Think about it: before COVID, did you ever think about face masks? At all? Probably not. Yet barely six months later and face masks are something you literally cannot leave home without.

When everyone—and we mean everyone—suddenly and desperately needs something AND existing supply runs out quickly AND you don’t need highly specialized resources to make more of it, you have a gold rush on your hands.

And that’s how Etsy has made a killing this year. By the numbers:

Shoppers purchased $346 million worth of masks on Etsy between April and June of 2020. That’s an incredible amount of money, but especially when you consider the value of the average face mask. There are a LOT more face masks now than there were a year ago.

More than 5% of that revenue would wind up going into Etsy’s coffers as clean profit. All things considered, it’s pretty impressive when you can net $17.3 million in clean profit just from masks, and without stitching or shipping a single one yourself. Such is the beauty of platforms. (If you can build one people want to use like this.)

Over 100,000 Etsy sellers started offering face masks during the same April-to-June period. The vast majority of these sellers were/are what you’d expect from Etsy: individuals, predominantly women, making goods by hand at home in small quantities.

As a rule, players have succeeded in proportion to their scale. Small, one-person operations might pull in a few hundred orders in one of the April-to-July peak months, for revenue earnings of a few $K per month; very hard work, but profitable for sure. Larger shops with more sophisticated operations were seeing a few hundred thousand orders in that 3-month period for revenues in the millions. Wow.

For more details, covered well, check out this article from The Verge.

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