Sharing a Passion for Handmade

"I believe it is important to thirst for knowledge every day of your life. If you are tired of learning, you are probably tired of living... "
Holly J. Stanger

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FloDo is short for Florence's Daughter in honor of my mother who instilled in me my curiosity and appreciation for all things handmade.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finding My Community

Living in a rural community, be it in Maine or any other state, makes starting a home-based business a challenge. The first obstacle is getting the word out to a wide audience. Finding cost effective ways to advertise and market your shop are critical. Word of mouth is always helpful but can only spread as far as the networks you have created. Complicate this with the fact that many of us with this type of business are also out in the working world, if we are lucky, full time and the challenge is greater. Opportunities for promotion and growth do not just present themselves to us… Or, do they?

While scanning one of my favorite crafting community magazines, and to be perfectly honest with you I do not exactly remember which one, I came across an ad for a website called “Etsy”. Now mind you, more often than not, unless I am in the market for a particular supply or material for my many projects, I usually skip the ads and concentrate on the articles. But, something peaked my curiosity. I went to the site and as I looked it all over and began to understand what Etsy was I grew more and more excited. The prospect of actually establishing a store front where I could point my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, relatives and anyone else I came in contact with (well, not everyone) to “see what I could do” made me a little giddy. It didn’t hurt that it was so inexpensive to get started. At the very least, I would gain some experience in working with a website. “Free” training is ALWAYS “a good thing” (sorry Martha). So, I set about following all the directions to create my shop and post all the items I had ever made, not giving much thought to what the end result would look like. I posted one of this and two of that and even offered to remake some items in different colors, sizes… you, get the picture. Then beaming with pride over my accomplishment, I called everyone I knew and practically demanded that they “look at what I did”. I was sure that within a matter of days everything I had posted would be SOLD and I would be so busy making more I would have to quit my day job!

Well… 8 months later and no sales (which of course I could not understand) I stopped looking at my shop every day and stopped demanding that my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, relatives and anyone else I came in contact with (well, maybe not everyone) “look what I had done”.

Then, one day in the lunch room of my “day job”, I was reading a local newspaper, to be perfectly honest I can’t remember which one (actually I can as there is only one) and I saw an ad that contained a word that caught my eye. Now mind you, more often than not, unless I am looking for a sale at the local supermarket, or more realistically, the local fabric store, I usually skip the ads and concentrate on the articles. (Hmm, I think I heard that somewhere before…) But, this one caught my eye. It was an ad for an upcoming craft show featuring “Artists from the Etsy Maine Team”! I thought “Wow, other people really do use Etsy. I am not alone. And, from the looks of their wonderful flyer, they are very talented people”. So, I added the craft fair to my calendar. I wanted to know what this “Etsy Maine Team” thing was all about.

I was a bit nervous as I headed to the craft fair. I felt a bit like I was going to meet some secret society and that my measly business cards and the fact that I had a shop (and I now use that term very loosely) on Etsy would not be impressive enough for this group of artistes to give me the time of day. But, I could not have been more wrong.

First, let me say that while I had been so busy setting up my shop, which at the time was a bit of a daunting task for me, I had not even perused all the myriad of offerings that the then hundreds, now thousands, of shops and sellers had to offer. I had no idea what I was in for and boy was I in for a treat! At the craft fair, each of the “vendors” offered very unique and wonderful wares. Everything was very colorful and the presentation from one table to the next was true “eye candy”. Exquisite (I don’t use that word very often unless I mean to make a point, and I MEAN to make a point here) jewelry, accessories, kitchen linens, vintage items, jewelry, children’s tutus, baby booties, soft toys for infants and other magnificent items… and did I mention jewelry?

I met some very interesting people that day. Each of them had their own story and each had their own talent and skill, and well deserved pride in their individual products. But, equally as impressive was the fact that each of them was a member of one team. And as a team they all supported each other and their art. Every single person there was welcoming and friendly and open. They not only were receptive to telling me about their own shops but more often than not encouraged me to talk to the other vendors and promoted their team members’ items as well, and with pride. There was no competitive tone or attitude among them. They did not see me as an intruder for asking so many questions. They encouraged me to join their group and listed many of the pros to membership: networking, group support, resource sharing, idea bouncing sessions, team meetings, critique of shops and encouragement to keep going even when it did not look like success (sales) was on the immediate horizon.

Wow! I left there excited once again. I immediately went home and requested my place on the team. I was eagerly accepted and immediately supplied with the tools I needed to expand my vision and re evaluate my goal for my own shop: forum discussions, resource links, list of team members. I gained a new appreciation for the available resources on the Etsy site but more importantly I gained a community. A community - available through a few strokes on the keyboard, any time, day or night, weekday or weekend - of like minded artists with the common goal to promote HANDMADE and each other.

It has been several months since I met that great group of people. Since then, I have learned much about Etsy and its opportunities. I have learned much about how to really create a shop and not just a mishmash of all things made by me. I have learned much about websites and taking better product photos (thanks Joy!) and have even made a few sales. I have learned how to brand myself (not that kind of brand) and create my shop’s identity. I have learned that this process takes time and dedication and TONS of patience. And, I have learned that I have so much more to learn. Most of all, I have learned much about being a member of a community. A community of like-minded individuals who take a little time out of their day to share their successes and failures, their achievements and their frustrations, and ALWAYS their support…

I look forward doing my part as a team member by introducing you to many of the members of the Etsy Maine Team. I know you will be as impressed as I am…

OH, and did I mention the JEWELRY???

Photos by featured  Etsy Maine Team members:  beckyrose, junquerevival, littleputland, quenchmetalworks, jamieribisi, cleverkitty, etsymaineteam


  1. I know exactly how you feel, Holly. I was a brand new member of the team at that same craft fair and I have received help and encouragement aplenty from so many people and I've made some wonderful friends.

  2. Wonderful article! Especially for those of us who live in rural areas- or in rural States-this sort of community- and community building -is essential.

  3. Great article! Makes me so proud to be part of the Etsy Maine Team! Maine is home to so many wonderful artists and craftspeople (and wonderful, welcoming people in general).

  4. What a wonderful post! This is exactly why I love Etsy Teams so much. :)


FloDo Designs Shop on Etsy