Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Etsy Brussels Fly In

It's time for a super interesting guest blog post from our Team Captain, Becka!
Last month, Becka travelled to Brussels with Etsy to discuss VAT and has kindly written up and shared her experiences with us all!


At the end of September I was lucky enough to receive an email from Angela Steen, the EU Policy Director for Etsy. I’d been chosen to fly out to Brussels to discuss VAT and microbusinesses with policy makers within the EU Parliament.

Initially I was a bit daunted. Did I know enough about VAT? Did I understand the EU and how it all worked properly? Was it relevant for me to be involved, as a UK seller, given the Brexit situation?

Angela put my mind at rest with several phonecalls, and explained that there would be three other sellers from Europe present, and our presence was to give policy makers a chance to discuss how new policy would affect tiny businesses. Often policy is made considering SMEs (small and medium enterprises), but an SME can consist of up to 250 employees – a huge jump from the one-person kitchen table businesses which make up most of Etsy’s 1.6 million sellers worldwide.

Flying out to Brussels on Monday 17th October was pretty exciting; I arrived quite late into Charlesroi Airport and found my way to the bus which took me into the centre of Brussels. Fortunately I discovered that my Uber app worked fine, and within a matter of minutes I was in a taxi on my way to the hotel; the Thon EU, an eco-hotel in the centre of the European Quarter. Shortly afterwards I was showered and in bed, ready for an early start the next morning!

On the Tuesday I had a free morning, and I decided I’d make the most of it. I had some breakfast and then set off to explore Brussels. I made my way to Mannekin Pis, the famous little boy statue, and on my way browsed in the windows of the plentiful chocolate shops, making a mental note of where I wanted to stop later. From here I walked the short distance to the stunning Grand Place, and admired the ornate gold buildings and the town hall. I stopped for a coffee in the stunning Galeries St Hubert and did a spot of people watching. I then wandered back to the hotel via the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula.

In the lobby I met with the other Etsy sellers who had just arrived and who would be joining us on our trip. Nafsika is an Athens-based jeweller – who I had already met at an Etsy Captain’s Summit in Amsterdam. Timea is a Hungarian vintage seller, based in Berlin. Pasi and Susan are jewellers based in a small town in Finland. We also met with Angela from Etsy, and we all went for lunch in the hotel while we got to know each other a bit better.

Our first meeting was in the European Commission, a short (but rainy) walk from the hotel. We met with three policy-makers who were working on a new directive concerning VAT for online sales. Currently there is a threshold for each member state – in the UK until a company has a turnover of over £83K they do not need to register for VAT. I was surprised to learn that the threshold varies greatly from country to country. Greece’s threshold is currently zero, so poor Nafsika has to pay 24% VAT on every single sale she makes.

To give a little background, in January 2015 a new law was introduced which meant that VAT is chargeable on all digital sales within the EU, with a zero threshold (including digital sales to your own home country), and the VAT is chargeable based on the country of purchase – eg if I sell a PDF download to Germany then I’d have to charge 19% VAT, but if it was sold to someone in France the VAT rate is 21%. The law also stipulated that the sales platform (ie Etsy) was responsible for collecting and paying this VAT to the relevant member state.

The directive we were discussing – which has not yet been written into a paper - concerned rolling out this scheme to all physical sales, meaning that there would be a VAT threshold of zero for all sales via a platform like Etsy.

We all voiced our concerns about this – as, for many microbusinesses, losing around 20% or our income to VAT would be financially crippling. The commissioners were very formal, and did not seem to understand that putting our prices up by 20% would not be a solution in a global marketplace, as this would make our products appeal much less appealing to the customer. They did explain that direct sales – for instance selling directly through our own websites – would be subject to a threshold (substantially more than zero), but sales made through a platform would be affected, and the platform would be responsible for collecting and paying the VAT on our behalves.

This all came as a bit of a surprise to all of us – and is concerning to say the least. For businesses that are already extremely small scale, for some Etsy sellers a hobby or part-time venture, it becomes less and less viable to make a profit.

Angela had explained to us that the European Commission are responsible for writing regulations and directives that are then taken to parliament, discussed (with input from lobbyists or “think tanks”) and then they go on to be passed – or not – by the Member States.

