Etsy wants to link designers with Pittsburgh manufacturing firms

Etsy, the online marketplace for crafters and artisans, is seeking small manufacturers in the Pittsburgh region to help its million-plus sellers and designers grow their enterprises.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based e-commerce site on Tuesday invited local craft businesses, small manufacturers and economic development groups who might assist them in forming partnerships to the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District to brief them on the new Etsy Manufacturing initiative.

Etsy launched the program last fall “because we heard from our sellers that they needed help to scale their businesses,” said Emily Smith, senior product manager for Etsy Manufacturing.

Etsy counts 1.5 million makers on its site who collectively generate $2.4 billion in annual sales.

If some of them can connect with small specialty manufacturing shops to help produce their goods, both sides can benefit from expanded sales and future growth, said Ms. Smith.

Founded in 2005, Etsy is known as a source for one-of-a-kind handmade goods. In 2013, the company changed its policies so that sellers can get assistance creating their products from outside manufacturers as long as those firms adhere to guidelines on sustainability, labor laws and other issues.

As it ramps up the program, Etsy has invited manufacturers from four industries to apply for partnerships: printing; apparel and textile; machining and fabrication; and jewelry and metalwork. Businesses in those sectors apply online and provide details about their facilities, production process and ethical standards.

Designers looking for manufacturers on Etsy can scan the profiles and contact businesses that may fit their production needs.

Pittsburgh is the third city that the website chose to promote the initiative in following New York and Boston.

“There’s so much history in the manufacturing space here … and a mix of old manufacturing and new artisans,” said Ms. Smith. “Pittsburgh has been on our target list.”

The Richard King Mellon Foundation helped to connect the crafting website with Pittsburgh officials, she said.

The foundation is supplying $10,000 to Bridgeway Capital, a nonprofit community development fund, to make loans to small businesses that may need to invest in new equipment or facility expansion when they participate in the Etsy program, said Mark Peterson, Bridgeway’s president and chief executive.

SMC Business Councils will provide services such as tax filing and human resources assistance to companies that participate. SMC can also help designers find the right manufacturers and apply for financing, said Steven Shivak, president of SMC.

“If a designer is using plastics or tungsten steel in their products, we have manufacturers locally who produce those. We want to make sure if it’s designed here, it’s manufactured here.”

For more information, go to​manufacturing/​apply.

By Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.