Etsy success stories in NJ — being crafty never paid so well
When she saw a young girl distraught over the fact she had to leave the Jersey Shore and head back home to Pennsylvania, ElizaBeth Koenig got an idea.
"I wanted to share the shore with everyone who couldn't be here," said Koenig, a lifelong Middletown resident who started crafting with shells, driftwood and sand.
Eventually, it became a business — Shoreganic. The 29-year-old has made more than 145 sales on Etsy since launching in 2014. She also rents out space at a boutique nearby.
Almost every day after dropping the kids off at school, Koenig hits the local beaches and starts collecting whatever she can to include in her lineup of handmade goods, from clam shell candles to dreamcatchers to heart-shaped driftwood key hooks.
Koenig had been a stay-at-home mother, depending solely on her husband's income to support the family. But now she can contribute while taking care of their two daughters.
"I just started to make some extra money for cheerleading and gymnastics and all the stuff the kids want to do," Koenig said. "I do very well with word of mouth."
Etsy, a global online marketplace for handmade and vintage items, features more than 60 pages of New Jersey-based "shops." Some have made just a few sales, bringing in a couple bucks now and then, but others have conducted thousands of transactions. These days, anyone's art is available for the world to see, and purchase, whereas years ago, one's craftiness rarely reached much further than the local flea market.
Almost 100 percent of Audrey Jones' sales come through Etsy. The 56-year-old Bound Brook resident creates unique tabletops using wood from run-down barns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that are at least 150 years old.
"I really didn't realize how popular and how many people were so into this whole reclaimed wood concept," said Jones, who went from working in her own garage to a workshop at a Bridgewater lumberyard.
Jones, who's conducted about 700 sales online — along with major restaurant orders here in New Jersey and from as far as the Oakland Coliseum — was able to leave her former job and focus only on Fresh Restorations.
"It started really small and now it's a really, really good business," Jones said.
Her sales doubled from 2014 to 2015, and tripled in 2016.
Jones realized the public's love for the product after creating a kitchen island tabletop out of wood. It received lots of attention online and the idea took off. Now, she has two carpenters on staff to build tables, and an assistant to help with the finish work.
"And we don't just crank them out. We just really take our time on each and every one," Jones said.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.