So, our next stop was an economics think tank called Bruegel. The two men we met here were friendly, extremely empathetic and understanding, and seemed genuinely interested in the issues we were discussing. They asked a lot of questions about it all, and explained that they were hosting an event about VAT the following week. We all felt a lot more positive coming away from this meeting.

This concluded our day of meetings – and we spent the evening eating Belgian food, drinking Belgian beer and buying lots of Belgian chocolate! We talked a lot about Etsy and our lives in our respective countries. I felt humbled by everyone’s fluent English – and extremely embarrassed that my command of French only really extends to a mumbled “merci” or “Excusez-moi”!

The following morning we had a bit more free time, so Nafsika and I ventured to the Museum of Comic Book Art. It was great, lots of Smurfs and Tin Tin, and was a welcome break from thinking about VAT! I came away feeling really inspired and looking forward to doing a bit of drawing when I get home.

Timea and Angela had been to visit a Danish MEP in the European Parliament in the morning, so we met up at lunchtime (for some traditional frites and mayonnaise), and then got a taxi together to meet with the Member States. We had a meeting with both the Maltese and Slovakian Permanent Representatives for the EU. They are the people who will be responsible – along with representatives from the rest of the 28 member states – for finally passing any new legislation about e-commerce. They were approachable, receptive to what we had to say, and seemed interested in hearing from us. They also told us that this would be a lengthy process and would likely take a few years for any new legislation to be passed – which set our minds at rest a bit. It struck me that with Brexit likely to be happening within this timeframe it may not affect UK sellers; however I still feel very strongly that it should not happen for other EU sellers, and worries me what impact it would have on platforms like Etsy.

After this final meeting we all started to make our way to our respective flights – Nafsika and I managed to sample some more Belgian delicacies – waffles, and buy some more chocolate, of course!

On my flight back I reflected on the trip and realised how very lucky I had been to be selected to see a tiny glimpse inside the workings of the EU. I’m so grateful to Etsy for giving me this opportunity, and love that their business ethos allows grassroots sellers to connect directly with top-level policy-makers – it’s so important! The EU Parliament is a fascinating – if complex and beurocratic – place, and I feel really privileged to have been able to learn and experience so much. It’s certainly a whole world apart from folding cheesy wrapping paper and stuffing envelopes!

Angela has advised that she will keep us all posted; the final directive from the European Commission should be due out in December, and it will be interesting to see what happens for the future of e-commerce and micro businesses. 
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Friday, 16 September 2016

Seller Spotlight - ICon Art, Stephen Mahoney

We're into September so it's time for our next instalment of our Seller Spotlight! 

This month is team member Stephen Mahoney from ICon Art.  
Stephen is a portrait painter based in Liverpool. His shop features incredible paintings of iconic people, events and scenes! 

1. You clearly have an incredible talent for painting. How did you first get in to painting and can you remember the first portrait you did?

I first got into painting by accident, in April 2013. I was working for BT at the time and I got into a bad habit of spending my most of wages playing online poker when I got home. I decided I needed a hobby instead so I went to hobbycraft in Warrington to buy an Airfix kit (which i used to love as a kid, although my dad always put the aeroplanes together and painted them for me ha!). 

Anyway, while I was there I saw an "acrylic paint starter set" for £20 and thought I'd try that instead! 
It came with all the essentials plus 3 mini canvases, so that very night I began to paint one, attempting a Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko from Wall Street portrait (which I was watching at the time). 

The last time I painted anything before then was GCSE Art in school back in '94 so it was all rather new and of course when it was finished, looked NOTHING like Michael Douglas but i enjoyed the creative process immensely and from then on I was hooked!  

2. In February 2016 you became a full time, self employed portrait painter. Was this something you ever imagined would happen when you picked up the paintbrush in 2013?

Quite simply, no. It was purely an escape, a distraction. I had no ambition at all regarding art or painting when I started off!

Amy Winehouse Print from Original Painting

3. What’s your favourite item in your Etsy shop right now?

My favourite item in my Etsy shop now is definitely my Donnie Darko inspired original painting. I love it because it just reminds me of being back in school, having crushes on some of the girls and all the excitement of first having those kind of feelings and plucking up the courage to ask them out! I also think it's one of the few pieces I've created where it stands up on its own as a nice piece of art, you don't have to know what its from or who they are to appreciate its beauty. 

