Free Etsy course helps crafty New Yorkers make extra cash

etsy NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program
Students at an NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program class earlier this month in Brooklyn. The program helps New Yorkers build an Etsy business.
Credit: Miles Dixon/Metro

Ingrid Gonzalez, a 30-year-old employment counselor from the Bronx, knew she wanted to start a business — she just wasn’t sure how.

“I had the entrepreneurial urge but no really direction,” said Gonzalez, who lives in East Tremont. “It felt really overwhelming.”

That’s when Gonzalez came across a new city program that helps New Yorkers make extra cash by selling goods on Etsy. Launched earlier this month, the NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program teaches low-income city artists and designers — those earning $52,793 or less a year — how to turn their work into a micro-business.

Since graduating from the program’s pilot class last fall, Gonzalez has spent long nights knitting scarves, hats and cowls for her newly-launched Etsy store, IngMade.

“The program gave me deadlines and made me accountable to myself — it gave me that energy and that fire,” she said.

Citi Community Development provided $155,000 for the free program and the city hopes to enroll roughly 500 New Yorkers a year. Students must have proven artistic and craft skills — as well as at least one item to sell — but no previous sales experience with Etsy.

Taught over five workshops within two weeks in each of the five boroughs, the course covers topics like branding, pricing, search engine optimization and photography. The curriculum was developed by the city and Etsy, which found experienced online sellers to teach classes.

Brandi Harper, 27, instructed a pilot class last year and will continue to teach courses. Also selling knitwear at her own Etsy store, purlBknit, Harper said the online marketplace is a great tool to start a local business.

Etsy
Brandi Harper instructs students during a pilot class last fall. She began her Etsy store in January 2012.
Credit: Etsy

Since launching the store in January 2012, Harper’s sold nearly 40 designs and has expanded offline, selling dozens more at Brooklyn markets and other venues.

Harper said the course — and Esty — lays the right groundwork for budding entrepreneurs.

“It’s teaching people how to teach themselves,” Harper said.

The city first approached Etsy about creating a startup class after hearing about a similar program in Rockford, Ill., which began when the town’s mayor tweeted at Etsy’s CEO for help on job training.

The success of the pilot led to a full rollout this year, according to Maria Torres-Springer, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services.

Since launching her store during the first class in September, Gonzalez has made at least 25 trasactions, taking in more than $850. She acknowledged she’s still far from replacing her “day job,” but said that isn’t the point of the program.

“It put me in touch with a network of like-minded crafty people,” Gonzalez said.

To apply to the program, visit nyc.gov/workforce1. Applications for the next quarterly session are due Tuesday, March 25.

Dates for second-quarter session, which begins April 15:

  • Bronx: April 15, 17, 19, 22, 24
  • Staten Island: April 29, May 1, 3, 6, 8
  • Upper Manhattan: May 13, 15, 17, 20, 22
  • Queens: June 3, 5, 7, 10, 12
  • Brooklyn: June 17, 19, 21, 24, 26

 

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders



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