Pre-Christmas sales are popping up all across rural Manitoba as hundreds of creative Manitobans emerge from their kitchens and studios and basement sewing rooms with armloads of homemade art and craft.
Handcrafters, artists and designers of all types of artisanal goods depend on these events for the exposure it provides and the revenues it can generate to support their small businesses.
The show now goes on long after the frenzied holiday shopping season ends too, thanks to online marketing.
Founder of Etsy Sellers of Manitoba, Amanda Reimer wanted to see more businesses like her own grow when she created an online Etsy team focused on Manitoba handcrafters she describes as “just like the little church bazaar but on a bigger scale.”
Reimer started her vintage silver jewelry-making business Silver Moose Arts in a home-based studio in rural Manitoba in 2013, and immediately put her wares for sale on Etsy. She was soon selling to customers all across Canada and the U.S. and beyond.
“I’ve shipped my stuff all over to the world, to Japan, to Egypt. The only place I haven’t shipped yet is Africa,” she said in an interview from her home in Landmark.
Knowing many more makers like herself, she was soon looking for ways to help others sell online and expand their market reach too.
She started Etsy Sellers Manitoba in 2014 as a way to support others in similar kinds of home-based businesses.
Their group began with the Manitoba Etsy Seller Support Facebook Page now the creator and host for an Etsy Boutique Pop-Up at Scattered Seeds.
“I created it as a Facebook group to try and bring aware- ness to people that if you shop on Etsy there’s a whole community right here in Manitoba that they can shop from,” she said. Not long afterward the Facebook group became an official Etsy Team — Etsy Sellers Manitoba.
Those familiar with Etsy know it’s a popular online site to post and sell either handmade products or vintage items 20 years or older. Sellers use it as an easy way to reach a vast market of potential customers while buyers love it for the one-of-a-kind handmade and vintage items they find there.
“Obviously, we’re not discouraging people to shop globally,” said Reimer. “We’re just encouraging them to support local as well and also it’s a support for the local Etsy sellers.”
As an Etsy Team they’re aiming to be inclusive, support each other, and collaborate rather than compete, she said.
“And we’re rural friendly,” she said. “We’ve been out to Brandon and Morden and Steinbach and we’re trying to get out and reach more places.”
Joining in is as easy as logging on to their site and following the prompts. There are some requirements for selling on Etsy — including paying small selling, listing, transaction and payment processing fees — but there’s no other requirements other than being respectful of other sellers. That means no copying of other’s ideas and work and courteous interactions are required between vendors, said Reimer.
They host sales and markets and workshops which help new sellers go over how to make the most of an Etsy shop and the role social media plays in it. Those shy if they aren’t familiar enough with social media to participate needn’t be, said Reimer.
“Gosh, no. You’ll learn the basics. And I can do a social media workshop. I’m not an Instagram genius but I could do a social media workshop if that was needed.”
They also have a mentor program to pair a new seller with someone already selling to get some extra help and encouragement.
Ultimately, this is all about encouraging community and collaboration between participating sellers, said Reimer. It’s especially important for those running home-based businesses who need to connect to others.
Etsy Sellers of Manitoba was created to help everyone succeed as an Etsy seller while bringing greater profile to local handcrafters, she said.
“We can uplift each other and choose to encourage each other and share ideas rather than just feeling like we’re all behind closed doors and hiding from each other,” she said.
“We’re all in this to grow our own craft and our own businesses,” she said. “We should be in it for community reasons. I personally feel that that’s what the maker community is.”
There are presently about 120 sellers on the Etsy Sellers Manitoba team now but hundreds more Manitobans sell on Etsy, she noted.
Reimer was a speaker during the Take the Leap Rural Entrepreneurship conference in Dauphin last month where she talked about the networking and partnerships valued by the maker movement. The term is widely used to describe the burgeoning numbers of independent handcrafters, artisans, inventors, and designers who regular use technology and commerce to market their products.
More information about Etsy Sellers Manitoba can be found at: etsysellersofmanitoba.com/.