Donnie Darko Original Painting 

4. You attend lots of local events and art/craft markets with your work. 
How do you find hearing customers reactions to your work in person? 

I find the art and craft fairs ok and I get compliments quite often which is nice but because my work is so specific, these compliments only occasionally convert into sales. 
I've known for a while now that I have to become less stubborn in terms of what I want to paint as opposed to what will sell if I'm to make a good living from this game. The next event I am at is on Sunday 18th Sept at Lark Lane Old Police Station, Liverpool 11am-5pm. 

5. Do you have any advice for any other creatives wanting to turn a hobby into something more? 

The only advice I can give is, if you have the passion and the belief and you can envision your future..GO FOR IT! But PREPARE and PLAN.
I had the passion early on but I was sensible - I carried on working full-time whilst honing my skills and I saved every spare penny I could so that I had a decent amount to live on for a few months if I decided to take the plunge (which I inevitably did). We only live once! If it fails, we can always go back to 'regular' work can't we? 

If you fancy seeing Stephens work up close and in person, he will be at Lark Lane Old Police Station on Sunday 18th September from 11am - 5pm!

Huge thanks to Stephen for taking the time to be featured this month and share his stories!
You can find Stephen's shop and social media links here:

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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Seller Spotlight - Mollycat Craft Co

We're halfway through August so that means its time for our 2nd edition of Seller Spotlight!
This month I interviewed Jules from Mollycat Craft Co. Jules makes adorable cards, bunting and much more, with a lot of her work incorporating crochet. 

1. Your shop is called Mollycat Craft Co. What inspired the name? 

My inspiration is our rescue cat, Molly. I knew before I opened my shop that I wanted to create a range of different products and my shop name couldn't be product specific. So, after a week or two of deliberation, I finally settled on Mollycat Craft Co.

2. Before you set up Mollycat Craft Co, what were you doing? 

Quite a few different things… After I graduated from University with a Bachelor of Design in Textiles and Ceramics, I spent a year working in a school as an artist in residence. 
I then went on to work for a local newspaper for a while before working in retail and also insurance. In 2009, I became a secondary school teacher of Design Technology, which I did up until 2015. 
Mollycat Craft Co was set up in the summer of 2015 and I haven’t looked back. I love what I do and I can see myself doing this for years to come. 

3. You've been selling on Etsy for nearly a year now! What has been your biggest personal achievement since starting? 

There’s been a few… I’ll always remember my first international order, reaching 100 sales was a milestone, but I think my biggest personal achievement has to be creating a crochet bridal bouquet. 
I was recently asked via Etsy if I could make a large quantity of crochet brooches for a wedding, I jumped at the chance! 
When my customer received the brooches, she was so delighted with them, she asked me if I could make her a crochet bridal bouquet for her wedding day, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes! 
Having never made a bridal bouquet before, It was certainly a challenge, you could say I was out of my comfort zone, but I love a challenge and grabbed it with both hands! We are both delighted with the finished product and I can’t wait to see the photographs of the bride with her crochet bouquet on her wedding day. 

The moral of this story is never turn down a sale, you never know where it might lead! 

4. What is your favourite item in your shop and why?

My favourite item has to be my crochet ‘Lovebird’ wedding cake toppers. They are very personal to me. When I got married in 2014, it was very much a ‘handmade wedding’, I knew I wanted to make the cake toppers myself and being slightly obsessed with amigurumi at the time, what better cake topper than a crochet cake topper!

5. You incorporate crochet detailing into your card designs. How did you first get into crocheting? 

My mum taught me how to knit when I was little. I’ve always enjoyed knitting but I still struggle to understand knitting patterns to this day, Scarves are about the only thing I can make! 
About 10 years ago, I decided to try my hand at crochet. I watched youtube videos and learnt the basic stiches. As I became more confident, I bought a few amigurumi books and started to make little stuffed toys. My crochet (and wool) addiction started there! 

