Cottage Industry Plugs In
Etsy helps Hawaii crafters bring their handmade products to shoppers around the world.
Founded in 2005, Etsy—an online marketplace dedicated entirely to the buying and selling of handmade items—has brought together a worldwide community of crafters offering alternatives to mass-produced merchandise. Crafters, no longer relegated to manning folding tables at craft fairs, use Etsy’s site (etsy.com) to create stylish virtual storefronts, populate them with photographs and descriptions of their products, learn how to promote their shops and communicate directly with buyers. Company representatives report there are more than 250,000 sellers on the site, 2,450 of whom are based in Hawaii.
Below, you’ll find four products from Hawaii crafters who use Etsy to market their locally made products to the world. Want to shop for even more? Check out Etsy’s “Shop Local” function to find Hawaii vendors, and keep your shopping dollars in state.
“Having a shop on Etsy has changed my perception of what I do,” says Nicole Piller, owner of Etsy shop Under the Sea and Above (nicolepiller.etsy.com). The Kailua-Kona resident sells jewelry made with pieces of tumbled sea glass found on Big Island beaches. “Whereas I used to think of my crafts’ in terms of just a hobby, I now regard them as a business.”
For Hillary Akau, it all started at Costco. There, the Lihue resident spotted a sewing machine for sale and instantly felt inspired. “I bought the sewing machine, brought it home and started sewing little felt cupcakes,” says Akau. Cupcakes soon turned into handbags, handbags into baby items, and now Akau sells all these and more—each designed and stitched by herself—from her online “storefront,” Miss Hillary (misshillary.etsy.com) on Etsy.com.
“The name Mikioi means 'full of life' and I pride myself in adding a touch of life in every plate I make,” says Laura Pelayo, owner of Etsy shop It’s Mikioi (itsmikioi.etsy.com), who sells embellished light-switch plates from her Lahaina home.
“Everything is so high-tech nowadays that people love the feel of handcrafted goods,” says Kayo Master, a lifelong crafter whose Honolulu-based Etsy shop, Mi Cielo (micielomicielo.etsy.com), sells children’s clothing. She even employs the tag line “Hand-stitched with 100% Love in Hawaii” on all her garments.