Handmade is all the rage, as the “Etsy Effect” fuels an entirely new consumer niche. Etsy, a website that helps small businesses sell handcrafted products, made its debut seven years ago, and the demand for the website’s artisanal crafts is showing no sign of abating. According to a 2012 article appearing in the Frederick News-Post, penned by reporter Courtney Pomeroy, sales on the popular site have now exceeded a half-billion dollars. The website’s vendors sell everything from handmade soaps, crafted by small businesses, like the School of Wash, to houseplants and hand-blown glass. Etsy entrepreneurs bring custom-made products to clientele across the nation.

The company’s mission is to shape the global marketplace, by creating “living local economies.” It’s essentially a buy-locally, think-globally social movement, and based on Etsy’s dramatic growth, the company is ideally situated to bringing that vision to fruition.

According to the news article, the Etsy Effect has generated such a dramatic demand for personalized, handcrafted products that some entrepreneurs have expanded their business to serve a national clientele. That’s really no surprise, as handcrafted goods have been in demand since the beginning of human commerce. The Buy Local Movement promotes a simple, but powerful idea: Keeping money in the hands of local small business owners prospers communities, many of which have struggled in an economy dominated by large corporations.

Small business owners reap several benefits from the Etsy effect, and organic business growth is at the top of the list. In stark contrast to a standard startup approach that generally requires establishing a line of credit, and investing in a storefront, Etsy entrepreneurs expand their businesses using low-cost social media portals. By growing in a more organic fashion, Etsy entrepreneurs bootstrap a business, and at the same time, do not waste precious startup capital on unproven marketing strategies. A new product can be tested with a few customers, lowering risk for the entrepreneur.

Etsy users often launch a business as a natural outgrowth of a hobby. Not only does that keep overhead low, it also eases cash-flow headaches. Many using the Etsy website to sell goods have the advantage of testing the market, and tweaking a product until it hits the mark.

With the Nation’s Baby Boomers beginning to retire by the millions, the opportunity to work at home part-time will likely prove to be a critical supplement to retirement income. Few Baby Boomers can expect to subsist solely on Social Security. Yet, many have valuable life experience that can be readily applied to something enjoyable, like crafting handmade goods. It’s no surprise websites like www.Etsy.com are growing organically and rapidly, as the culture swings on the pendulum away from the idolization of mass production, which has shaped the American mindset for decades.