There are many factors to consider when picking out a gift, such as whether it has unique qualities or a story behind its production. The more we try to specialize a product, be it through a unique design or through a meaningful story behind it, the harder it is to find these products in commercial areas. Websites such as Etsy, though, are making such purchases possible, so people should look to Etsy for gifts this holiday season.
Etsy, a website founded in 2005, is dedicated to promoting the work of independent artists—it’s like an online craft fair. By instantly giving customers access to a variety of products of different styles from artists across the world, Etsy provides a whole new, and better, dimension to online shopping.
But Etsy isn’t there solely for the customer’s benefit. Independent artists rely on Etsy to exhibit their work and network.
“Etsy gave me an outlet to strengthen my brand and small business,” San Francisco Etsy Team Leader of Social Media Lisa Spinella said.
When so many sellers are out there with different websites, it’s hard for consumers to find products without the help of Etsy. Etsy serves to connect customers with as many artisans as possible, making the shopping experience simple yet comprehensive. However, more than just helping artists showcase their work, Etsy has surrounded these artists with a community of people with similar goals and interests.
SF Etsy team itself represents a community of hundreds of artisans from the Bay Area. The group introduced Katy Atchison, Co-Captain of the SF Etsy team and an Etsy artist, to people she would have never realized were similar to her.
In Marin County itself, there were not a lot of people who shared similar interests with Atchison or lived a similar lifestyle.
“When you’re growing up people do cheerleading camp or soccer … so I never found friends in the realm of trying to make a living off of their art,” Atchison said.
Etsy connected her to people like her. The same people who would go on to be the artists in project groups.
“When you go out to the movies, you might meet someone like you, but don’t realize they are just like you unless you really get to know them,” Atchison said. “On Etsy, you know that they already have something in common with you. You are all Etsy sellers. You are all creative. You are all making something.”
Once Atchison found the SF Etsy team, she quickly found herself writing blogs for them. Over the past few years the team’s 300 members has grown to 800, solely through word of mouth.
While some SF Etsy artisans sell products online through Etsy, others sell products at craft fairs.
One of the largest struggles, however, with getting more people to use Etsy or buy from local artists is that in comparison to Target and other bigger stores, Etsy’s prices aren’t considered good deals. However, it’s not necessarily that the prices of Etsy sellers are expensive, it’s just that their competitors are selling them cheaper because they have the resources—machines and labor—to sell goods at a smaller price. The rule of thumb for most independent artisans is to price the products three times greater than the price of materials. This takes into account labor and a fair profit for the the artist.
“I ultimately believe that people love to know about the process, the history and the magic of an item handmade by an artist,” Spinella said. “When [customers] receive your item they are touching something often one-of-a-kind, hand touched by an artisan not a sweatshop, and made by a human being not a machine.”
In addition to the one-of-a-kind quality, the products are local and, in turn, better for the environment.
“You spend your money on it’s something that goes back into your neighborhood,” Atchison said. “You can have a bigger impact on your community if you are spending the money within your community.”
This irreplaceable quality affects customers on a different level than buying from a bigger corporation does. Atchison works for Pottery Barn in addition to owning an Etsy store. She notices considerable differences between her customers of Etsy than those of Pottery Barn.
She said that her customers at Pottery Barn don’t have the same loyalty to the products as customers do to Etsy. Aside from buying a product that’s unique, customers have the ability to communicate with their sellers; they can tell them what they like or want in a product. The freedom and interaction customers get with Etsy contributes to a greater trust in the products.
San Francisco is an extremely special city in that it holds so many outlets for us to purchase locally—the San Francisco Etsy team is one of the five largest Etsy teams in the country. We have an opportunity to buy distinct products that represent the wealth of our area.
Anyone interested in helping our community should join the SF Etsy page to stay connected with upcoming events and learn about different artists. There are also stores like Urban Bazaar, which is a fair trade store in San Francisco, that sell a lot of work from local artists and sustainable companies.
Etsy is showcasing beauty and the talent in our own community. For those who can support the higher tag price, it’s our obligation to help our community thrive, and support Etsy sellers by choosing to buy at Etsy for our holiday gifts.