nancyflynn

Meet the crafty mother behind Etsy's first sale

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At the recent XOXO Festival in Portland, Ore., Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson revealed the very first item ever sold on Etsy: a Flamingo Kid, a cute and tropical cosmetics bag with a ribbon strap.

That was news to Nancy Flynn, the Etsy store owner who sold the item from her Belle Epoque Shop on June 20, 2005.

“Wow!” she exclaimed to the Daily Dot. “This is the first I've heard of it. But if the CEO says it, it must be true.”

Flynn is no stranger to the handmade community. She wrote a book, Jeaneology: Crafty Ways to Reinvent Your Old Blues, which outlined 25 different sewing projects for arts and crafts enthusiasts. But the 35-year-old hobbyist was surprised hadn’t heard about this small claim to Internet fame earlier. Back in 2007, when she brought her handmade wares to Maker Faire Bay Area, she chatted with Etsy’s then-PR person for an extended time.

“He didn’t say anything to me about being the first seller,” said Flynn, a stay-at-home mom in Berkely, Calif. “He might not have known.”

The URL actually lists Flynn’s transaction as the site’s 43rd of its kind, but searches for transactions one through 42 result in 404 pages.

“Maybe I’m the earliest seller who still has an active Etsy account?” she hypothesized.

Regardless, Flynn clearly an early adopter. She discovered Etsy right after its founding in June 2005, after seeing it mentioned on a website she frequented, GetCrafty.

“The original Etsy programmers participated in the forums there,” she recalled.

The time was perfect for Flynn, who had just “discovered” her sewing machine and had made more bags and purses than she could use herself. She thought Etsy would be a great way to make money off of them. Her first sale came just one day after she joined.

“I was very surprised and flattered,” she said. “I assumed the buyer was a person I knew from GetCrafty. I couldn’t imagine how they found my shop and couldn’t care.”

Flynn put her Etsy shop on hiatus in 2008, after she had her first daughter. She joked that she’s been on maternity leave ever since. (She now has three children.)

While Flynn still frequents regularly on Etsy, especially for original art, she doesn’t plan to open up shop again.

“Now you need to be much more savvy about the rules of running a small business,” she said. “That’s not something we thought about in the beginning. And it’s not something I’m equipped to do right now.”

Flynn said she’s impressed by Etsy’s growth from a small site for hobbyists into a responsible for $76.2 million of goods in August 2012, according to a recent company blog post.

“It was definitely different in the beginning,” she said. “The original intention was that you would buy things from the person who made it. You wouldn’t be supporting small indie businesses, but supporting a single individual who makes things. I have no problem with Etsy’s growth, but it’s definitely different than it was.”

Photo via Nancy Flynn