2. Kind LabelHuntington, N.Y. Etsy Lesson: Keep current of new Etsy features. Fashion designer and animal lover Stacey Effman has been frantic this month. Her store Kind Label, where she sells comfort-fitting long and short-sleeve shirts and tanks with inspirational sayings that are hand-printed using a silkscreen, has never seen so much business. She says it's because of Etsy. Effman, who has a degree in business administration, began designing T-shirts in 2007 as a side hobby. She tried creating an online storefront of her own by using Shopify, but after investing a lot of money in design, set-up fees and monthly maintenance, the site ultimately failed because she couldn't figure out how to drive traffic to the site. A friend introduced her to Etsy in 2010 and since then she has been learning everything she could about the site to build her business. Shopify was "was too much of an investment, with very little return," Effman says. "Etsy offers a free e-commerce platform with a built-in customer base, charges 20 cents to list an item and takes a small percentage of each sale. It was an easy switch!" "Basically, you pay Etsy to bring you customers, and you only pay them if they do! On top of that, they offer a welcoming community of sellers and administration to help you when you're stuck with something. You don't get any of that with your own site," Effman adds. As of last week, Kind Label's revenue had increased more than 15-fold over 2011, she says, though this was her first year of full-time work. Etsy's commitment to helping sellers succeed by offering resources and information is especially appreciated, but Effman acknowledges that she makes it a point to stay on top of Etsy's ever-increasing features and developments and changing SEO formulas. "They make it very transparent by making announcements in the forums and through email, so it's easy to do so, but many shop owners don't pay attention to these details," Effman notes. As for the sayings and prints on her products, Effman finds inspiration in her other passion in life -- animals as well as her husband's music business. "Etsy allows me to give my ideas a trial run. It's immediate idea to market and that doesn't really happen unless you have your own shop," she says. "It's a unique concept, and I think people are opening their minds to the idea that handmade can equal quality and value." In the end though it's all about the product. "If you're trying to sell something that you yourself wouldn't pay money for, no one else is going to either just because it's on Etsy," she says.