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”.
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.