3. Stil Novo Design

Oregon House, Calif.

Etsy Lesson: Open up a dialogue with customers.

Stil Novo Design creates sustainable custom furniture, lighting, and home and wedding decor using recycled French oak wine barrels.

Owners Camilla Pistilli and her husband, Stefano Capaccioli, launched their Etsy shop in 2008 after a friend thought the designs would be a perfect fit for Etsy's 100% handmade philosophy. The market opportunities that Etsy opened up for Stil Novo Designs kept the business from failing during the worst of the recession.

"We had a few successful experiences with selling at fairs and shows, but as we got deeper into the recession, the profits couldn't adequately justify the investment in time and money," she says. "At that time, Etsy was already the largest marketplace on the Internet focused on handmade products, attracting the type of clientele we were hoping to reach. Over the years, we opened a few more online shops on different sites, but none of them had brought us the same volume of success we have experienced on Etsy."

Pistilli emphasizes that they make themselves available to answer any questions a potential customer may have. The pair even encourages custom requests and, more importantly, working with customer's input to produce the exact piece desired.

"Often custom requests have given us the opportunity to create new designs or variations that we wouldn't have thought of on our own," Pistilli says. "This is one of the most valuable aspects of this sort of 'old worldly' relationship between client and artisan, only possible through handmade objects ."

Pistilli says sellers shouldn't underestimate the value of personal dialogue with customers.

"We like to keep our customers well-informed about every step of the making of their order through multiple emails. We're always happy to accommodate every special request in order to make their experience with us somehow different from the otherwise sterile Internet market."

But being on Etsy doesn't guarantee automatic success.

"Sellers should make their work stand out by keeping it creative and innovative," but also by putting in extreme care to their shop's settings, photo listings and descriptions, she says. "Our returning clients and referrals are a testimonial of how a solid reputation is key to sustain any business."

To be sure, Stil Novo Designs are comparatively pricey, begging the question, will customers who come to Etsy pay for the craftsmanship. Pistilli says yes.

"Surprisingly, our more affordable home décor items at the moment are not the bulk of our sales," she says. "Nowadays most people are confident, experienced online shoppers, more so than even just four or five years ago; therefore they are quite able to determine the quality and suitability of an item even just by looking at a photo on their computer screen."

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