5. AHeirloomBrooklyn, N.Y.Etsy Lesson: The more unique your products, the more credibility you will gain. It shouldn't come as a surprise that many Etsy sellers got the inspiration for their businesses from shopping on the site themselves. That's certainly the story of AHeirloom, launched in 2010 after Amy Stringer-Mowat was looking for some items for her wedding to fiance Bill. Seeing the dearth of offerings on the site, the two wanted to give their cutting boards a try. Their product, handcrafted cutting boards in the shape of states, was something they had started making for themselves. "One of the reasons why the boards are so successful is that our product line is essentially unlimited. While there is a base set of borderlines, state/nation shapes, the placement for the personalization can be anywhere within those bounds, thus creating thousands of options," Stringer-Mowat says. "Our products are manufactured in the USA, using a very specific skill set and this is something that we feel very proud of." The workmanship shows. Stringer-Mowat recalls hearing from a bride who said her entire bridal party ended up purchasing boards after she received one as a shower gift. "I think our customers feel really great about supporting a small business that is manufacturing in the United States, as many Etsy artists do," Stringer-Mowat says. "It is also important to note that Etsy is quite beautifully curated and has a strong creative vision. The site ... feels exciting. These kinds of feelings aren't easy to express through the Internet -- you usually get this feeling from walking into a boutique shop, but Etsy has managed to replicate this experience virtually with a uniquely vibrant website." AHeirloom's sales this year rose 15% over 2011. Including wholesale orders (AHeirloom ships blank state boards to places like Amazon and targeted boards to gourmet gift shops), sales are up 20%, according to Stringer-Mowat. Etsy gave us "an audience that is confident in us because we sell on Etsy -- they have brought us somewhat instant credibility from which to grow our business," she says. "Our brand is recognized as an 'Etsy brand.'" -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.