Personalised Engagement Card

6. Do you have any tips for other Etsy sellers or to anyone thinking of starting an Etsy Shop? 

Yes, Loads! 
First, I would recommend reading the sellers handbook before opening your shop (you’ll find the link at the bottom of the Etsy page). 
Read up about SEO and how to be found on Etsy, use relevant keywords when listing your products and make sure you use all of your tags - put yourself in the shoes of the customer… what might they type in if they were looking for your product? 
List as many products as you can - I started noticing an increase in sales after I reached 30 listings. Once your shop is up and running, check out, this will help you improve your listings. 
DON’T GIVE UP! If sales are slow, just keep making little changes, the same thing doesn't work for everyone. Almost a year in and my shop is still a work in progress, I think it always will be. 
Finally, I would recommend joining an Etsy community… have a look in the ‘Teams’ section on the Etsy website for local teams in your area. They are a valuable source of information and a great way to meet other Etsy sellers.

Thank you so much to Jules for taking the time to do this little interview!
You can find her shop and all of her social media links below:


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Thursday, 14 July 2016

Seller Spotlight - Fairy Fountain Gift Shop

Welcome to a brand new series on our little blog!
Each month we will be interviewing one of our team members to help you get to know them a little better. 
First up is the lovely Jennifer from Fairy Fountain Gift Shop and her latest shop Fairy Fountain Kids!

Jennifer's shop is filled with fun jewellery and she has had nearly 6000 sales since opening her shop in 2015!! She also writes a blog all about Etsy and sharing her tips for success! 

1. Your shop is Fairy Fountain Gift Shop. Where did the inspiration behind that name come from?
When I first started making jewellery it was for little girls. I am not particularly "girly" myself so I was struggling to find a name. I came up with Fairy Fountain Gift Shop because the "Fairy Fountain" is a place in a popular game series, The Legend Of Zelda that is full of shiny and sparkly things (as well as fairies!)

The name has stuck as being recognised on social media but it actually does bother me now my shop has gone in new directions! Do I need to change it to fit in with a grungey teenage market? Is it even okay to have this namesake even though my shop has nothing to do with the video game? It's an ongoing
thought process and I think eventually a rebrand will happen!

2.What is your favourite item in your shop at the moment and why?

For me it's anything with a splash of colour. I love making the mermaid/dragon scale items, the faux druzy that reflect the light so beautifully.
I've actually enjoyed playing with colour even more in my second shop FairyFountainKids! I love asking my kids (8+3 year old daughters) what colours they'd like to see with what charms. They help a lot with the creative process for shop 2.

3. You have been selling on Etsy since 2015. What's been your biggest personal achievement since then?

Not sure if this is too controversial - but honestly - coming off benefits. I still receive Child Benefit but now that Etsy is my full time income I've finally been able to stand on my own two feet for the first time since having my daughter at 17.
I have struggled to juggle motherhood and making an income for nearly 9 years so being able to pay the bills is huge for me. I have been to college, done work experience and had a second child in this time but I wanted to find something I could do from home whilst raising the girls. It's finally a reality so I'm very happy about that!

4.Where do you get all your inspiration from for your jewellery?

My inspiration is mainly looking at my own interests and the trending interests of my target market. I am basically aiming at myself 10 years ago with most of my product ideas. I am still happy to wear most of this stuff now (perhaps not the rib cage necklace, I'm less gothy these days hehe.) 
For the kids shop it comes from my own two children and their friends.

5. You are incredibly successful on Etsy! Do you have any tips for sellers or anyone thinking of setting up an Etsy Shop?

I have so many millions of tips and things I've learned along the way, that's why I write the blog - to try and teach others! I think SEO, Photos, Policies + Descriptions are absolutely key to success but I'm sure people have heard that one before. My number 1 tip for generating more views, keeping customers in your shop and selling more than one product is to include search links in your description. I have written a post all about it with some nice statistics too. By using search links in your description you can have unlimited categories, themes, ranges and related products.
Your buyer may just buy much more than they originally planned to because you've shown them more goodies they'll just love.

6. Finally, everybody loves your friendship pizza necklaces, but if you were ordering a pizza, what toppings would your have?!?

I'm smirking and cringing whilst writing this. I don't like pizza. I never eat it! I'm that weirdo in pizza hut with pasta. 
It was a good friend of mine who asked for the first pizza necklace I made back in 2013 and now they are everywhere! Since these early days I've upgraded that listing a lot just to keep up with the competition. I like to think my silly pizza puns that come on their cards make them an easy choice!

