This is the month that we collectively honor the little guy — National Small Business Month. And while folks all across the country are celebrating the big impact that small businesses have on our lives, communities, and the broader economy, here at Etsy we’re focused on a group of entrepreneurs who are often overlooked, even in conversations about small businesses. We’re celebrating microbusinesses (businesses with fewer than 10 employees).
As our newly released Global Seller Census demonstrates, the vast majority of Etsy sellers (80%) are businesses of one, and most (97%) work out of their homes. As self-employed microbusinesses, their needs and concerns are very different from a business of even ten or twenty. But those concerns rarely make it into the larger conversations about how to support small businesses, often because microbusinesses are operating ‘behind the scenes’ in their homes, not in main street shops. In many ways, Etsy sellers constitute an invisible economy.
Yet microbusiness’ contributions to their communities and the broader economy are meaningful. Consider that on Etsy alone, 2.1 million creative entrepreneurs sold $3.9 B worth of goods in 2018. Moreover, Etsy sellers contributed $5.37 billion to the US economy in 2018, and created 1.5 million jobs, enough jobs to employ the entire city of San Antonio. For more on the economic impact of the Etsy Economy, check out our economic impact dashboard.
Last week, we brought seventeen Etsy sellers from all over the country to Washington DC, to make the invisible visible, and show policymakers not only how much our community contributes to the economy, but also to advocate for policy solutions that will help our sellers start and grow their creative businesses. So what did we talk about?
Online Sales Tax: In the wake of 2018’s landmark Supreme Court case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, many states are requiring remote online sellers and/or marketplaces to collect and remit sales tax on their behalf, resulting in a patchwork of confusing (and sometimes conflicting) requirements, liabilities, and administrative burdens. We urged federal lawmakers to pass the Online Sales Tax Simplification Act of 2019 (H.R. 1933), which makes sales tax collection and remittance simple and fair for microbusinesses and the marketplaces that enable them.
Trade: The majority of Etsy sellers ship their wares internationally, yet a patchwork of customs fees and tariffs, combined with unclear information makes it difficult for US Etsy sellers to ship their goods abroad. That’s why we continue to urge policymakers to push for an increased de minimis customs threshold for low-value goods in negotiations with current and future trading partners, and preserve the fundamental protections that enable intermediaries like Etsy to operate in the global market. We also urged them to support USMCA, which advances many of these goals. In addition to educating members of Congress, we brought this message straight to the Office of the US Trade Representative, the agency responsible for negotiating US trade deals, who graciously hosted a round table meeting with our sellers.
Net Neutrality: The internet is built on the principle of openness. For the price of an internet connection, anyone can spread new ideas or start a business — even spark a new industry. It’s this democratic access that makes the internet so revolutionary and what allows Etsy sellers to compete with much bigger and more established brands. We thanked Congress for the recent passage of the Save the Internet Act, which enshrines the strong net neutrality protections our sellers depend on to compete online, and urged Senators to bring it to a vote.
Portable Benefits: As self-employed microbusinesses, Etsy sellers often lack access to the employer-based system of benefits, and struggle with income volatility. We urged lawmakers to consider several new proposals to help Etsy sellers build emergency savings, simplify and automate tax withholding and compliance, and protect themselves from unexpected income shocks or unemployment.
Over the course of two days, we stormed the Hill, attending over 40 meetings with lawmakers and their staff, and educated them about the needs and concerns of our community. Together we demonstrated that individually we may be small, but together, Etsy sellers represent a large economic force and important constituency that policy makers need to support.
Check out #EtsyGoesToWashington for pics!