Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Etsy Business – Gone Before It Started

Even my serious posts have to begin with silliness, namely soft, squishy toys in the shape of deadly galactic weapons. As we’ve had visitors in the house who’ve been attacked by Q-ster and his plush lightsabers, many friends have said, “Hey, you should start an online business selling these!” because there must be other parents in the world who would love to give their Star Wars-loving, stick-wielding children something safer.

I’ve certainly enjoyed making the toys for Q-ster, and if I wasn’t mostly concerned with getting a full night’s sleep instead of creative projects, I’d probably pursue it. What if I told you that my burgeoning business, in fact all handmade toys, are about to be made illegal?

Liz at Mom-101 writes a beautiful post about why small businesses, often mom-run, are particularly important to her and an explanation of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act. This was a quick government action meant to prevent distribution of the disastrous run of contaminated toys brought to light last Christmas by requiring each and every product to run through mandated third-party testing at a tune of $4000.

The big companies that have been outsourcing to shady suppliers and manufacturers can afford this, but as Liz puts it, “small toy manufacturers, independent artisans, and crafters who have already earned the public trust” will be forced to go out of business.

I have mixed feelings, because I’m generally a “yes, safer! Make sure things don’t go unregulated” kind of person. However, making small toy and clothing companies illegal isn’t the way to go. Big companies all started small – how else would they get there? And making the barrier to entry so high, affecting people (particularly moms working from their homes) who run businesses in this newly flat internet world, is too heavy handed.

People who seek quality, hand-crafted toys are more likely to be alert to toy recalls or safety issues – it’s a self-selecting population. Would it be enough to have a registry of toys that haven’t gone through the official testing, but should be exempt by source? Making an unpainted, natural-wood toy get tested to prove that it doesn’t have lead paint or a dangerous plastic is pretty silly.

In any case, this is an issue worth some thought and action, and quickly, because it takes effect within sixty days.

You’ll pry my lightsabers away from my cold, head hand
, says Obi-wan.


Mom101 said...

This is a beautiful explanation, M.

Let's make sure more kids can enjoy lead-free, beautifully soft light sabers!

Mayberry said...

Agreed, this whole thing is very sad.

You've got quite a collection of sabers going on there!

kittenpie said...

Like you, I have a hard time with this because it seems like a good thing on the whole to make sure toys are safer, but there should be some way to keep the field open to smaller handcrafted toy makers. Maybe some way of submitting a list of the "ingredients" of homemade toys that involve no paints or plastics so they can be cleared without the $4K cost? At any rate, it would sure be a sham if at next year's craft sales, there are no handmade toys to be found.