If you’ve never shopped at Etsy, you need to stop, grab a cup of tea and an open mind, and just browse for a few minutes:
This is the Amazon of the homemade movement, and the Great America of craft fairs. You can find just about anything here: homemade jewelry to bath towels to art that looks like it belongs on Portobello Road. But is there more going on here than just buying and selling?
Etsy was originally created in 2005 to be a place where small craft shops and independent artists could showcase their work and compete in a difficult, digital, and global economy. It’s success over the last half-decade illustrates how effective it has been allowing the value of authorship, creativity, and entrepreneurship of its members to drive its growth. Since it’s opening in 2005, Etsy’s total merchandise sales have risen from $170K in 2005, to $177 Million in 2009, to $437 million in 2012 (total as of July, 2012). It’s membership is currently just shy of 20 million, with over 800,000 active shops in 150 countries. 1 This is small DIY crafting on a massive scale. And as such, perhaps its importance isn’t merely successfully promoting small business growth for crafters. Perhaps we’re seeing the potential for change in our popular consumer culture as a whole. Chad Dickerson, CEO and former CTO of Etsy, argues that “Etsy can help fundamentally change the way the world works by making it possible for individuals to make and sell things to other people around the globe — a people-powered economy.” 2 This new type of economy would be made by empowered artists using their passions and projects to “bring heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.” 1
I’m not an economist, nor am I an expert on popular culture or consumer trends. But I do know a number of driven, self-starting do-it-yourself-ers who create items and art from the canvas of their imagination, bringing ideas to life with a careful eye for aesthetics and a passion for quality. If any group of aspiring leaders could harness the creative power, finite skill, and self-motivation that I have seen embodied by these artists, I have no doubt they could indeed change the world.
In this heated election season, I would leave you with this: what if our country, our culture, looked a little more like Etsy?
Sources? Here ya go!
1 Etsy Online, http://www.etsy.com/press?ref=ft_press
2 “XOXO: Chad Dickerson – Etsy,” Anil Dash, http://dashes.com/anil/2012/09/xoxo-chad-dickerson—etsy.html