Think Etsy‘s Dead? A 19-year-old Proves Otherwise

by . July 15th, 2015

There’s been plenty of talk these days of Etsy’s demise. While we wouldn’t say, they’re greatly exaggerated, an enterprising teen proves otherwise.

LeiLeiSecor1In 2012 LeiLei Secor, then a 19-year-old, got word that her application to the University of Virginia had been accepted.

There was one hitch: as an resident of upstate New York, the associated costs of attending UV was around $40,000 a year.

Unlike most people however, Secor decided that she was not without options. She decided to sell macramé crafts on Etsy. Unfortunately, her wares sold poorly. So she decided to try wire wrap jewelry instead.

It was a huge success. As of last week, Secor’s online shop was 186th out of almost 1,400 Etsy stores. She had reached $100,000 in sales in just three short years, and earned the 2014 National Federation of Independent Businesses’ Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her achievement. And, oh, she managed to pay off her tuition in full.

Here are her top tips according to a recent interview:

1.) Don’t be too invested in what you start with.

Secor realized early on that macramé just wasn’t cutting it, so she quickly shifted to wire jewelry, which did sell. What often distinguishes successful entreps from the not-so-successful ones is the willingness to let go of a proven lost cause and move on to the next unproven thing, which may do better.

2.) Social media is key.

Why has to be said is baffling, but you’d be surprised how many other otherwise talented folks have no social media exposure whatsoever. Which brings us to the next point.

3.) Great photos sell.


I personally don’t know anything about jewelry. It all looks the same to me, especially on Etsy, where the prevalent amateur photo work makes thinks look all very similar. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

Secor explains:

“A lot of jewelry looks similar but the way it’s marketed and photographed is what makes or breaks it on Etsy,”

LeiLei Secor’s Etsy photo tips:

  • Natural light on a cloudy day diffuses unsightly shadows
  • Use paper for a plain background
  • Items should be photographed by by themselves, and “in action”.
  • Taking the time to learn what makes the jewelry looks best

4.) Always keep learning.

Online fora and resources were a great help to Secor, who at the time didn’t even have a high school diploma. They helped her get a handle on specific kinds of knowledge she needed to help her business grow, from photography to business-related tops.

5.) Know what’s worth spending time on.

She knew that her first product wasn’t selling and quickly moved. But she also manages to get plenty of time in for other things, like hanging out with friends, and working for her local congressman in addition to attending school and running a successful small business.

What do you think about LeiLei Secor’s story? Tell us in the comments below!


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.