Meet the "Etsy Moms" Creating All Your Kids' Customized Gear

photo composite with jacket that says Sloane, blocks that spell Lucas, and chest full of clothes

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Personalization is nothing new — but it's not what it is today. Likely, when we were kids, our parents wrote our names with Sharpies on the inside of our backpacks and called it a day. Now, everything can be engraved, lasered, stitched, and bedazzled, allowing your child to show off their unique personality. The personalized gift market is estimated to grow by 2 billion dollars, just between 2020 to 2025. It’s rapidly expanding, especially for kid’s items.

As mentioned, the gear you can get personalized run the gamut—from backpacks to water bottles and even crayons embossed with your kid's name. Moms (and dads!) have turned to sites like Etsy and Instagram to launch their own business, selling directly and marketing with photos of a certain of-the-moment "aesthetic." For some parents, it’s incredibly lucrative, especially if you already have a social media following (or the chops to build one).

Jo Piazza

You can't just sell a product. You have to sell an aspirational lifestyle around the product, and that takes a lot of behind-the-scenes production work and brand building.

— Jo Piazza

“Becoming an Etsy seller really helps you leverage from a social media audience to maximize profit,” says Jo Piazza, co-author of the novel “We Are Not Like Them,” and host of the podcast Under The Influence, which does a deep dive into “mommy bloggers” and parent influencers on Instagram.

“If you have a large audience, you stand to make much more if you are selling your own products rather than selling someone else’s. The most successful influencers and bloggers I know are the ones who develop their own brands and products,” adds Piazza.

A Pandemic Business Boom

Since the pandemic began, more and more parents are hoping to turn their side-hustle of making bespoke children’s items into a full-time, paying gig. But it’s not as straightforward as slapping some patches on a jean jacket. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

“In this day and age, you really have to use Instagram and social media to promote whatever you're selling,” says Piazza. “And not just that—you have to create a brand around that thing. You can't just sell a product. You have to sell an aspirational lifestyle around the product, and that takes a lot of behind-the-scenes production work and brand building.”

For the back-to-school season, your child could be completely fitted out with a personalized backpack, water bottle, jacket, sweatshirts, bows, and more. Not only is it a fun way to show off their personality and individuality, but it also creates a cohesive style for both the child and parent. You can personalize anything from patches (for example, if your daughter loves purple and monkeys, she can get a violet backpack with the animal patch and her name on it).

Below, meet some success stories of moms who sell personalized children’s items on Etsy and Instagram, and learn how they got to where they are.

Instagram Success Story: Aaron & Otto

New Yorker, Morgan Lituchy, is a full-time, stay-at-home mom of two, who runs the shop, Aaron & Otto. There, she offers personalized jean jackets, hoodies, sunglasses, onesies, and more.

In July 2020, she decided to take the entrepreneurial leap. Her son Aaron was born six weeks early in late 2019, and she was scheduled to end her maternity leave in early March 2020. At the time, she worked at LOFT (part of Ann Taylor) doing production and product development.

“I did not feel ready to go back or that I could go back to a corporate fashion role and be the mom I wanted to be,” says Lituchy.

Just a couple of weeks later, she was locked down with her newborn. “With COVID-19, my actuality of being a stay-at-home mom was drastically different than I had envisioned and it was very easy to feel isolated,” explains Lituchy. “I took to my creative background to make things for Aaron in my spare time (sunglasses, jean jackets, hats) as an outlet for myself. I quickly found friends wanted to buy everything I was making for him.”

Her role now offers her the creative outlet she dreamed of. But it wasn't an instant success. Lituchy initially launched the shop on Etsy, starting from scratch. She wasn’t making a profit on Etsy and even lost money on some transactions because of their fees.

Instagram ended up being her savior. "I have since shifted my focus towards building my Instagram following and selling directly through my website,," she shares.

With the combination of Instagram, as well as the word of mouth from friends, family, and other moms Lituchy knows from her Upper East Side neighborhood in New York City, she hasn’t spent any money on advertising. She started making a profit after five months of business.

In two years, her business has grown and she’s been able to work with some well-known children’s brands including Butterscotch Blankees and Oh Mint. But for her, the personal touch is the most important.

“I love being able to work with parents and grandparents to make the perfect gift for the little one in their life," she shares. "There is nothing more satisfying than getting a customer photo back of a smiling child with a product you made!”

Nicole Lewis's Colorful Crayons

Nicole Lewis was an elementary art teacher for 10 years in Lebanon, