Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Are the Key

sylvie's perspective

...from the

I have been a seller online for 5 1/2 years now. It has been a great learning experience. And really, I've learned that there isn't much I can't do on my own to succeed at it.  If that's what I want.

Some years ago, a topic of discussion caught my eye and what got me thinking about all of this.  Apparently, the venue had been promoting sellers offering sales, discounts and free shipping. The author as well as many others, felt that this somehow denigrated artists and their work by cheapening it and the handmade movement in general. That by promoting sales and/or free shipping "puts pressure" on other sellers to offer similar discounts and likened the marketplace to a flea market where people could shop for 'cheap'.  No offense to flea markets!!

As the conversation progressed, many comments revealed a general consensus that whatever venue you sell from has a responsibility to its members to educate the public about the value of art, the uniqueness and worth of handmade and to promote the site as such. In their opinions, the site had been doing the exact opposite thereby hurting their selling endeavors to succeed as sellers of handmade.  Sound familiar?  This was 3 years ago.

While it would be nice for our venues to help, as I'm sure we all know by now, they will advertise, promote and operate their business as they see fit even if we don't agree with those practices. But do those practices really affect the success or failure of our individual businesses or of the larger handmade movement?  Well, maybe not necessarily.  But I do respect the concerns brought up in that discussion and understand the fears expressed about the face the venue was putting forward.

I don't know if merely promoting sales, discounts and free shipping does in fact cheapen the value of handmade. In my opinion, the vast underselling on a regular basis does much more harm in this regard.  What I do know, is we, the business owners, are the one factor that can make the biggest difference.  Hard work, relentless promotion, introducing our customers to the value and worth of handmade, with or without the help of any venue, is what we do to make that difference. This is where our energy will have the most direct impact.  Not by waiting for the venue to do what we think it should do in order to help us succeed and spread the love of handmade.

That does not imply that certain expectations of the venue are unreasonable.  In earlier years, asking for changes, and sometimes with the volume turned up really loud, is what has gotten many good features implemented on the site. But is never a guarantee that we will be listened to or that our concerns will be addressed and alleviated.  Especially of late.

Recent happenings are far more damaging to the value of handmade than promoting sales or discounts.  The site appears to be taking a direction more conducive to larger and high volume sellers in the form of  'collectives', much to the detriment of many smaller competing shops.  There is absolutely nothing we can do about that.  This is when you decide it's time to direct your energies where they will have the most direct impact on your business.  A sentiment that pretty much gave birth to this team.

Some may disagree with my point of view, but I feel that it ultimately won't matter what any venue does or doesn't do as far as promoting sales, discounts or otherwise, because it is completely out of our hands. Only we can effectively achieve success.  Or not. Even with one hand tied behind our back.  Who knows your business better than you do?  The venue is just that--a venue.  A place to set up shop.  . 

So if we just keep rolling up our sleeves and tackling whatever comes at us and make it work to our advantage, even collectively, we can pretty much accomplish whatever we want.  You just have to want it badly enough and believe that you can do it.  I know, because there are plenty of successful sellers who have proven you can make the system work for you.  Finding that formula is the trick.  But you are the key.  You are the one variable that can and will make a difference in your own experiences.

Our team is structured to help each of us become our best and make the system work to our advantage.  With so many smart, creative and caring people, I'm certain, together we will find the way to elevate all of our businesses which in turn also elevates the love and value of handmade.  Here's to us!!!


  1. Sylvie, what an amazing post and so very true!! It IS up to us to find our own success! These are very motivating and uplifting words to me. Thank you so much for this post and for all you do to make this team a success!


  2. I second everything you wrote, Sylvie, especially "The venue is just that - a venue. A place to set up shop."

    I am always so disheartened when I hear people refer to the venue as their "business". The venue is NOT your business - YOU are your business. And like you said, it's up to YOU as individual how you run your business and make it succeed.

  3. Excellent post, and very good points, Sylvie! When faced with a challenge, we have choices in how we respond. Getting up in arms and assigning blame is one choice, and taking a good hard look at yourself and looking for positive changes that YOU can make is another. Nothing ever stays the same, and we have to learn to be fluid and move with the tide. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Being fluid is very important when you are not on your own stand alone website. Because the venues we sell from are extremely fluid, changing all the time. Being fluid and open to new ideas will go a long ways towards success.

  4. Thanks a lot Sylvie. Loved each point you said. We are the ones who would make a difference to our business. I have set up my shop on some other VENUE too. There also, we find bulk , giant sellers selling even machine made goods. I never lose heart and I am putting my best with my hard work. But very few people appreciate handmade here. I have taken it as a challenge.

  5. If only people truly appreciated handmade things. Your points are very valid Sylvie. Thank you. I needed to be reminded that I make it happen, and no one else.

  6. Yes, Sylvie, wonderful way to put it. Each of us now and then has to get re-centered.

    There has been a lot of change for us lately, and many discouraged people expressing their dismay, seeking redress, hoping to persuade others to re-orient their business plan to help us. But actually we need to look to ourselves, to redefine and rededicate, rather than hoping and trying to roll back the clock. For each handmade shop owner, it is critical to reassess and move forward. That’s what teamhandmade is all about. Helping each other to do this.

    Was it the Peanuts cartoon that said “We’ve met the enemy, and it is us”? Let’s all try to be our own best friend, each other’s best friend, and act in our best interest as business owners; create what we believe in, and put our best feet forward.

    Thanks for the pep talk, Sylvie,


  7. Well said Sylvie. You are a blessing in disguise, always there to help and give such great advice. I think of you every time I look at my beautiful new banner that you created for my shop. A big thank-you!
    When I started on Etsy, I didn't know how much work it would be, but you tend to take pride in your shop after putting so much effort into it. I think we are all learning as we go, I know I am. I still have a long ways to go and a lot more work to do to get my shop to be a place where people will want to come and browse. I have so many ideas and plans. Your article makes perfect sense, it's up to me to make my shop grow. Thanks for sharing.