Seniors get crafty with internet

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

“I maintained the site even after my website was rebuilt,” said dos Santos, who is also lives in New York. “Between the two, I am busier now than I ever was.”

The income from her Etsy shop, “Dabanga,” supplements her wholesale business, she said. Etsy leveled out the playing ground for its thousands of merchants when it introduced “search engine optimization” relevancy, which helps her shop pop up in search results more often. Etsy offers ways to share ideas and collaborate through the Etsy forums, Etsy teams or attend an online workshop on the site.

Although social media can be overwhelming, Dabanga said it is also a necessary component for online sales. And then of course, sellers have to make time to create the products.

“People often say there aren’t enough hours in the day,” she said. “Of course there are. Time management and meeting goals are essential parts of getting the job done, since social media is very time-consuming.”

With the prolonged downturn of the economy, many people who were not yet ready for retirement have been laid off, said Kevin Lockett, chief operating officer for the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership, a business-coaching program of the Kauffman Foundation. These people have begun to look for ways to leverage their knowledge.

“You saw an influx of seniors trying to start their own businesses,” Lockett said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they started to use products like Etsy. When seniors are in those dire situations, many of them will reach out and use everything available to them.”

Jill of the Etsy shop jill2day spent many years in corporate design departments until the downturn left her unemployed, she stated in the Etsy blog “Quit Your Day Job.” She took her career change as a motivating opportunity to start her Etsy shop, learn more about e-commerce and begin supporting herself through her artistic voice.

She’s now successfully making her living through her Etsy business and loves making her own schedule. And if she could go back in time, she said she would do it sooner.

“In losing my job I have found out that Richie Havens was right when he said, ‘Backwards is not necessarily a negative direction!’” she said.

Lockett said Etsy has given entrepreneurs of any size, in any location, the ability to market their products to a mass audience.

Dodson’s goal is to be able to at least send her grandchildren to college and pay for their expenses.

“You must give up a lot of time,” she said. “You must be professional. You must keep up with new products and must have fortitude – and, above all, patience.”

Rebecca Rivas wrote this article as part of the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.