Business

3 Lessons On The Crafting Economy With Etsy Chief Operating Officer Linda Kozlowski

WRITTEN BY ROSS DIAS
The cycle of popularity in online platforms goes something like this: a site launches, makers and entrepreneurs rush in and build up its credibility, and then come the bigwig corporate players who take over the framework, leaving the small entrepreneur in the lurch. You see this across the board from Instagram to Amazon to YouTube, but, that isn’t what’s happening with Etsy, and the stats back it up. Internationally, 97 percent of Etsy’s 1.8 million sellers work from home, 77 percent are one-man shops, and 87 percent are women.

The platform works because it’s focused on conquering moments that provide meaning to their buyer and seller. “We’re less interested in the more commoditized, broader shopping moments like toilet paper or batteries. You might go to Amazon for that,” says Linda Findley Kozlowski, chief operating officer of Etsy. “For us, it’s when you want something special; that’s when we want you to come to us. And that definition of special can include a lot of different life events that may be considered every day, but are actually really moments of personal expression.”

Here, Kozlowski shares three lessons on maintaining a viable crafting economy.

THE CRAFTING ECONOMY IS AS DEMOCRATIC AS ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY CAN GET.
The rise in independent workers, gig-economy workers, whatever you want to call them, is kind of universal around the world, and people deciding to shape their careers the way they want them to be. Creative entrepreneurship is the primary business and income for 39 percent of Etsy sellers in Canada. There’s a lot of people who want to shape their own way of working now. And to the rest, it’s a hobby—an artistic expression that they’re just enjoying on the side while making some extra money.

It does feel very democratic because of the integration of technology. What we’ve essentially done was take an online platform and apply it to a crafting set of microentrepreneurs so that they can focus on doing what they want to do. We’re taking care of the framework around so they can showcase their work to people who want to purchase.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BUILDING A STRONG COMMUNITY. REALLY.
One of the unique things about Etsy is the concept of community. We have, what we call “seller teams.” There’s more than 14,000 of them around the world. They’re basically created by our sellers where they gather other sellers and they bring them together into a team so they can support each other, teach each other tips on how to sell, share stories, and build a community there as well.

We want to be a business that is both supporting the community and helping sellers grow. One of the nice things about Etsy’s business model is it’s completely aligned with a seller’s success. We only make money if our sellers make money. Our decision-making process comes from how are we best supporting the seller, whereas some other tech companies might be slightly different.

A PERSON-TO-PERSON (VERSUS CORPORATION-TO-PERSON) TRANSACTION DRIVES THE ECONOMY.
We know that people care a lot about experiences these days, and they’re thinking more carefully about what they buy. They may be buying fewer “things,” because they want those things to be important to them. They want things that have a real story. Buying a physical good that’s been made by the person that you’re talking to is also a tactile experience on its own.

There are some people who are looking for specific goods that you can only find in one part of the world, and you should be able to buy from an individual in that part of the world. We believe in supporting the concept of “buy local” as well as “buy globally.” What’s more important to us is that you’re actually buying from a human being.