Etsy has long been a household name — but if you rewind to its birth in the early 2000s, there’s a fascinating story to be told. Before it became the $2 billion entity it is today, Etsy used some unique, innovative and downright crafty tactics to get their start.
Pounding the Pavement
It all started in a Brooklyn apartment in 2005, when a group of friends came together to solve their buddy’s (cofounder and future CEO Rober Kalin) problem. He needed a better way to sell his amateur furniture making online. Together, Kalin, Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik spent a mere two months holed up in the apartment together standing up Etsy.
Once the site was up and running, the cofounders faced the next challenge: finding vendors, other than Kalin, to sell on their new online marketplace. According to former Etsy employee Danielle Maveal, the company “did something that works and is often overlooked. We got off the internet.”
In a world of cold emails and less-than-ideal targeting for online lead generation, the Etsy team chose to step away from the screen and meet people face to face. Craft fairs and flea markets became their tradeshows. They made the effort to identify the kind of high-quality, high-profile crafters, artists and vintage collectors that would help launch the online marketplace. “There was a team out there across the U.S. and Canada attending art/craft shows nearly every weekend. Supporting potential sellers (we would buy them lunch, drop off ‘craft show kits’, pass out handmade promos) — these were artists/crafters that were influential in the handmade world. We knew if they set up shop on Etsy, and were successful, others would follow.” said Maveal.
This pound-the-pavement strategy clearly paid off. Etsy was able to bring on influential vendors and their established audiences, accelerating the growth of the platform. It also served as a key differentiator of the company. Unlike existing online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, Etsy garnered a reputation as a community of artisans selling high-end goods.
16 years later, we can still learn from Etsy’s hands-on approach. This is a great example of how personalizing your marketing efforts can serve as a launchpad for extreme growth. Person-to-person, face-to-face communication is clearly powerful — and good digital marketers are finding new and exciting ways to mirror that experience.