Huge thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to do this interview.
You can find her shop and all her social media links, linked below;

Fairy Fountain Gift Shop
Fairy Fountain Kids
Etsy Help Blog

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Etsy Craft Party 2016

On the 18th of June we held our Etsy Craft Party all in aid of the Whitechapel Centre, a Liverpool charity providing support for the homeless.  
We had a brilliant turn out of Etsy sellers all based in Merseyside, who gathered to do origami, paper cutting, eat cake and most importantly, raise awareness and funds for such a brilliant charity.

On the day we made origami and paper cut houses, with hashtags about the event and charity on them, ready to hide in locations across Merseyside.
They were then found by members of the public and shared on social media!

We raised over £200 for The Whitechapel Centre, as well as a huge donation for their food bank. 
It is not too late to make a donation if you haven't already! Visit our Just Giving page here!

Take a little visual tour of our craft party with these beautiful pictures taken by Katy from Katy Mutch Photography

You can see the full photo gallery of the event on our Facebook page. 

Thank you so much to everyone that attended the event on the day and who made donations, whether that be paper, decorations, cake, food bank items or money. 

Finally, a huge thank you to those helped organise and promote the event!

We already can't wait till next year! 

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Friday, 10 June 2016

#PaperHouseHunting - Etsy Craft Party 2016

Get your binoculars at the ready because on Saturday 18th June you're invited to go #PaperHouseHunting in aid of The Whitechapel Centre!

Every June communities of Etsy sellers across the world host craft parties. These craft parties are a chance to celebrate creativity and build and strengthen communities through craft. 

This year the Merseyside Etsy Team will be hosting their craft party in Ninety Squared CIC to raise money and collection donations for the homeless charity The White Chapel Centre. 

On the 18th of June, members of the Merseyside Etsy Team will be joining forces to create origami and paper cut houses with the hashtags #PaperHouseHunting and #MET. 
These houses will then be hidden around Liverpool in the afternoon of the 18th of June waiting to be found, and that's when we want you to get involved!!

Try and hunt out one of our paper houses in the City! Members of the Merseyside Etsy Team will be uploading clues on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using #PaperHouseHunting. 

A Sneak Peek

If you find one, don't forget to share on social media to help raise awareness for the work of The Whitechapel Centre. 
Last year The Whitechapel Centre helped over 2600 of the most vulnerable and isolated members of our community. You can find out more information about their work here

So on the 18th of June, get hashtagging and hunting to help show our support for a charity who are providing much needed support in our community. 

You can also visit our Just Giving page to make a donation to The Whitechapel Centre. 

Can't make the event but still fancy getting involved?
Heres a video to make your own origami houses! 

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Monday, 18 April 2016

The Moody Octopus Project

Want to be involved in the creation of an Octopus that's going to visually show the emotions we go through and raise awareness about mental health?
Well keep on reading…

One of our team members, Gemma from Girl on Purl Action, is launching The Moody Octopus Project that we just had to spread the word about. 

So how does the project work?

Gemma is calling for individuals to crochet or knit a rectangle.  
But these aren't just any rectangles! The rectangles will create a mood diary for a week using colour to reflect different emotions. 
These rectangles will then be joined together to form the legs of The Moody Octopus on the 25th of June as part of the MakeFest in central library. 

Sound good? Heres what to do:

Every day for 1 week you will need to:

  • Knit or crochet 4 rows
  • Each row will be 30 stitches 
  • In DK wool
  • On 4mm hooks or needles
  • In a colour that corresponds to your mood for that day

(if knitting use either garter stitch or stockinette stitch and if crocheting use double crochet in UK terminology)

Gemma has put together a colour chart as pictured below. But if you have other colours of yarn, get creative!

Gemma will need to recieve any rectangles before the 25th of June so they will be ready for the MakeFest. 
You can either post or drop of your rectangles in person at;

Hobo Kiosk 
re GOPA 
9 Bridgewater Street
L1 0AR

My crochet rectangle ready to send off

Samples of knitted rectangles!

Gemma needs a minimum of 100 pieces so lets try and help her reach that target!
Share this project with anyone who you think might be interested! 

You can find out more about this fantastic project here 

To keep up to date with the project be sure to follow Gemma's social media accounts;

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