I took this article directly from the DeForest Time’s Website.
Businesses turn to the Internet
Scott De Laruelle
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Scott De Laruelle photo
Kim Lapacek works on project at her home outside of Poynette. Lapacek is one of several area residents who are selling items on etsy.com, a website dedicated to hand-made crafts.
Kim Lapacek likes to keep things pretty laid back at her "store," Kim's Crafty Apple.
In fact, you can "show up" to browse the selection in your pajamas and no one will even bat an eye. That's because Lapacek is one of several area retailers who are using the Internet to sell handmade crafts and clothing to try to beat the recession.
Last February, she started selling quilts, bags, clothing and jewelry on her site on Etsy.com. So far, she has 38 sales, to places as far away as the U.K., with more than 30,000 views.
Etsy.com is one of several Web sites that have sprung up in recent years to connect consumers with independent creators and designers; focusing on handmade goods. Etsy was launched in 2005 and has about 2.1 million members and more than 200,000 sellers listing more than 3.4 million items.
Retailers moved $87.5 million worth of merchandise last year and $32 million already through the first quarter of 2009. According to the site, "We created Etsy to reconnect producer and consumer, and swing the pendulum back to a time when we bought our bread from the baker, food from the farmer and shoes from the cobbler."
Making the leap
Many people in the area are familiar with the Lapacek name because of family orchard, something she helps out with in the fall. But she was not trained as an apple salesperson or produce-grower; she earned a degree in civil engineering from UW-Madison in 2005.
After having her second child, though, Lapacek decided to make the leap to stay at home full-time and try to sell her crafts on the Internet.
"It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to bring in a little income doing something I loved while being able to watch my kids grow," she said. "I had a really good job and a great boss, but I'm so much happier doing this."
Before long Lapacek found a groove and is now plugging away and using the Internet to its full potential to help raise awareness about her business.
"I didn't realize how involved you have to be to get your name out there, so now I have a blog, I go on the forums, I 'Twitter,' I have a Facebook page, you have to comment on other people's blogs," she said. "It is time-consuming."
Lapacek was trained as an engineer, designing residential developments, but in recent months she has become an adept photographer in the past year or so; something she said is critical to running a successful sales site on the Internet.
"You have to take good pictures, which is unbelievably difficult, especially jewelry," she said. "I've learned a lot. You're basically creating a storefront."
While Lapacek selling over the Internet isn't "recession-proof," she said the lack of overhead (monthly bills around $10) has kept her burgeoning business from running deep into the red during the past few months.
Etsy charges 20 cents to list an item for four months, and they take 3.5 percent of all sales. Lapacek also uses a Pay Pal account, which takes another 2 percent.
"Overall you're losing around 5 percent, but if you sell through a gallery, it can be 30-35 percent, plus you're just not getting the exposure," she said.
Being able to sell to a wide variety of people has also helped ease the pain of the recent economic downturn, she said. "It's a worldwide thing, so you're out there for people overseas, or people in different parts of the country that aren't having as many problems as other parts," she said. "Sales are a little slower, but my shop is getting full, and I'm getting ready for when the recession is over."
Judy Percy of Waunakee was laid off work and looking for ways to earn some income at home. She has always sewed - everything from kids' clothes to Civil War uniforms - but when the recession hit, she wanted to make items people needed on an everyday basis.
"I came up with diaper bags - people are still having babies - and purses and reusable totes," she said.
She found out about Etsy while doing some Web searches and decided to take the plunge. "It felt really comfortable," she said.
Joni Doyle-Sims of DeForest was looking for an economical way to create a Web site to sell her jewelry online, and found Etsy.com. She creates nature-inspired jewelry with precious metal clay, and had sold her work at art fairs throughout the state, but was looking to expand her market, which she has - her first sale was to Scotland.
"I've had amazing experiences selling my jewelry and buying from other artists as well," she said. "I truly believe in supporting handmade art and Etsy is one of the best resources online."
Jill Long of Waunakee said the great thing about Etsy is she doesn't have to concentrate on just one area.
"I love pottery, jewelry, painting, sewing; I'm kind of an "ADHD artist," she said. "I can sell an assortment of art because Etsy reaches a large audience. Anyone across the country, or across the world, can shop in my store."
Kristin Graves of Waunakee joined Etsy.com after her cellular business was hit by the economic downturn and she wanted to be more productive with her spare time. She now has around 200 finished pieces and is starting to list them on the site as she has time.
"I found that I had a lot of downtime at my office so I picked up my jewelry tools again just to pass the time," she said. My friend would stop in to visit about once a week to keep me company and when she saw what I was making, she had to have some pieces. If she was willing to pay me to make things for her I thought, what the heck, maybe someone else would too."