How to Grow a Handmade Brand, A Family's Journey from Etsy to Shopify
For ten years I ran a business solely on Etsy. It was a side gig, never carrying any pressure to provide. It funded my hobby, scratched my creative itch, and connected me to a community of like-minded makers.
Each item I made was unique and labour-intensive—it wasn’t an enterprise that was designed to scale. And I didn’t want it to. As I had no plans to hire sewers or outsource any part of it, Etsy was the perfect platform for my business.
For many other makers, like the Polder family of Old World Kitchen, their craft and their livelihood are one and the same. Scaling your handmade businessinto a bread-winner in many cases means taking the scary leap outside the marketplace.
For many makers, like the Polder family of Old World Kitchen, their craft and their livelihood are one and the same.
While this post is essentially one long argument for moving from Etsy to Shopify, I want to be clear that I think both platforms can play an important role in the life cycle of the maker entrepreneur.
A platform like Etsy is an excellent springboard for a new maker business because the customers are built in. Etsy’s active buyer community is, reportedly, 27.1 million strong. That’s significant for the newbie ecommerce merchants. “If you build it they will come” doesn’t apply to the internet, and launching your own store, say on Shopify, relies on actively driving your own traffic, considering SEO, and budgeting time and money for marketing.
When the Polders wanted to take their door-to-door farmed and handcrafted products online, they didn’t even have internet service in their home, let alone know the first thing about SEO.
Loran Polder, daughter and business manager, credits Etsy with making their business possible. In the early days, it helped them learn ecommerce on a basic level.
Two years ago, though, the Polders folded their Etsy store and opened shop on Shopify and haven’t looked back. The switch helped them grow up but also out, increasing conversion, expanding to resale goods, building an email list, and owning their brand story.
What’s the difference?
Etsy is a marketplace for handcrafted and vintage goods (and since late 2015, select maker-developed manufactured goods). Shops live within a set template on Etsy, and items are searchable within the marketplace. Communication with buyers is built into the messaging feature within the platform. Community is a powerful aspect of the experience, allowing Etsy sellers to connect and organize locally.
Shopify is a commerce platform that allows merchants to sell online, in store, via social media, at a farmer’s market, and everywhere in between. Your Shopify store is your own. It lives on your domain, reflects the individuality of your brand, and allows the flexibility to choose a plan and price tier that best supports your business needs. We sit quietly in the background, powering your sales and letting you shine.
Many current Shopify merchants made their break on Etsy. How do you know when you’re ready to make the move? I spoke with Loran Polder about her own family’s decision to grow their brand beyond Etsy.
This is their story.