Most of you would probably agree that we should support small, independent businesses owned by women, so it’s worth considering why. As an Etsy seller myself, it’s important for me to support other artists and traders on Etsy. It’s easy to feel like we’re in competition, but really we all want the same thing – for more people to buy handmade and vintage goods on Etsy rather than the mass produced alternatives on the high street. I think small businesses are vital for social sustainability because they promote equality, which is one of the principles of sustainable development.
I read #girlboss and loved it but Sophia Amorusa’s meteoric rise shouldn’t be aspirational. There is only room in the market for a handful of businesses the size of Nasty Gal to exist – it’s a misleading book, because we can’t all own businesses which make that much money. When you buy from big business, you are supporting their existence, and you are usually supporting their inequality in pay, where in an average UK company, the lowest paid workers receive 0.33% of the CEO’s salary. Income inequality of this size is terrible because it reduces health and life expectancy, worsens the quality of education, and reduces people’s self-reported levels of happiness. This is true for everyone in society – even the 1%. Inequality in the UK is huge – the wealthiest 10% of people own 45% of the country’s wealth, whereas the poorest half combined own only 9%.
Small businesses rarely contain such a huge pay gap and the owners and employees generally have more control over their jobs, their lives, and of course, their company. In this way, buying from small businesses can also encourage a more equitable division of power. If enough people supported them, thousands of small businesses could exist instead of the few large ones which dominate the market. Independent sellers – such as those on Etsy – are usually more transparent, so you can know who made your item and where it came from. Transparency makes us more accountable, and consequently encourages ethical business practices.
With this in mind, here is a compilation of my favourite Etsy Shops. Including clothes, jewellery and art, in my opinion, what Etsy does best.
1. artandpeople – Gorgeous, colourful prints of flowers, cacti and succulents.
2. Velvet Cave – The most beautiful handmade and vintage velvet pieces. Witchy and hippie and trippy all at the same time.
3. Sweet and Lovely – Illustrated pins and artwork of your favourite pop culture icons.
4. Home Cooked Karma – Handmade 60s and 70s inspired clothes from the US, featuring lots of great velvet goodies!
5. Jeremy Miranda – Super dreamy modern impressionist paintings.
6. Iconoclasp – Vintage and handmade clothes from America, with some killer retro inspired silhouettes.
7. Poppy Kitten Designs – Beautiful and affordable crystal jewellery.
8. Crux and Crow - Super funky vintage and upcycled clothes – featuring crochet, tie dye and a fantastic collection of flares.
9. Bird Black Emporium – Pretty nature inspired illustrations.
By buying directly from a maker you know that they’re getting a fair price for their work. Even when this makes things more expensive, it’s usually worth it to buy something high quality and non-exploitative. On top of all that, the connection between the customer and the producer should help you appreciate the effort required in production so that you treasure your purchase and consume less overall.
Women are still paid less than men for doing the same jobs, and are much less likely to become senior managers, directors or CEOs. Choosing to buy from women-owned small businesses helps to compensate for this institutionalised gender inequality. Are you convinced yet? Of course, it’s not always practical to buy from small businesses. Sometimes they don’t have what you need, they’re too expensive or hard to find. That’s okay, we can only do our best with the means we have available. Hopefully this has given you some food for thought. Do you have a favourite Etsy shop? I’d love to hear about it!