The number of online craft marketplaces has proliferated in recent years, fuelled in part by the growing popularity of making and selling handmade goods. Yet despite their growth, there is still much that we do not know about the people using them and the impact they have had on their lives.
Our research – based on an original survey and semi-structured interviews – shows that people using online craft marketplaces differ from business owners in the conventional sense. While the average self-employed person is male, middle-aged and relatively asset-rich, the typical person selling on Etsy is female, young and without significant amounts of capital to their name. Moreover, those selling on platforms like Etsy appear to exhibit different attitudes and behaviours. They will often start up for creative reasons, offer customised and niche products, have deep interactions with customers and provide subtle peer support to one another.
The report finishes by considering how the lessons learned from Etsy and related platforms might be used to inform our approach to delivering business support more generally – especially when it comes to helping the growing numbers of people running hobby-like ventures.
Our recommendations include:
Recognise ventures in official measurements
Create a new tier of business support for part-time business owners
Make business support part of the BBC’s public purpose
Promote the importance of having a personal ‘brand’ from an early age
Tweak search engine algorithms to highlight smaller businesses
Deepen our knowledge of the therapeutic effects of selling
We look at the emergence and impact of online craft marketplaces and consider what their growth might signal about the way business will change in the future.