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Buy Local. Buy Beautiful. Etsy: Truly Social Entrepreneurship

| Monday March 17th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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If you’re like many others these days, you know the value of buying local. Buying non mass produced. Supporting the creator of something directly. Or perhaps you yourself make something by hand, whether it’s clothing, jewelry, or perhaps some amazing deserts. You want the world to know about and have an opportunity to buy them, but don’t want or have the desire to have a full store for your wares. Where do you go?
Etsy is a great solution to all of the above. Though it does place an emphasis on the hand crafted, it’s by no means a crunchy, wan effort. Quite the opposite, this site provides an attractive, interactive presentation of people’s products, creating a user friendly hub for connecting those who make with those who buy. Etsy gives a whole different twist to the term “social entrepreneur.”
Etsy does a stellar job providing a range of intriguing ways to find what you’re seeking, or didn’t even know you were seeking. Other retailers, take note!


For example, you can shop by color. As in a color spectrum bar comes up, you choose exactly what color you like, and up pops a number of items in that color. For those locally inclined, you can designate as specific as which city you’d like it to be from. In my small town of Grass Valley, population 12,000, I found 5 sellers.
Other options include the hand picked favorites of sellers on the site, by themes, ala iTunes playlists. From the look of things there, the seller community seems to actively support each other on there. A visually stunning way to peruse the goods on here is the Time Machine option, where items are shown by time of posting to the site, coming towards you in a spiral or in a cloudlike cluster. Fascinating, if a bit confusing. Finally they have the more typical options, as in gift guides by sex, age, and categories.
While some of these search options may not work for you personally, Etsy is wise to have created a number of different ways to engage with the offerings here that will meet just about any shopper’s needs, giving a vitality to the shopping experience that can’t be replicated in a bricks and mortar store.
Further enhancing this experience is their Alchemy section where you as a buyer can post requests for what you’d like to have made, and sellers can then bid on the possibility to do that for you. Enhancing the skills of those who sell on their site is their VIrtual Labs section, which has live classes and online classes on offer.
What Etsy has created here is a complete ecosystem for the realization of a vibrant trade in that which is hand made. If you’re looking to avoid shopping at the big box, or live in a city and want the amazing treasures to come to you rather then pounding the pavement, this is the site for you.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.


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  • Lauren S

    Great news!
    Another great organization doing similar work is World of Good, Inc, a Fair Trade Org based out of Emeryville, CA.
    They just launched a new online community for socially-conscious consumers at: http://www.worldofgood.com/oo/c
    -Lauren