4 Reasons Your Small Business Should Be on Etsy

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Many startups use Etsy as a launching pad, but what if you’re interested in doing it the other way around? As a small business owner, you might find an advantage in expanding your existing business onto Etsy.

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In case you’re unfamiliar, Etsy is an expansive ecommerce platform that hosts small business online storefronts. Etsy shop owners primarily sell handmade and vintage items, such as cross-stitch patterns and ‘70s biker jackets, but the site has plans to welcome wholesale operations, too.

Its mission to support original and creative projects remains strong, however. “Like you, we’re bored by the artificiality and ugliness of most products out there,” reads the Etsy blog. “We endeavor to inspire you with the imaginative, the durable, the forward-thinking, the lovely, the comforting, the provocative.”

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If your small business products fit the bill, read on to discover how an Etsy storefront can support and grow your brand.

1. Handmade? Local? Creative? Why Not, Then?

Here’s one way to look at it: If you could sell your wares at a flea market, then Etsy is probably a great fit for your business. We’ve seen everything on Etsy, from handmade jewelry to vintage video games and from silk-screened tees to homemade jam. As long as you make it, source it locally or can ensure it’s one-of-a-kind, your product will fit nicely into the Etsy framework. If you outsource your product to a factory in Indonesia, then pass on the platform.

Etsy offers a great feature to small businesses and customers dedicated to supporting their neighborhood economies. Etsy Local permits people to buy and sell to their neighbors — literally — which cuts shipping costs, reduces environmental impact and supports local mom-and-pop shops.

2. Give Your Website a Break

As a small business, you may not have enjoyed the budget or the time to update your website in awhile. Perhaps it needs a fresh design or a better online payment tool? In that case, consider using Etsy as a temporary “pop-up shop” while you take the time to rebuild your main ecommerce site.

Etsy seller Courtney Prince first decided to launch her Etsy shop, Doloris Petunia, when she realized her main site needed a serious overhaul. “When I discovered Etsy, my initial reaction was that it was a prettier eBay and a much better alternative to my malnourished website,” she says. “I soon discovered that it was much more than that because it allowed me to feature, promote and market my products better than any website or PR rep that I could have afforded at the time.”

Prince has since expanded her business, with huge help from the Etsy community of customers who adore her jewelry. She’s now preparing to relaunch a main website, but is taking her time as she remains satisfied with the tools and presence Etsy offers. After all, “In this day and age, your website needs to be as well made and functional as your products,” says Prince.

3. Experiment With New Projects

Think of Etsy as the quirky aunt of ecommerce: She’s going to accept and nurture you, no matter how weird you are.

Don’t be afraid to join in by adding your own wacky side project. Like Kickstarter, Etsy is a great way to gauge how receptive the world is to your ideas — with very little investment. Own a framing shop? Sell some of your own artwork on Etsy (with attached frames). Run a silk-screening business? Feature some pre-made unicorn t-shirts.

Prince plans to run both a main website and her Etsy shop for different purposes. “Since all of my work on Etsy is one-of-a-kind, handmade by me or a member of my tiny team and designed with the specific buyer in mind, we are planning to create a line of products which will enable our customers to buy ready-made pieces through our website (in order to further keep up with the demand).”

4. Tap a New Community

Etsy isn’t just a marketplace; it’s a community, too. The site’s social layer is robust — sellers “favorite” each other’s shops, communicate with customers and keep updated profiles. And they expect a response — Etsy customers value that transparency and familiarity.

As a small business, you should be eager to tap valuable communities, especially those like Etsy that will help promote your brand. Just keep in mind, however, that it’s important to reciprocate the love. Be communicative not only with customers, but with other sellers too — they’ll appreciate the support and may even be able to share tips for small business success on the site.

“If you have a great product, you can very quickly be elevated by the community of Etsy members, American Idol-style, and create buzz with no intentional effort,” explains Price. “The Etsy website gives you a much larger platform to be discovered than just your own independent website (or card table) floating around in obscurity.”

And the Etsy sellers and customers are not the only ones who are rooting for you. The Etsy team does a great job featuring, advising and providing support to its members. Prince refers to the efforts as “community-based, promotional aspects, like the features they run on their blog, and the way they support and highlight the members of their developing community.”

What experience do you have with Etsy? Do you think it’s valuable for a small business to have a presence on the ecommerce site? Share your tips for Etsy sellers in the comments below.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

What Every Small Business Needs to Know About Liability
9 Steps for Getting Kickstarter Dollars
Why Social Learning Benefits Your Business

Image courtesy of Flickr, Orbmiser

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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