Seniors get crafty with internet

Rebecca S. Rivas | 5/16/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Ioni Dodson, who lives in Queens, N.Y., is “so happy” to be 72 and retired from her career in word processing because now she has time to do more crafty art, she said.

One of her most prized creations is a three-dimensional, African-themed quilt using bright colors. It is called “Celebration.”

“When I was in grammar school, I wore a uniform,” Dodson said, who worked in human resources administration in New York City for 36 years. “I thought this was the worst thing I could ever do. When I attended high school, I made and designed my clothes. I love to be different.”

In November 2009, some of her friends encouraged her to make her crafts more than just a hobby. They urged her to sell her quilts, knits and ceramic dolls on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods.

“They thought that I would do well financially,” she said.

So she decided to set up an online Etsy shop called “Ionis Creations.”

Etsy was created by a painter, carpenter, and photographer named Rob Kalin in early 2005. Like many artists, Kalin felt there wasn’t a viable marketplace to exhibit and sell his creations online. At that time, he felt as though other e-commerce sites were too inundated with overstock electronics and broken appliances.

So Kalin, along with Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik, launched Etsy on June 18, 2005. Now Etsy has more than 800,000 active shops and 14 million members.

Dodson is one of the few African American seniors who have braved online commerce. Although she has not made her fortune yet, she is up for the challenge. So far she has found her clients by word of mouth and Etsy, she said.

“Etsy has grown by leaps and bounds, therefore, you must work harder to get your things seen,” Dodson said.

Her motto is: “No matter what you do, sometimes nothing works. Do not despair. Keep working at it, and it will happen in God’s own time.”

Pat Brown-Dixon, an administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, is constantly talking with small business owners. In her experience, few senior business owners are familiar with online sales tools like Etsy.

However, she encourages small businesses to use all available internet sources to their advantage. Etsy can be a low-cost marketing aid, she said.

“As more seasoned Americans realize the value of using the internet, it can allow them to have more control of their time, and help them be home-based while gaining extra income,” she said.

Brown-Dixon cautioned seniors to be wise in terms of receiving payments. She recommends transferring money through reliable third-party sources, such as Pay-Pal. And she strongly encouraged sellers to keep up with orders and build strong relations.

“And when fulfilling orders, sellers of products must be diligent to deliver the products quickly in order to build their reputations as good suppliers,” she said.

Dabanga dos Santos, a senior originally from Mozambique, is a microbiologist who became a jewelry artisan. She creates ethnic fusion jewelry using metals. She started using Etsy in 2009 when her own website crashed and she needed a means to reach her retail clients.