Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Sherrell Dorsey headshot

What Amazon’s New Handmade Site Could Mean for the Future of Women Makers

By Sherrell Dorsey

Amazon surprised the Internet last week when it announced the launch of Handmade — an Etsy competitor that will sell handcrafted goods via its e-commerce site. According to the online giant, more than 80,000 products from about 5,000 artisans in more than 60 countries will be featured. Handcrafted wares will debut across several categories including jewelry, home, kitchen, artwork, stationary and furniture.

Making no apologies for its bold entry into the artisanal market, Amazon hit hard at the competition days before the official launch with a poaching strategy that was delivered via email. According to the Wall Street Journal, sellers received invites from Amazon a few days before the official launch, asking them to apply to Handmade.

Through Handmade, customers can shop genuine, factory-free, artisanal products that feel both local and uniquely global. Armed with prime shipping options, a database of 285 million customers and not to mention $75 billion in sales, Amazon's new platform is attractive for sellers looking to expose their business to new audiences.

“We have designed a custom shopping experience for customers looking for handmade items by bringing together many of the best artisans in the world, and they’re adding thousands of items daily,” said Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace.

“Knowing an item has a unique story behind it creates a personal experience that customers have told us makes owning handmade items special. Handmade at Amazon offers customers more than 80,000 quality handcrafted items from around the world, and over 30 percent can be personalized by artisans to delight customers.”

Moreover, increased access to artisan goods online uniquely benefits a rising demographic of sellers: women makers. In its annual seller report, Etsy revealed that nearly 86 percent of its sellers are, in fact, women. Women-driven "micro-businesses" powered by the Amazon and Etsy platforms are representative of the rising trend of women launching enterprises as an alternative to the restrictions of a traditional 9-to-5 job.

The report also noted that 26 percent of sellers on the site had no other form of paid employment before selling on the platform, leveraging their online shop as a way to earn additional income. With the low barrier to entry, setting up shop for a stay-at-home mom or homemaker (38 percent of this demographic, according to Etsy), is as simple as completing the seller application and uploading photos.

As American consumers continue to invest their dollars in high-quality, American-made products, the influence of women makers will continue to evolve. Areas of opportunity for e-commerce platforms that make entry into the marketplace simple can begin to offer unique financing models and training to help women scale their businesses. Despite women launching businesses at a faster rate than men over the last decade, barriers to capital and investment for women owners still remain.

Amazon, Etsy and smaller competitors can uniquely develop scalable solutions beyond the platforms themselves to empower and invest in women makers. Providing access to capital could spell long-term adoption of their systems.

Becoming a seller on Amazon's Handmade:

  • Register to sell on Amazon to begin the application process.

  • Create your Artisan Profile to begin creating your storefront.

  • Set up your products. There is no listing fee. (Etsy charges 20 cents)

  • For each item sold, Amazon takes a 12 percent commission which includes payment processing, marketing, discounted shipping, fraud protection and no monthly fee. (Etsy's commission is 3.5 percent)

  • Email and phone support are guaranteed.

  • Associates program allows you to earn 10 percent commission for Amazon sales generated from your personal website.
Image credit: Handmade
Sherrell Dorsey headshot

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

Read more stories by Sherrell Dorsey