South Florida is loaded with malls and retail chains that offer mass-produced goods. But as winter holiday shopping gears up, some customers are turning to a more personalized and unique shopping experience.
Enter Etsy, the popular online marketplace for all things handmade and vintage.
Local designers and crafters who sell their wares on Etsy, from customized dog collars to bejeweled top hats, are part of a growing handmade movement where limited supply and one-of-a kind cache are preferred. These South Florida Etsy entrepreneurs are familiar faces at local craft fairs and events.
The small-business owners say they not only spend time crafting quality products in their homes and studios, but add specially wrapped packages and handwritten thank you notes.
With more than 800,000 shops on Etsy, vendors are preparing their holiday stock and appealing to buyers to shop handmade and shop local.
Here are some local South Florida Etsians:
Divine Hat Designs
One day, while searching for hair bows for her daughter online, Jennifer Knight came across top hats for sale.
In a word, they were “ugly,” she said. “And I thought to myself, ‘I can make some really nice top hats.’”
And so it began, the creation of Divine Hat Designs, an online Etsy store that specializes in bedazzled top hats for babies and adults.
The headpieces range from glamorous with studded jewels and feathers to quirky a la Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter.
A mother of two, and expecting a third on the way, Knight finds time to create when the little ones are asleep.
“I’m a huge fan of nap time,” said the 24-year old Cutler Bay resident.
Where does one wear a top hat these days?
Knight says many of her customers request customized hats for weddings, baby showers and even proms.
“I’ve never had a chance to wear a top hat in my normal life. I’m a mom of two and I don’t have any cool parties to go to,” she said half-jokingly.
Knight said she chose Etsy as the platform for her online business because of its following among buyers who seek out special pieces.
“I do think that Etsy is a draw to people especially if they want something one-of a kind that no one else will have, like a top hat. The things you buy on Etsy are not mass produced.” she said. “They’re special”
Big, bold, and very long is how Tiana Jackson of Marcie Roxx describes her earrings.
Her bestselling earrings on Etsy are chest-length feather clusters in an array of color combinations. She also makes African-inspired fabric-wrapped bracelets and hair jewels for men and women who wear their hair in dreadlocks.
Jackson was a reluctant crafter turned business owner. Though she made piles of earrings and bracelets, she never sold any until her husband grabbed a handful. He sold out in one day selling them to friends.
“He really pushed me to start this,” said Jackson, who runs her online business from her home in Homestead.
Since launching Marcie Roxx in 2011, she’s sold more than 500 pieces of her handmade jewelry and accessories.
“I was so surprised,” she said.
A stay-at-home mom, Jackson home-schools her three children. While they complete homework, she checks her online orders and designs her newest additions to the store.