Net-savvy crafters are in demand this holiday season

Photo By Vikki Decker
Craft shows are so last decade. Shoppers looking for unique, handcrafted gifts are now gravitating to Etsy.com, the online marketplace where a growing population of crafters and artisans from Las Vegas and elsewhere are showcasing their wares.

In recent years, consumers inspired by initiatives such as Small Business Saturday have pledged to allocate more of their holiday shopping budgets for supporting local businesses. Because nearby artisans without brick-and-mortar locations aren’t easy to find, customers can turn to websites such as Etsy, which has listings for nearly 300 virtual shops from local professional crafters.

Kathy Wheeler, who has two Etsy shops (luxe candles at AAngels Heavenly Soy Sense and hand-knit toppers on Kat’s Hats) had a simple reason for selling her wares on the Web.

“I first started thinking about opening an online store because I don’t have a retirement [fund] anymore,” she said. “I was hoping this could be my new retirement [plan].”

“I have always enjoyed doing crafts, even when my children were growing up,” said Vikki Decker, proprietor of Vikster’s Crafts, which offers a variety of items from handmade paper goods to custom hair clips. “The thought that some of my creations [could reach a wider audience] was another reason I wanted to open a shop. And a little extra money never hurt anyone.”

Other Etsy store owners had established businesses, were working craft fairs or doing showcases at events such as First Friday, but chose to expand their brand awareness online.

Shae Wilhite, a stand-up comic turned virtual sweet shop owner, operates Glitter City Sweets. Wilhite found that “my Etsy store did help my business grow, not only due to added sales but also getting my brand out there.”

Groups such as Handmade in Vegas, which is open to anyone with an Etsy shop, also function as support systems for the micro business owners.

“[These groups] let [shop owners] share information, both the good and the bad, about being an independent artist,” Wilhite said. “They become a support group, a sounding board, an information hub and a group of friends.”

The shop owners had some tips for holiday shoppers who want to give a crafty gift this season.
“Buy early, because, as we all know, shipping is a killer this time of year!” Decker advised.

Wheeler, who started building her holiday inventory in July, encouraged shoppers to check each vendor’s policies prior to buying.

“On every Etsy page is posted shipping policies and what they’ll guarantee,” she said. “People should be familiar with those before ordering.”

Shoppers afraid of ordering food items too far in advance need not worry.

“Lots of my customers know to order early but tell me when they want things shipped,” Wilhite said. “That way they know their order is a priority and will get to the recipient in time.”

Though the Etsy shops aren’t necessarily the place to find a bargain, although many of the site’s shops have sales throughout the year, Wilhite had this reminder.

“Handmade products aren’t always the fastest or the cheapest, but they are made by real people who really care about what they do,” she said. “So they are really gifts from the heart, both yours and ours!”

Published on BestOfLasVegas.com

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