It was the SF Etsy Summer Emporium, held in the huge hangar that is Pier 35 in San Francisco.

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    Most of you know Etsy, ( but for those who don’t, it’s a virtual community that I would describe as a hip eBay, and great for small businesses. You can find anything online there, from vintage clothing to locally made honey to all kinds of arts and crafts.

    The event in San Francisco had more than 80 vendors, and the quality of the crafts, art, and clothing was at a very high level.

    There were all sorts of items there, many of them quirky, such as jewellery made from books or Vegan luggage accessories. But, the items were all very well made and curated with care.

    But let’s talk about Etsy’s online presence: It’s worldwide and its small businesses add up to big business. Etsy’s latest report shows that it has 1.4 sellers in its global community generating a whopping $1.93 billion in sales in 2014.

    If you are a small business owner, Etsy is a great place to promote your brand. This is especially true if you don’t have a particularly robust Website of your own. Etsy does that for you. Think of it as a “pop-up shop” for your business.

    Who are the typical Etsy sellers? According to a survey by the company,  (as of 2013) 97% run their businesses from their homes, and most – 83% – manage their shops without help.  Fifty-six percent relied on their own savings for start-up capital and 35% reported they didn’t need any investment to launch their businesses.

    Despite their growth aspirations, the strong majority of respondents – 61% – want their shops to remain “a size I can manage myself.” For most sellers, growth isn’t just about making money, but is balanced with business independence, flexibility and personal well-being.  See the survey here.

    If you’re launching a business, Etsy’s Seller Handbook advises you on everything from how to best photograph your product, to shipping tips, to branding and marketing.

    And Etsy really does build a community online. It has business owners recommending other products, and a community thread of advice and support. If you are starting a business (and as I’ve said, here’s to second acts!), it’s a great resource…but also if you have a on-going business and want more exposure.

    Online/offline combinations are hard to pull off.  But let’s talk about the offline Etsy too. I was struck by how much interaction there was at the event, not only between vendors and customers, but vendors talking to other vendors themselves. Although Pier 35 was chilly, there was a genuine warmth and camaraderie there.

    In this regard, Etsy introduced Etsy Local. This free feature helps shoppers connect with Etsy sellers who are participating in local events. Etsy Local also provides buyers with a list of sellers who’ve confirmed their attendance, as well as links to those sellers' Etsy shops.

    It was inspiring to see so many small businesses getting a large crowd of interested customers. It really struck me that Etsy has a model that many online businesses and communities should study.


    Title image source: Etsy -