Crafty stay-at-home moms turn to online sales

Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:42pm EDT
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By Karina Ioffee

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Lara Lewis used to be a stressed-out single mother whose teaching job left her little time for her young daughter, but now she works from home, selling an estimated $60,000 a year worth of jewelry online.

The 37-year-old from State College, Pennsylvania, is one of an estimated 5.1 million stay-at-home U.S. mothers, many of whom juggle child-rearing and generating an income. A growing number are starting their own businesses.

The Small Business Administration says the number of self-employed women around the country jumped by 10 percent from 2000 to 2006, to 5.3 million.

For Lewis, an online marketplace called Etsy provided a place to sell her estate-style and faux vintage pieces. The website,, lets craft makers set up their own virtual shops. It currently has more than 4.2 million users.

"It's wonderful to be able to call my own shots," Lewis said. "I can work at night, so if I want to do something with my family, I can."

Launched in 2005, the Brooklyn, New York-based Etsy now has more than 400,000 sellers, most of whom are women, and posted more than $180 million in sales last year. Nearly 70 percent of sellers are college-educated.

"You have this generation of women who understand the value of staying at home to raise their children, but they also want to contribute to the household income and have a creative outlet," said Megan Auman, a Pennsylvania-based designer who started Crafting an MBA,, a blog aimed at helping artisans market their products online. "It's another path to financial security."

BETTER BALANCE   Continued...

<p>A screenshot of the website. Picture taken March 2010. REUTERS/handout/</p>