Since its founding in June 2005, Etsy, the online crafts marketplace which went public earlier this year, can boast more than 54 million registered users--and about 1.4 million active sellers.
But are those shops real businesses or just a fun side project for people who want to work in their pajamas? Turns out, it's a bit of both.
In a survey out Thursday of 4,000 of its U.S.-based sellers, Etsy noted that many of its sellers pay some or all of their household bills with the income they earn from the site. And while Etsy sellers tend to make more money than the average worker--the median household income of Etsy sellers ($56,180) is higher than that of the general population ($52,250)--only 30 percent of sellers consider their online shops their sole occupation.
Still, the so-called maker marketplace overall is sizeable. According to a 2014 Freelancers Union, Elance/Odesk study, 34 percent of the U.S. workforce engaged in supplemental, temporary, or project-based work in 2013. Those individuals account for $715 billion in economic activity each year, notes the study.
So even if one's creative pursuits don't end up being all that lucrative, when taken together, the impact is undeniable. So what are these micro-businesses really like? Based on Etsy's survey, here's what the landscape of so-called makers looks like today.
1. They’re mainly women--and they’re probably young.
Since its conception, the site has attracted a huge female membership base, with women making up more than 86 percent of all Etsy sellers. These retailers are also twice as likely as other entrepreneurs to be under the age of 35, and many are also parents with children at home, the survey finds.
2. They're serious about business.
Vendors on Etsy consider themselves to be business owners, and despite the perception that running an Etsy storefront is a more of a side job or hobby, 76 percent call it a business. And a full 90 percent of these retailers are looking to grow their sales.
3. They're changing business as usual.
Etsy features a host of products that are created in an environmentally responsible way, and the survey finds that most sellers want their products to make a positive difference in the world. Seventy-one percent of Etsy business owners say that operating a sustainable business model is extremely important.