Handmade at Amazon: Etsy Alternative or Bust?

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Business Week and the Wall Street Journal recently reported on’s latest venture: Handmade at Amazon, a marketplace designed exclusively for artisans to buy and sell handmade goods.

Sound familiar?

Etsy launched the first handmade arts market in 2005 with a small team of developers.  Etsy had grown from 1,400 Etsy members to 140,000 by January of 2006, and now boasts 1.4 million sellers as of March 2015.

Etsy’s first members were sourced through an extensive community outreach approach and word-of-mouth. Etsy team members attended craft shows, supported local artisans, and gave free Etsy listings and lunches to crafters and artists interested in being a part of Etsy’s online community. Etsy’s founders were already working on independent web development initiatives in the handmade niche, and their clients and came with a built-in fan base that were eager to take Etsy for a spin.


Have Crafts, Will Travel

Handmade at Amazon is taking another approach to finding participating sellers: Sending unsolicited emails to active Etsy sellers with an invitation to learn more about Handmade at Amazon’s program.  There is no indication of what the commission structure will entail, what the terms of service will be, what types of goods will be allowed, or what is entailed to qualify as a Handmade at Amazon seller.

Handmade art sellers on report that Amazon has partnered with the Atlanta-based company to import “ready to ship” item listings from select Scoutmob shops into Handmade at Amazon.  This partnership may prove big for the 5-year-old marketplace by providing a more robust platform on Amazon, as their tagline promotes “Inspired Goods by Independent Makers”. It also leverages a built-in handmade community to build brand awareness and credibility for Handmade at Amazon.


Your Art, Your Community, Your Values

While many handmade sellers are giddy at the possibility of a new platform to market their wares, I strongly advise any artist to ask the following questions about the third-party site where they sell their goods on:

  1. Does the company reflect the values of my handmade business?
  2. Do I maintain my intellectual property rights if I list my items through a third-party site?
  3. What recourse do I have through a third-party site if another seller steals my intellectual property, including idea, design, or verbiage?
  4. What is the fee structure for my sold goods, and how/when do I receive payment?
  5. Am I able to set the terms of my sale, including refund policy and shipping/turnaround time?
  6. Do I have access to my customer’s information so that I can correspond with them directly about the sale?
  7. How do I reach a representative of the company that I sell on?
  8. How will my listed goods be promoted or displayed on the third-party site?


Growing the Handmade Community

I maintain that the sense of community is what really made the early Etsy selling days exciting. It was a meaningful experience to connect with other handmade artists and experience community in the online forums, within individual sales transactions, and offline at craft shows and Etsy events. I am still in touch with Etsy sellers around the world that I formed online friendships with at the height of my Etsy selling days, and that in and of itself made the experience so rewarding.

To build community within a handmade marketplace brand is to create the infrastructure for personal and professional growth, and to create dialogue around self-expression. Community-building requires a company mission that is purpose-driven, not sales-driven.

Can the largest Internet retailer in the United States build its DIY channel in a meaningful way that encourages both sales and community? Only time will tell as to how Handmade at Amazon structures to best serve handmade artists and the consumers that support makers and crafters.

For more information on selling through Handmade at Amazon, you can visit this link to request additional information on participating as a seller.

Are you considering selling on this platform? 


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