Have you started to check Etsy before EBAY yet?

Handmade is becoming big business — reeeally big. Etsy — the online marketplace for handmade items — announced earlier this week that it has raised $20 million in venture capital financing and has now tripled its valuation at $300 million (not including the funding). With sales up a whopping 72% from last year, business is booming — not to mention ex-Google exec Adam Freed being roped in as Etsy’s new chief operating officer.


Best known for its innovative aspects of online community-building and collaboration (now the focus of a major study on its unique model), Etsy allows shoppers, crafters and suppliers to connect, network, buy and sell locally or globally. Its overriding mission is to “enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers and buyers”.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the arts and crafts site now boasts over than 5.2 million members, 400,000 sellers, six million listed items and about 700 million monthly page views. This year marks Etsy’s first profitable year, but by the end of 2011, it anticipates $1 billion in gross sales.

It’s a huge leap since its modest beginnings five years ago. Founder Rob Kalin comments on his Etsy blog:

Etsy has 125 employees now. I remember when we were just four people, working from my apartment in Brooklyn. At that time, it was crazy to think we’d ever need more than twenty employees to make Etsy tick. And now, at 125 employees, we’re still hiring. Why? Because we have more work to do.

In a nutshell, Etsy’s runaway success represents a very real and growing consumer trend toward alternatives to mass-produced goods — edging even on a kind of new activism, dubbed fittingly as “craftivism“. Whether it’s pollution, exploitative practices or massive recalls, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the many heavy environmental, social and health impacts of industrial mass production — and they’re choosing instead to take part in something much, much more interesting and diversely creative.

So all this good news is coming none too soon: as a litmus marker for the burgeoning DIY phenomenon, the future for handmade now looks pretty damn good.