Established in 2005, Etsy is a unique online marketplace devoted to handmade and vintage items and, to a lesser extent, unique factory-made items. Over the years, Etsy has expanded to become a thriving online community comprised of over 1.7 million active artists, crafters and makers catering to at least 28 million customers. Prior to Etsy’s arrival as a virtual forum, it was incredibly difficult for creatives to sell their wares without a long-standing reputation established through art galleries or craft fairs. Now sellers can open their own online Etsy storefront and extend their reach in mere months as opposed to the course of an entire career.
Any Guelmann is an artist, architect and marketer with a long-standing connection to Etsy dating back to its inception. She looks forward to sharing this formidable knowledge with students planning to join her forthcoming class, Starting a Handmade Business on Etsy. Guelmann takes pride in coming from a long line of female crafters, makers and builders. “I grew up around art supplies and power tools,” she recalls. “I can't remember a time in my life when I was not creating something. In middle school I started teaching crafts to my friends, and never really stopped.”
Guelmann’s career and creative life is wide-ranging, touching upon multiple cultures and disciplines. “As an architect, I loved prototyping lighting and furniture,” she recalls. “I studied jewelry making for several years, in Brazil and New York, as well as documentary photography. My interest in Japanese crafts led me to study kintsugi with a Japanese sensei as well as shibori dyeing. A few years ago, I went to Buenos Aires to learn fileteado porteño from a master fileteador.”
Even the casual observer would be quick to note Guelmann is living the adage, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
“For fun, I regularly do calligraphy, crochet and embroidery,” she says. “Next, I would like to learn printmaking – and of course, I practice ceramics every day in my home studio and in classes. I recently bought a circular saw and built myself a wedging table, which I'm very happy with! I'll never stop learning different crafts, but the ones that I know will always be with me are ceramics and jewelry. I work with clay and metal regularly, and I'm finding ways to combine the two crafts. It's been great.”
When Guelmann opened her first Etsy show shop in 2006, the company was just over a year old. Figuring out how to utilize a site in its natal stages was a challenge, but even more so when you consider she was doing so from outside the United States. “I was living in Brazil, and back then it was difficult to be an Etsy seller outside the US, so I closed that shop after a handful of sales,” she says.
Four years later Guelmann was living in New York and studying jewelry making when it occurred to her it might be wise to give Etsy a second try. “I went to the site to get myself reacquainted with the platform and came across a job opening in Etsy's Community Team,” she says. “Five weeks later I started my new job at Etsy's headquarters in Brooklyn, NY.”
Guelmann’s unique position at Etsy came with an even more unique moniker, Senior Maker Specialist. “In short, Maker Specialists were in charge of researching how things are made,” she says. “This knowledge helped us understand how Etsy sellers were making their items, and how those items fit within the marketplace. Our team was formed by people with expertise in all sorts of production processes, such as jewelry, ceramics, printing, apparel, and emerging technologies like 3D printing, to cite a few.”
Guelmann would eventually assume numerous roles throughout her employment with Etsy, each of which put her in direct contact with sellers in different stages of the creative business life cycle, from established artists managing full-time employees to those new to the online marketplace. “The insight I gained into their preferences and needs allowed me to be a liaison between the Etsy community and internal teams within the company, such as engineers and product managers, counsel and senior leadership, giving me the opportunity to collaborate in the development of policies and tools.” More specifically, Guelmann says at different times her responsibilities included managing community spaces, developing communications and educational content, creating and implementing policies, and helping sellers use the site and improve their shop and branding.
Ultimately, Guelmann left Etsy’s employ, but remained a stalwart community member. She is happy to report her user experience has only improved. “The Etsy community continues to be amazing. It's been great to experience the support that I always saw sellers offer each other,” she says. “What I love the most about the Etsy community is their willingness to share knowledge, openly and generously. I often tell people to seek other sellers' input in the Forums, as I'm sure they'll get really helpful information. The Teams are a great resource too; some are organized around specific crafts, like the Etsy Mud Team for clay makers, and others by location, like the Seattle Handmade Team. They're a great source of advice and support.”
Guelmann says students enrolling in Starting a Handmade Business on Etsy should think of the class as a workshop where they can test run their own Etsy shop. “We'll look at all the basics, like how the search function works, easy photography tips, simple pricing strategies, and even how to look at your own product with a critical eye to find the best ways to present it to shoppers.”
Creating an Etsy shop may look daunting, but as a long-time insider, Guelmann knows how to guide newcomers around all potential stumbling blocks. “I want students to leave feeling confident about starting an Etsy shop, with an understanding of what they'll need to focus on at different stages—from taking a nice photo to using analytics to test out keywords.”
Learn more about Starting a Handmade Business on Etsy.