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Can we build an Etsy Alternative Marketplace?

Correction: Goimagine is converting to a “Shared Ownership Model” rather than a “Multi-Stakeholder Coop”. Goimagine maker members will have voting rights and representation on the board of directors, but not a majority share of the board.

On February 25th, 2022, the Etsy Strike subreddit was born.  On February 26th, 2022, r/EtsyStrike had its first post suggesting that we build a marketplace to compete with Etsy.

It’s a question we’ve been asked repeatedly, as we’ve been working hard to organize the Indie Sellers Guild.  Etsy sucks.  So, why don’t we just build our own seller-owned version of Etsy?

The answer to this question is complicated.  Right now, we have a very simple response – that there are multiple people out there already doing just that, and instead of competing with them, we want to support them!

If you want to help build a cooperative seller-owned marketplace, check out, which was founded by Indie Sellers Guild members!  Other in-development coop marketplaces you can check out include and

The last coop on our list isn’t in-development, it already exists!  If you’re interested in setting up shop on an all-profits-to-charity marketplace that is currently working on converting to a multi-stakeholder cooperative, check out

Still, people react with disappointment from time to time when they find out that the ISG itself has no plans to create a cooperative marketplace.  So we wanted to write a post to explain why.

Here at the Indie Sellers Guild, we’re creating an organization to unite Indie Sellers of many kinds, all over the world.  We accept artisans who hand make their items, designers who have their items produced by a partner, as well as vintage sellers and craft supply sellers who curate unique things for their shop’s collection.

An official ISG-sponsored cooperative marketplace would need to serve every single one of our members.  Let’s think about the logistics of that.  Basically, we’d be trying to recreate Etsy, as it is today, from scratch, with several thousand sellers, and very few buyers.

I joined Etsy in 2006.  Back then it wasn’t a viable place to do business.  I also sold my handcrafted items on Ebay.  On Ebay, the time I spent creating listings was well spent, and everything sold within a couple weeks.  On Etsy, the things I posted would just sit, and sit.

If I had to set a date at which Etsy became just barely viable as a place to sell things with enough buyers shopping – for me, that would be sometime in 2012.  Thanks to my research for the Indie Sellers Guild blog, I have exact active seller and buyer counts to apply to my memories of that year.

830,000 sellers.
9 million buyers.

In order to build a marketplace that works for every one of our members, and give it the same viability for our businesses as Etsy did way back in 2012, we would have to find a way to attract 830,000 sellers and 9 million buyers to our movement, and have every single one of those people join our marketplace, to shop and to sell.

We are not there!

Is it possible to build a small marketplace that is a viable place to do business, where the sellers that join actually make sales?  Yes it is.

We’ve had reports from several ISG members of marketplaces where they make better sales than they do in their Etsy shops.  In every case that’s been reported to us, those marketplaces have something in common.

Each of them would only work for a scant few of our members at ISG.

One way for a small marketplace to succeed is if it’s only open to sellers within a specific geographic area.   The marketplace organizes popup vending events at areas with a lot of local traffic, and the word spreads about the marketplace to those people, who are likely to want to shop local on the internet too.

Another path to success for a new marketplace is to laser-focus down to a specific customer demographic, and only include sellers of certain styles of items.  Advertising is cheaper when your keywords are specific – and every seller on the marketplace is served by that advertising, since admission was limited to them in the first place.  Customers are more likely to bookmark the site and come back when it’s tailored exactly to their hobbies and interests.  They’re more likely to mention it to friends who share their hobbies and interests, and to share the marketplace’s posts on social media.

In every case we have found of a successful small marketplace, it isn’t something we could build ourselves.  We’re an incredibly diverse group of sellers.  New marketplaces succeed by being the best option – or better yet, the ONLY option – in a tiny niche.

Instead, we’re working on a Marketplace Accreditation Program.  It’s quite exciting! Our Marketplace Accreditation Program is a seller-focused rating system that will help you figure out whether a marketplace treats its sellers fairly, and whether it’s a good place for your creative indie business.

Our first step in this program is publishing a research study – in cooperation with Dr. Samantha Close of DePaul University (who you might recognize as our head of research)!  This research study is officially approved by the IRB – which stands for Institutional Review Board.  It’s a US government organization in charge of studies involving human participants.  When our study is complete, it will be published in an academic journal and offered as a whitepaper that can be used to design a marketplace that indie sellers will love to be a part of.

Right now, you have a chance to get in on the ground floor of this project – with an open ended survey where you can expound upon your preferences and ideas in detail. We welcome responses from both indie sellers and the buyers who support us.  It will take about 15-30m to complete. 

We plan to leave this survey open until April 23rd.  Starting on April 24th, we’ll use your responses to create a quicker-to-complete multiple-choice version of the survey, which we will share far and wide.  Thank you for being a part of this exciting project!

Update: July 2023

The open ended survey is closed, and we’ve moved onto the new version! This one takes about 20m to complete, and you can do so at this link.

Click here to read or listen to the next article in the series: An Etsy Alternative Isn’t the Answer.

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