By Scarlett Klein, Chelsey Pena, and Claire Hogan
The internet is transforming the market of home goods and jewelry. Consumers are no longer restricted to options from major retailers, but can find items through specialized e-commerce websites. Creators of handmade home goods and jewelry are also no longer restricted to selling their items at craft shows.
Etsy, Inc. was founded in 2005 and functions as an e-commerce website where people can sell their handmade items through personal accounts. The majority of items sold are either handmade or, if not handmade, lean towards the vintage and antique aesthetic. According to their released records, Etsy had 19.8 million buyers as of December 31, 2014.
Kirsten Bjornsen is a college student who regularly purchases items from Etsy.
“I buy fleece products for my guinea pigs and little shelters for them. They make the product with their pets in mind, which is different from a major pet store. You can also customize your order, like which type of pattern you’d like, which a major pet store couldn’t do,” she said.
Bjornsen finds that the prices are much cheaper on Etsy. “The products are also better quality, I think,” she said.
Etsy sellers are able to sell non-handmade items, but Aftcra, which began in 2013, is even more niche, only selling handmade items that are created in America. However, to sell on these websites you must have an account and this is what some sellers are finding is not worth the time.
Evan Rauch is a full-time student at The University of Texas who crafts jewelry and sells it online. Her business, Designs by Evan, began over five years ago while she was still in high school.
“I originally was making bracelets for myself until people at school started requesting jewelry,” Rauch said.
While she may not have a marketing department or advertising team, she does have one powerful tool- Instagram. She began posting pictures of her jewelry on the popular social media website, along with prices and color options. Customers would comment if they wanted one and she would respond with her phone number so that they could text their preferences directly to her and then pay her using Square.
This direct creator-to-customer contact over Instagram benefits both the consumer and creator. Bjornsen, while she does do the actual purchasing from Etsy, originally discovered her guinea pig products through Instagram.
“I found out about the specific person I was buying on it, so I knew they had guinea pigs also,” she said.
Being a student, Rauch said that Etsy was more difficult to keep up with, due to having to maintain an account and a more complicated process of shipping the items.
“For me, Instagram is the best form of social media to put a hand-crafted, self-run business on the map,” Rauch said, “but it depends on what type of person or what age you’re trying to show your things to. I know a jewelry designer who is in her 40s, and she posts on Instagram every once and a while…but because that demographic typically isn’t on Instagram as much as the people my age are, this designer focuses more on advertising with stores and makes events on Facebook.”
Rauch also sells at trunk shows, but Instagram is her primary way of getting the word out about her jewelry. She hopes to have a website someday, but like many small business owners, she is making do right now with what she has.
CHELSEY TRIES IT: ETSY WINE GLASS CHALLENGE
COMPANY PROFILE: DESIGNS BY EVAN
To view how Evan used Instagram to grow her business, check out the Storify below.