The Other Versions of Etsy Success (That we Aren’t Talking About)


I’d like to preface this post by asking that you read it with full consideration of the NEW Etsy. Etsy isn’t a place for ONLY handmade items anymore. We can all be upset about that and have opinions about the ethics of it, but we can also continue to use Etsy as a tool. You have to decide for yourself what’s going to work for you, but please read this post with the NEW Etsy in mind – not the old beloved one of years past. Maybe Etsy isn’t the champion of handmade anymore, at least not the handmade they spent a decade promoting the definition and awareness of, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a tool. Okay?

I’m sure by now you’ve caught wind of this Three Bird Nest situation. If not, you can catch up here, here and through a quick Google search.

My feelings on this might be even stronger right now because of the work we are doing at She Percolates – which relates very closely to the idea I am aiming to express in this post.

I have seen a lot of chatter about this whole 3BN thing – some “good for her”, some “good for her, but that is not my style” and a ton of “this is an outrage.”

I totally can understand parts of each of those sentiments. I’ll reserve my comments on 3BN specifically because they are still mostly unsorted and also, that’s not what I’m here to say.

People have been touting her as an “Etsy success” – certainly, she is. I think Abby’s post in particular outlines really nicely how 3BN’s founder, Alicia, has built this business and how savvy she is. No one is denying that dollar amount often plays into how we define success in business. By all accounts, 3BN makes a lot of money and does a lot of business on Etsy. Good for them. Regardless of her product, and her story, she is by surface definition an “Etsy success” – and she has worked the Etsy system to her advantage. It might not be the way you or I would do it – but that’s another story.

Point is: I just really don’t think number of sales per month is the only way to determine a success story.

The internet at large keeps associating 3BN with “Etsy Success” because of the amount of sales she makes each month / year. I think that’s incredibly narrow.

Absolutely, lots of sales is wonderful. But there are other benefits. It’s not all about sales. Etsy is a tool. {Let this be our mantra, amen.}

It makes for a nice headline, I get that. But by repeatedly praising her for making a ton of money – and barely ever explaining the full story – two things have happened: other sellers who rationally know they cannot / will not ever make that much money on Etsy feel discouraged or {*throw their hands up* exasperated} and also, people continue to focus on money based success.

It’s bumming me out, you guys.

Whether you think Etsy is good or bad doesnt really matter. (And I have to say, I’m growing annoyed with folks who aren’t selling on etsy weighing in on the state of selling on Etsy. If you aren’t currently selling on Etsy, then you simply so not know the experience. But I digress.) For those of you who ARE in fact currently selling on Etsy : If you’re only on Etsy for the immediate sales, you might be missing a large part of the picture. It’s not all about sales. Etsy is a tool.

Etsy is a tool

Etsy has bred us to care a whole lot about our sales NUMBER. Not the quality of our sales, or connections, or clients, and not even the quality of our work, but NUMBER of sales. It’s annoying , frankly. The number of sales your shop has made is publicly displayed on your shop’s homepage. It’s a long standing Etsy tradition. Of all the changes they’ve made, that one thing has endured. I know it is a stumbling block for many people. That number never tells the whole story. But that is a topic for another day.

Etsy is a tool – a good tool for the most part, despite their flaws. Etsy brings in an audience of captive buyers or products, editors, and other influencers. People are still using Etsy to shop, connect, find and feature. Basically, if your shop is optimized properly and branded well, people (buyers and influencers) who might not have otherwise found you, can see your work and connect with you in any number of ways – inquires, sales, features, collaborations, licensing agreements, freelance work… the list goes on.

All of those things play into various iterations of success. These things can help lay the groundwork for bigger, better, more in-line-with-your-longterm-goal things. Think about it.

Brick + Mortar

I’m going to use my friend Ana as an example here. Ana has been selling on Etsy for a few years now. She started out selling finished knit products – mainly wearables in her shop. She then got into dying her own yarns and selling them as supply. Through Etsy, she procured contacts with not only retail buyers but wholesale buyers (and no, she’s not on Etsy Wholesale.) She has been working with wholesalers for some time now, and her yarns are being stocked across the country. In a few days, she is hosting the grand opening event at her own brick and mortar LYS in Salem, Massachusetts, Circle of Stitches.

Of course, there I would never attribute ALL of anyone’s success to Etsy entirely. Etsy is a tool.

That’s crazy amazing. Etsy helped her establish a presence online that lead her to so many other opportunities. To me, this is an Etsy Success story. Etsy was only part of the story- a part that played an important role – Ana is a talented and savvy business person, Etsy is a tool – she chose to use it.


What about sellers who have been discovered on Etsy by the people at Martha Stewart, West Elm or Pottery Barn? Or Anthropologie? Those are huge opportunities for those sellers. It happens a lot – because of Etsy exposure – because people still go there, looking.

What about my own shop?

I’ll admit that at first my one and only goal was to make as many sales as possible. Mostly because I wasn’t actually aware of any other benefits to being on Etsy. Now I know that was foolish and wrong. I get multiple inquiries via my Etsy shop that I wouldn’t get otherwise.

In an ideal world, editors and bloggers would find me soley through my own website 100% of the time. But, unfortunately this isn’t an ideal world. If etsy is a tool you can use to connect with people, why not?

I know Etsy isn’t perfect. I don’t know any other selling venue that is. My own site that runs on shopify is lovely and easy to use, but shopify isn’t perfect either. There is not perfect solution, there are only tools, and how we use them is up to us. I have my own strategy for using Etsy – and I did at one point lose track of the fact that it’s not all about sales, admittedly.

I’ve met a lot of truly wonderful people – and friends – through Etsy. I wouldn’t know these people without my Etsy experience. Some of the people I’ve met through Etsy have played a role in my life or business that has helped elevate it. I call that a success, too.

If we really want to support handmade, and small business, we need to expand our definitions of success.

We all want different things. Just because one person is making more money than another doesn’t mean they are more successful. Success is a personal definition.

Take pride in your work, use the tools available to you, celebrate the wins of others, and focus on your definition of success.

What is YOUR Etsy success story?


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