Etsy's online marketplace not used only to sell goods

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Wren Maczka was nervous about putting the first pairs of arm warmers and fingerless gloves on her Etsy shop that mostly sold trim and lace.

"I knew I liked my stuff. And I knew my friends liked my stuff," said Ms. Maczka, 29, whose Etsy shop, Zen and Coffee Design, is now filled with hundreds of her glove designs, which range from white lacy bridal and black satin corsets to casual stripes and one-color sets. "It is different with someone you don't know."

Three and a half years later, Ms. Maczka spends her days -- and sometimes nights -- checking for orders, communicating with customers, and designing and sewing from her Raleigh, N.C., home studio. About half of her orders go to Canada, but she also has customers in Great Britain, Australia, Norway and Italy.

She is among the more than 900,000 sellers on Etsy, an online marketplace where people sell handmade and vintage goods that include jewelry, candles, clothes and art. It has more than 300 million members in 200 countries.

The Etsy community generated more than $895 million in sales in 2012. Sellers pay a listing fee of 20 cents for each item added to their shop, and Etsy retains 3.5 percent of the sale.

While Ms. Maczka is happy selling just on Etsy, other artists and small business owners use it to supplement their sales, test their market, get ideas from customization requests and as a stepping stone on their way to wholesale or a larger marketplace.

Etsy newcomers can get started by turning to its "Seller Handbook," the marketplace's business education blog, and by joining Etsy "Teams," which are self-organized groups that can provide support and motivation, Dana Mauriello, Etsy's director of new business opportunities, wrote in an email.

"It's more than just listing a few items in their shop," Ms. Mauriello wrote. Sellers need to spend time thinking about their brand and their target audience, then take steps to engage with the community.

Once an Etsy shop is set up, sellers should think about other ways to expand their business, she said.

"They can consider adding customized items to their shop, look into wholesale opportunities, or marketing opportunities," Ms. Mauriello wrote. "We encourage our seller community to utilize all resources to help grow their businesses."

Etsy also recently introduced a payment platform that makes it easier for buyers around the world to make online purchases using their own currency and method of payment, Ms. Mauriello said. The company is also helping sellers increase revenue through seller-support programs and a wholesale marketplace that connects sellers with small boutiques and larger buyers such as Nordstrom.

"One thing that we heard from our sellers is that they are active in, and looking to grow in, multiple sales channels including wholesale," Ms. Mauriello said. "We also believe that one of the best ways that we can support our sellers is through empowering them with information and improvements to Shop Stats," where sellers go to gauge the health of their business on Etsy.

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