By Ryan Velez
The rise of e-commerce as a sales platform has meant a greater chance for entrepreneurs who may not be able to take part in the physical market to be able to make a profit off their goods and services. One example is Etsy, which has blown up into huge market for handmade and vintage goods.
Another benefit of platforms like Etsy is for underrepresented groups to have another avenue into the marketplace, like African-Americans. Small Business Trends has profiled 15 successful African-American entrepreneurs on Etsy to see their stories, products, and some of their advice for others looking to make money off of their work via Etsy. Here are a few of the highlights.
Dana Osborne-Briggs is the founder of Urban Heirlooms, a shop that offers artisan leather bags and other accessories. Thinking from an artistic perspective, she says that Etsy was a “utopia” where one-on-one relationships were not only possible but encouraged and honored. At the same time, she said there were several practical reasons for choosing Etsy.
“Low overhead and the ease of starting were the biggest attractions. All I needed was a decent camera, a handmade product, and a little bit of enthusiasm and I could open up shop. At the time it was truly a niche marketplace with a community that was eager to help a newbie,” she explains.
MiMi Dabo, who founded Boutique Mix in 2008, says that resources and reach are what drew her to Etsy. She describes it as a global platform, where “it provides a small business like mine access to consumers all over the world with just one click. It also has excellent resources for learning how to run a business, and tools for growth.” Boutique Mix sells African clothing, jewelry and other fashion accessories.
Etsy may also be a valuable resource for those who are going through an evolution in their businesses or careers. Tisha Howell of skincare and beauty products maker Skinfolk made the move to Etsy after her job was downsized in the 2008 recession. She described the Etsy community as a “warm welcome to independent selling” after leaving corporate America. Likewise, Nandi Tahir from Three Little Birds Tees owned a brick-and-mortar store in Philadelphia for 20 years, but closed up shop in 2012 after her husband passed away. Still wanting to keep the entrepreneurial spirit, she used Etsy to sell her t-shirts and get her home-based business off the ground.
African-Americans may find Etsy a valuable resource in particular, according to Chantel Weaver. Her shop, PaintingsThatPop, includes a variety of different products featuring her artwork, from coasters to jewelry to coloring books. She recommends that black entrepreneurs need to “remember your community. This is a time more than ever where we need to be uplifting each other breaking free from the stereotypes, and creating positive representations.” She also says that success from hard work may not be apparent right away, but that entrepreneurs need to stick to your goals, even if people try to sway them.