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Etsy’s CEO Shares the Success of Small Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo: Courtesy of Josh Silverman

Josh Silverman, CEO of the e-commerce website Etsy, discusses how the pandemic has affected small business owners working from home. 

How do you see manufacturing and the small business supply chain changing now that many people are working from home? 

Most of Etsy’s sellers were already working from home, often as businesses of one, so they were well prepared when the pandemic hit. 

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear face coverings, we saw unprecedented demand — it was like Cyber Monday every day in April. Because our sellers’ supply chain is their own two hands, they were better positioned to mobilize, immediately meeting mask demand. Etsy teams also worked quickly to equip our sellers with robust search and marketing tools that were designed specifically for the unique needs that have arisen during the pandemic. In April alone, more than 60,000 Etsy sellers pivoted to making masks and sold 12 million masks, demonstrating the agility and power of the Etsy platform. We are also seeing buyers putting their money where their heart is by choosing to support small businesses through these troubled times. 

What is one piece of advice you can give to businesses about having a successful manufacturing model?

A key part of Etsy’s success — and of Etsy sellers’ success — is agility, and the ability to scale systems up or down, quickly, and thoughtfully. Agility is what allows us to adapt in ways that other retailers cannot because we aren’t beholden to complex supply chains. By having a pulse on trends and most-searched-for items, we are able to quickly shift our efforts from merchandising to marketing in order to respond to increased demand. 

For years, we’ve seen gradual shifts in shopping habits, but now those habits are changing at lightning speed. Etsy and our sellers are responding with agility to deliver what buyers need, when they need it most. When 60,000 sellers pivot in a matter of days and weeks and then deliver, that’s a sign of a nimble supply chain. 

What is one innovative thing you’ve learned by working with an Etsy seller?

With 65 million items, you can find pretty much anything on Etsy. As it turns out, shoppers have been coming to us during the pandemic for flour, essential baking items, and baked goods. Searches for baked goods doubled in the first two months of the pandemic as people explored baking at home, and our sellers rose to the occasion, putting in the time and effort to meet the demand as shoppers looked for ways to send comfort to friends, family, and even themselves.

I’ve been moved by stories of small businesses like The French Bakery, a bakery out of Florida that had to temporarily close its physical store in March. The owner, Jean Jetter, opened an Etsy shop in March and has shipped thousands of pounds of his artisan flour and ingredients to homebound novice bakers across the country. It was a lifeline for him. 

I’ve also been inspired by the cultural movement to support Black-owned shops throughout the United States. Joselyn Allen, a talented jewelry maker in Brooklyn and owner of Shop Ubuntu, has more than tripled her sales since June. 

What are the advantages of working with a diverse manufacturing selling group?

With over 2.8 million sellers from around the globe and more than 65 million items in our marketplace, Etsy has an incredible advantage in an increasingly commoditized world. We can help people find unique, handcrafted, and curated items that celebrate special occasions, as well as everyday essential items. 

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