1. Carol's NieceSilver Spring, Md. Etsy Lesson: Build your brand outside the platform. Katrina Briggs Gordon launched Carol's Niece , which sells crocheted fashion accessories as well as handmade greeting cards, in January 2011 after being frustrated with the public school system where she was a school counselor. Her entrepreneur husband inspired her to make a change. "I'd always crocheted gifts and made handmade greeting cards and my husband encouraged me to sell them," Briggs Gordon says. "I posted one item on Etsy and it sold. That was all the validation I needed. I dove right in and I have not looked back!" While her Etsy store is still relatively new -- this year was her first at selling a full product line -- every month she sees steady growth in business. Briggs Gordon says her initial success has already changed her life. "It showed me that this life I was imagining for myself and my family was not a dream, but totally possible," she says. The community of "like-minded people who spend their time creating and who understand the rewards and challenges of owning a handmade business" is further inspiration, she says. Briggs Gordon has joined several online communities with other local Etsy sellers to share information. For most of the year, Briggs Gordon also sells her wares at neighborhood outdoor markets, which allows customers to see the products in person and get comfortable with the designer behind them. By enhancing her branding awareness, it ultimately drives traffic back to her Etsy store. "As a new Etsian, I think people should not get caught up in numbers. Yes, this is a business and you want to get sales, but more importantly you want to build your brand, you want to learn to take great photos, you want to learn the most appropriate words to keep your listings relevant," Briggs Gordon recommends. "Review the tutorials and the Etsy handbook to learn how to make your shop better. Join groups and request a shop critique."