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Etsy's Handmade Goods Inspire the Shopper in All of Us

Published: Monday, February 16, 2009 10:15 AM EST     5468 Views
Author: Micki Takac
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Are you uninspired when you need to buy a gift? Or maybe your eclectic tastes are not satisfied by what you can find at the mall. Anyone looking to expand their shopping horizons, while supporting artists from all over the world, should check out was born in 2005 as an online marketplace to sell handmade goods. Rob Kalin, creator of and an artist, carpenter and photographer, found that there were really no online sites dedicated to promoting and selling the creations of the artists and craftspeople of the world. Along with two other twenty-something innovators – Chris Maquire and Haim Schoppik – Rob Kalin launched on June 18, 2005. Currently, Etsy has over 1.9 million members, over 200,000 sellers – selling over 3 million items – and total gross sales of $9.9 million, through January 2009.

Over the years, has expanded to include the sale of commercial and handmade art supplies, as well as vintage items, which are defined as items that are over 20 years old. is not an auction site. Each seller sets up an online store to sell their goods. However, like an auction site, charges a fee to list items. At 20 cents per item for four months, the listing fee is quite a deal. Finally, once an item sells, the seller pays a 3.5 % transaction fee of the sale price.

Besides an amazing array of handmade items, the thing that makes unique is the innovative and exciting ways in which buyers can search for goods. There are, of course, the standard keyword and category searches that can be performed. Why be boring? You're shopping at an online store that sells elegant origami earrings, hand grenade soap cast from an actual deactivated WWII steel body grenade and leopard print fabric fortune cookies stuffed with 100% organic catnip. Take advantage of's creative search tools like searching by Colors, Birthdays and Pounce – just to name a few.

The Colors search is a virtual array of colors and a Pantone color book addict's dream. Just click on the color that appeals to you, and the color averaging algorithm matches products to the color that you choose. If you choose the Birthdays search, sellers are highlighted who are celebrating their birthdays on the day that you are shopping. If you want to own the hottest items or you would like to support a new seller, then the Pounce search is for you. Pounce lets you choose to search items just sold, or to support artisans whose stores have yet to make a sale. The staff of are always looking for ways to improve the site and the manner in which people shop, so don't be surprised if they invent even more innovative ways to search for that perfect item.

One of the newest features on is the Alchemy request. Maybe your brain is bursting with great ideas, but you have trouble transforming your thoughts into a tangible object. That's where Alchemy comes into the mix. Just go to the Custom link on the homepage, and create a new request for the item of your dreams, including price and deadline. The artisans will place bids on the concept and share their execution of the idea with you. Once you choose the item that matches your needs and seal the deal, the artist pays a 3.5% transaction fee to Etsy. There's no charge to you as the creator of the Alchemy request.

And you thought shopping was boring.

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