woman doing research

Etsy's Crafty New Plan for Manufacturers

Sept. 24, 2015
A good man(ufacturer) is hard to find, in the case of the 1.5 million Etsy sellers. A new software platform is poised to change all that.
A good man(ufacturer) is hard to find, in the case of the 1.5 million Etsy sellers. A new software platform is poised to change all that.

Looking for a new partner to create things with, have some fun that can turn into a long and fruitful relationship? Been burned before by a big retailer who dropped you for some cheap OEM? Sure they put out more, but there's no love or craftsmanship.

Etsy has just the answer for you. A new software program from the digital handmade marketplace, called Etsy Manufacturing, has been as carefully crafted as an Angora duvet cover to match sellers who need a good manufacturer to U.S. mills and factories looking to increase their productivity.

By filling out a quick profile, a manufacturer can sign up now for the beta test, which should be in full operation by the end of the year. Sellers will then be able to search them out and send messages through Etsy Convos. A quick instant message could be the beginning of a very beautiful relationship

Unlike other sites, where many manufacturers may fight for one bid, this is a place where the manufacturers are in high demand. Nine out of 10 Etsy sellers want to grow their business, and 83% have sunk their own saving into their business, whether it's making kid's clothes or costumer jewelry. These sellers are serious entrepreneurs, and they want you.

The Etsy community is 86% female, and twice as likely to be under 35 than other American business owners. Some are indeed crafty moms knitting baby blankets part-time, but the community as a whole generated $1.93 billion gross merchandise sales in 2014. That's without the benefit of laser cutting, milling and machining.

So if your company's production line is growing moss instead of churning out goods, it might be time to put yourself out there. A new partner could be just down the road. The only thing you've got to lose is new business.

We asked Amanda Peyton, the product lead for Etsy Manufacturing (and MIT grad) for some more details.

What made Etsy want to do this?

Etsy has grown over the years. Since we started in 2005 selling unique craft goods, we’ve seen a lot of our sellers grow into full-fledged businesses. There was a very significant policy change in 2013. Sellers can now work with manufacturers or other help in their Etsy shop. One of the biggest problems reported was tracking down manufacturers, though. Somone who could work with small business, shared their values and were within driving distance. So we decided to think how we can make software product that really met those needs.

What manufacturing sectors fit best?

Ultimately we decided on four different area: jewelry and metal work, apparel and textiles, printing of all kinds and machining and fabrication., like laser cutting sand 3D printing. If someone feels they fit into that category, what would be great is to actually fill out the application. It only takes 60 seconds. Our team who is reviewing the applications can message them and give them feedback on what would be a fit.

Can you think of any applications that 3d printing can be used for to help Etsy sellers?

The creative mind knows no limits when it comes to 3D printing. We’ve seen 3D printed jewelry, 3D printed housewares, anything related to keychains. Plastics are a little more widespread. A couple 3D printers have signed up for the beta, and their minimum order is one unit, and so we do find there are people really interested in using 3D printing for prototyping, especially with jewelry.

Are you worried the site is going to be lopsided one way or the other?

Right now Etsy has 1.5 million sellers, and so if there were to be an imbalance, it would be on the seller side. We’ve thought about who’s allowed to send a message to a manufacturer. In the beta period, that’s something we will figure out. Whenever you have any two-sided piece of software, if it’s a dating site or real estate site, you want to make sure the messaging is pretty even across the board, and that’s something we think about very frequently.

What manufacturers do you want?

One question we get asked is “Are you willing to allow huge factories into the beta?” Ultimately we are interested in finding manufacturers who want to work with our sellers. Generally, those tend to be on the smaller side. We’re not opposed larger scale manufacturers, but there’s not really a fit right now. They might not be so interested in doing a run of 100 to 200 units, though a lot of the smaller scale ones are very interested in working with small businesses.

How will manufacturers know if they are can fit a job into their schedule?

We have a section in the profile for turnaround time, so manufacturers can see what the timeline might be like. We’re really excited to launch this now because a lot of people do their manufacturing for the holidays over the summer. What we’re expecting to have a lower volume, so people can try out the platform and test it and then really come into the new year working on their production plans.

Putting together artsy, small scale sellers and blue-collar, large factories seems like an unconventional juxtaposition. What's the truth?

One thing we found over course of the research we conducted is that the two groups are interested in the same goal: making the best possible product. There are times when they speak different languages, though. Sometimes there is a little bit of a gap on how an Etsy seller speaks about the process versus how a manufacturer would explain the same process. That’s something we’ve built into every step of our process. We want to build up education on both sides. There are great things about being on the artistic side, and great things about being on the manufacturing side. Our goal is to really facilitate those relationships. A lot of our manufacturers consider themselves artists as well. And 74% of sellers in a recent survey consider themselves to be businesses, so they’re not just hobbyists. They take themselves very seriously.

Any stories you can share so far?

There was a woman in the apparel industry, making children’s capes, working on building up her business and sewing all day and all night. She looked around and found this guy who had a local factory and they started talking. There was a bit of skepticism at first, but then they started working together and it became this really great partnership where the mill’s sewing machines were getting work again and she was getting some help making her product.

To apply for the beta test, please visit: etsy.com/manufacturing/apply.