I'm the editor of Smart, a magazine for women in southcentral Pennsylvania. I said "I do" to my wonderful husband in 2002. We have two adorable children who have taught me much about life and love. With the birth of my second child, I bid farewell to my dreams of having a clean house, folded laundry and family dinners on weeknights.

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Buy locally online for the holidays

By TARA HAWKINS for Smart

Armed with stacks of sales fliers, women are making their way to the malls and the big box stores. So begins the hustle and hassle of holiday gift giving.

Is there really any other option?

Several local women are leading the way in a new kind of shopping experience — no sales fliers, no crowded parking lots and no tags -saying “Made in China.” These women are among the many entrepreneurs that have fueled the phenomenon known as Etsy.

Etsy was launched in June 2005 by Rob Kalin as an e-commerce site that would allow artisans to feature their wares.
For the low posting fee of 20 cents, sellers can make their items visible to their local community and the world. Etsy boasts more than 400,000 sellers with 6.5 million items listed for sale.

Keeping it local

Other than opening a stand at Central Market House, selling on consignment or searching for spots at craft fairs, local artisans have few options for showcasing and selling their locally made items. Etsy has become an outlet for photographers, artists, sculptors, quilters, embroiderers, jewelry makers and more. If it can be hand crafted, it can be found on Etsy.

Dawn Nelson of Springettsbury Township has been selling on Etsy since January 2008. Nelson, known on Etsy as playnwithbeads, had sold some of her beaded jewelry at a consignment shop but had to pull out. That is when she found Etsy and created her shop. Although she “can’t quit her day job,” Nelson has sold 23 items over the website and made an important connection.

HodgePodgery, a local artisan shop in Harrisburg, spotted Nelson on Etsy and offered her the opportunity to sell her wares in the store. Nelson also is allowed to promote her Etsy shop.

Nelson isn’t the only crafter who found local success through Etsy. Melissa Wittmann of York Township has had 56 online sales since her shop opened in January 2008. Wittmann admits that “many people see that we are local and we get their business.” Some of the transactions happen online; others take place at York’s Sunrise Soap Company on Beaver Street.

A team effort

Etsy is much more than a click and ship website. Besides the millions of items to buy, there is also a strong community of crafters ready to give support and advice.

Lissa Harlin of York has been making jewelry since 2005.

“Looking around Etsy, I stumbled on a shop doing intricate wire wrapping. I struck up a friendship with the lady, and she shared some tips with me,” Harlin said. “Off I went on my new venture. I credit many of the friends I’ve made on Etsy for helping along the way and the knowledge I’ve gained on jewelry making.”

Harlin opened her shop, lissa73, in May 2007 and has made 124 sales.

Harlin, Wittmann and Nelson are members of the York County PA Etsy Team. More than 450 teams exist on Etsy to help sellers connect, learn and cross promote.

In a mass-produced society, Etsy brings back the allure of unique items. Buying local, handmade holiday gifts not only supports the local economy; they are gifts truly made from the heart.

SETTING UP SHOP

Setting up your own Etsy shop is easy. Whether you have three items or 30, with a few simple clicks your shop can be up and running.

1 Sign up to sell. Be creative with your user name. This will be the name of your shop.

2 Take great pictures. Taking a great picture leads to sales. Good lighting and background are key to making your item stand out and get noticed.

3 Research prices. See how similar sellers are pricing their items. You don’t want to set your price too high or too low.

4 Join a team. Joining a team helps you network with other sellers. The York County PA Etsy Team is a great place to start.

5 Ship it fast! After making a sale, good customer service leads to a better rating. Well packaged, quickly shipped items get better feedback.

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