This is a great project. Hopes it takes wings and spreads to my area, rural, remote and beautiful Yosemite Park, Calif.

  • alleycatdesignMOORE

    Catherine from AlleyCatDesignSt said 3 years ago

    What a wonderful program! Hats off to Ingrid and Bill and to all who use their talents to improve not only their world - but everyone else·s as well! Good job Etsy!

  • rebiedaydreams

    Rebecca Lowe from OhCarrotSticks said 3 years ago

    Inspiring story and program! They both have wonderful products, I love seeing what they sell and reading about how much they both love making what they sell! Congrats to them both and best of luck! I'm sure they'll be successful!

  • LittleFrenchDress

    Katie Elmore from LittleFrenchDress said 3 years ago

    Inspiring stories! Etsy has provided an accessible platform for so many entrepreneurs who never thought building a business was possible. Rock on!

  • vinylclockwork

    Scott from vinylclockwork said 3 years ago

    Keep doing a great job Etsy You guys rock

  • illuminativeharvest

    Jennifer Presler from IlluminativeHarvest said 3 years ago

    Wonderful Story!!!

  • headsheartsandhands

    Dee Hall from headsheartsandhands said 3 years ago

    This is a really awesome strategy for changing lives!

  • accessoriesyouneed

    carol from accessoriesyouneed said 3 years ago

    I am a retired social worker. I have always loved being creative. Now I have an Etsy store -- Accessories You Need -- and enjoy helping people in different ways. I love giving people economical, sturdy and elsewhere unavailable items that makes their life more enjoyable. I would love to go through some training to help my financial situation.

  • silentmeditations

    Maureen Stalma from silentmeditations said 3 years ago

    A lovely, heart warming article. Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in the future. :)

  • HandmadeThaiFabric13

    PANTIVA Sharpe from EthnicFabric said 3 years ago

    Great Job! Thank you for sharing this...

  • charlenesbags

    Charlene Owens from charlenesembroidery said 3 years ago

    People in deep poverty don't know how to use their skills or have skills to bring themselves out of it. There was a story on public radio that highlighted a fellow who was in jail for robbery and shooting at the police. Turns out he didn't know how to read. In prison he spent his years learning to read and developing his skill as a poet. If interested, the story is at http://www.npr.org/2014/01/04/259442690/jimmy-santiago-baca-from-prison-to-poetry. Thank you Etsy, for creating this program. I hope you do more in the future.

  • mariacroft2

    Maria Croft from HabitatJeanAdrienne said 3 years ago

    I love crafting, but my business skills are "lacking". With Etsy there are blogs , forums and ALL of you experienced crafters that will help me with the ends and outs. I am looking forward to getting shop moving in the right direction. Oh yeah, my shop has been open since July '13 and I haven't any sales, but this a new year.

  • RoughMagicCreations

    Mollie Ann Meserve from RoughMagicCreations said 3 years ago

    Reading back, I found this fabulous article and have to jump in and say "Hooray!"

  • ld34760

    Lydia Diaz from WEBAnaturalproducts said 3 years ago

    What a wonderful program! It's great to see how Etsy can creates different communities to address the needs of different groups of artisans and would-be artisans. It's very inspiring.

  • BlackForestCottage

    Donna and Darrell Knish from BlackForestCottage said 3 years ago

    I just love this story, I want one of those in our community every community can benefit from this.

  • edieandglo

    kelly hickey from edieandglo said 3 years ago

    Etsy really connects people to the world and therefor bringing hope and support to those in all stages and phases of their lives. Thank you Etsy!!

  • kathschad

    Katherine Schad from SchadStudio said 3 years ago

    Love this!

  • torysvic

    Vic Torys from GiveMe5ive said 3 years ago

    Wow! Amazing :)

  • torysvic

    Vic Torys from GiveMe5ive said 3 years ago

    I love it! ♥

  • jewelvision1

    Heraldry Jewelry from 3DHeraldry said 3 years ago

    Great story. Love to hear more.

  • avintage

    Andrea Densley from avintage said 3 years ago

    Fabulous!!! If there is a "list" put our small town on it--Shelton, WA. There is an undercurrent of hopelessness among many unemployed and teens struggling in school; what a blessing this would be. Thanks for developing the program.!

  • elisabethringewald

    Elisabeth Ringewald from MaineCoonCrafts said 3 years ago

    This so hits home, 2 years ago I found myself over 50, out of work (a 20 year career) and on unemployment. The job market was bleak, especially for people my age, re-training was not offered, all the un-employment office suggested was "start your own business" OK, with what money? Bought a yarn closeout, started creating, and BAM! Two plus years later, Etsy shop is moving and shaking. Not an easy road but definately one that should be explored, it's fantastic that Etsy saw this connection and started reaching out, Step by Step, rebuilding the Craft Movement that made America Strong...giving people hope and inspiration that they may not have seen for themselves, Bravo!

  • ArtWildflowers

    ArtWildflowers from ArtWildflowers said 3 years ago

    Being a low-income older gal myself, I can honestly say that selling things on etsy can really make a huge difference in your life. -- On some months it means I can turn my heat on & put gas in my car. -- Even making just a few hundred dollars a month on Etsy can greatly upgrade your life!

  • glendalee

    glenda puhek from glendalee said 3 years ago

    When do we see December results?

  • MyElevenEleven

    Sung-jin, SEO from MyElevenEleven said 3 years ago

    wow,,, it's great. love to hear more :-)

  • LanaManisDesigns

    Lana Manis from LanaManisDesigns said 3 years ago

    Very inspiring! So glad to see artists of all ages able to work at a craft they love and feel the support of their communities!

  • queenserpentine

    Adele Humes from TheSerpentsCave said 3 years ago

    inspiring and its good to see people over there in the states are being offered good business opportunities like this. Hopefully this type of thing will have a ripple effect around the world and inspire creativy and love :)

  • MapleShadeKids

    Wanda from MapleShadeKids said 3 years ago

    Wow. So inspiring. It is wonderful to see all of the support and inspiration that Etsy provides. Keep up the great work. Thank you!

  • BuckleyandBlythe

    Lydia Blythe from BuckleyandBlythe said 3 years ago

    Fantastic - Etsy is such a brilliant community! I only joined recently but I've had so much support from lots of people already - it's just great!

  • rbockis

    Robyn Kearns from IloveMyDogJewelry said 3 years ago

    Very inspiring :)

  • CaseyNicole360

    Casey Nicco from VintageVerified said 3 years ago

    Even though I have--for as long as I can remember--browsed Etsy pages for general inspiration, I only recently opened a shop to offer my own creations and communicate with other like minded individuals. I love my new Etsy life of crafting, selling, and communicating, crafting, selling, and communicating... What can be better than that?

  • georgiaamcintosh1

    Georgia McIntosh from BSBEssentials said 2 years ago

    This is such an excellent idea! Looking forward to hearing more about this program.

  • zenophobe

    Tina Giuntini from BeaEvie said 2 years ago

    This is great, in fact it is amazing. Etsy is BIG but it is still, and always will be, grassroots. What an achievement.

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