From Etsy to Empire: Navigating Third Party Marketplaces

Last Thursday at 9:30 pm UTC on Zoom

From Etsy to Empire: Navigating Third Party Marketplaces

How 6 founders navigate which e-commerce sales channels to invest in and which to ignore.


Join panelists Jen Zeano: CEO and Founder of Jen Zeano Designs, Randi Seltzer Bonica: CEO and Founder of Rockaway Gypsea, Ashley Molesso and and Chess Needham: Founders of Ach+Chess, Valerie Wray: CEO and Founder of The 125 Collection, and Lea Ridenour: CEO and Founder of Made Au Gold for a candid conversation about navigating DTC channels and selling on third-party platforms.

We'll explore the following: Does it make sense for your brand to sell on Etsy? Or Amazon? What are the pros and cons of working with these different third-party marketplaces? How do you know when to switch from just a third-party marketplace, to your own fancy e-commerce site? And why have certain brands, like The 125 Collection, decided to avoid third party marketplaces and stay fully direct-to-consumer?

Let's learn more about our panelists!

Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham make up the powerhouse queer and trans couple behind Ash+Chess, the beloved lifestyle and stationary brand that's taken the US - and the world, honestly - by storm! This worldwide brand sells direct-to-consumer and wholesale, and was launched after Ashley and Chess fell in love, and decided to turn their love story into a full-on business. Their company made its debut at the National Stationery Show in May 2017, and since then over 150 retailers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia sell their art and stationery. In the short time they've been in business, Ash + Chess have worked on many collaborations including artwork for Belletrist, a book club run by actress Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss; book illustrations for HarperCollins and Workman Publishing; t-shirt designs for The Style Club x Forever 21; exclusive designs and patterns for Plaza Style, a Japanese retail brand; and Nooworks, a clothing company based out of San Francisco, CA. They are the authors of their own illustrated book about LGBTQ+ history, published April 2020 by Morrow Gift/HarperCollins called The Gay Agenda: A Modern Queer History & Handbook, and are currently working on Queer Tarot: An Inclusive Deck and Guidebook to be published with Running Press/Hachette in Spring 2022. 

Valerie Wray is the Founder and CEO of The 125 Collection, a candle company beloved by Oprah, Tiffany Haddish and customers all around the country. The 125 does not sell on third party marketplaces and is focused on building direct relationships with its customers. This luxury quote candle brand was born in Harlem, NY, and Valerie ia constantly inspired by New York City and pop culture. These candles are designed to empower, inspire and entertain, and Valerie pulls inspiration from life's tough and exciting moments to produce relatable candles you'll use and love every day. The 125 Collection name celebrates the legendary "125th Street" located in the heart of Harlem's amazing community. You can learn more about The 125 Collection in Apartment Therapy or Marie Claire!

Jen Zeano is the Founder and CEO of Jen Zeano Designs, a Latina empowerment lifestyle and apparel company with celebrity fans like Jessica Alba. Jen is on a mission to create products that make Latina women feel represented, and she believes in kindness, girl power, adventure, Latina magic, and celebrating every tiny victory. Jen started JZD after feeling unfilled in her full-time job, taking a spontaneous trip to Disneyland, and realizing she could build her own business and live life on her own terms. Jen Zeano sells on Etsy as well as DTC!

Lea Ridenour is the Founder and CEO of Made Au Gold, a colorful lifestyle brand based in Nashville. Lea emigrated to the United States and was limited in where she could work, so she started selling wedding invitation and menu designs on Etsy, and used profits from that early business to expand into new product categories and become the powerhouse lifestyle brand Made Au Gold is today. Inspired by everything 70’s and the current social climate, Made Au Gold is seeking to show that an ironic sense of humor, as well as thoughtful design, can spread positivity. Their mission is to design and provide goods that can lead to meaningful conversations that will bring us closer together as a community, tackling social and political issues, as well as self love and mental health. Made Au Gold sells on Etsy as well as DTC.

Randi Seltzer Bonica is the Founder and CEO of Rockaway Gypsea, a jewelry and gift brand that donates sales proceeds to animal rescue. This mom and business owner started Rockaway Gypsea organically out of her love for personalized jewelry and the jewelry making process. Randi is constantly trying to make her business as cruelty free as possible and purchases the vast majority of her materials from other women-owned small businesses all over the country. Rockaway Gypsea sells DTC as well as on Etsy and Amazon Handmade.