Friday, December 12, 2008
Even though Jenese Patanella pushed numbers for more than 25 years as an accountant, the 46-year-old mother always considered herself crafty.
It wasn't until Patanella made a couple of purses for her daughters that she saw an opportunity for a new career.
"My daughters wanted Vera Bradley purses. I just couldn't justify paying that much," she said. "When they took the ones I made to school, everybody loved them."
In January 2007, Patanella opened an online shop, JPat Purses, on Etsy.com.
Patanella is one of dozens of East Tennesseans who are selling their handcrafted wares on Etsy.
Etsy is an online marketplace akin to eBay, but it is strictly for buying and selling all things handmade.
A few clicks on Etsy and you can find everything from clothes and art to jewelry and furniture. (You will have to create an account to buy an item.)
Setting up a retail shop is free. Etsy, however, does charge a fee for listing items, and it takes a percentage when the item sells. Sellers set their own prices.
Some local online shops include Monkey Sprout, Catchen the Sun, Leatherpedia and Big Daddy Lane Creations.
Even retailers with brick-and-mortar storefronts like Lilly's Bead Box and Yee-Haw Industries have a presence on Etsy.
Micki McBee, who has been operating Babycake's Cupcake and Marshmallow Online Bakery since October, said she's been thrilled with her sales to date.
"It's done 100 percent more than I thought. I'm very happy with where I'm at," said McBee, a 45-year-old mother of two who lives in the Halls community.
Most of McBee's cupcake recipes have been passed down from her mother, who was a brunch chef at the downtown Holiday Inn during the World's Fair.
McBee says she would love one day to have a physical storefront, but right now, she's just trying to supplement her husband's income and get the word out about Etsy.
"A lot of people don't know about Etsy. They know about eBay and Yahoo but not Etsy," she said.
Teresa Minton, whose online store is called Smokey Mountain Scents, said most of the people who do shop on Etsy understand the "quality and love" that goes into making something homemade.
The Dandridge mother, who homeschools her children, sells a variety of natural candles as well as bath and body products.
Minton started selling in November 2007. While the overhead is low, there are up-front supply costs. She said it took about a year to begin seeing a profit.
"It's additional income," Minton said. "It's another outlet for me."
Among shop owners, the site has become fiercely competitive.
Patanella said she's concerned Etsy will become so big that it will become like eBay.
"It's gotten so saturated," Patanella said of Etsy. She has since expanded her product line to include coin purses, wallets and gadget cases.
Patanella admits she doesn't make nearly as much as when she was an accountant, and she's working harder than ever.
But, Patanella said, "I'm having so much fun."
Business writer and The Bottom Line columnist Carly Harrington may be reached at 865-342-6317 or email@example.com.