What is Etsy?

I mentioned my misgivings with Etsy in a previous post, and I was interested to here a relevant report on NPR just this morning. You can see the transcription or listen to the story here. It might give a little more background on the Etsy seller debacle.

Also of interest is an NPR story about Etsy from almost a year ago.The older article is about Etsy’s “growing pains”, how Etsy was going to deal with it’s growing base of sellers (800,000 at the time – closer to a million now) and some of those sellers’ desires to increase their own business. The story mentions one seller who saw demand for her products increase beyond Etsy’s capacity to handle the business. So she started doing a large portion of her business outside of Etsy. So she was becoming a success and Etsy was not able to get a cut of the profits.

According to the new policies at Etsy, a seller can have employees doing the crafting, can farm out part of the production to outside manufacturers, pretty much run a business that is more like a factory than what most customers would expect when they are shopping for “handmade”. That’s fine – that just makes it easier for people to start up small businesses, create jobs and all that. But a lot of people joined Etsy years ago just to sell a few handmade goods and make a little extra income, not to become the CEO of a factory. And what is only hinted at in the NPR stories is that Etsy doesn’t really want those individual crafters making handmade goods one at a time on the kitchen table to make a little extra money. They want the “big sellers”, the ones who can churn out product and provide Etsy with a consistently high return. CEO Chad Dickerson has been acting as the voice of Etsy in interviews, but he is not one of the founders of Etsy. He was a former CTO at Yahoo brought on in 2008 to make Etsy into a more efficient money machine. He has no allegiance to the original philosophy of Etsy. He is there to make Etsy profitable and that is all. I can’t blame him for doing his job.

I guess the biggest problem is that they want to have it both ways. They want to be a big business while appearing to be a small business. So what is Etsy? The people who made Etsy years ago, the people making things with their own hands out of their own homes, the ones that gave Etsy it’s quirky, crafty, resourceful image – that’s still the image that Etsy wants to project, but those are the same people whom Etsy will throw under the bus to get the “big sellers”.

But that’s just business.


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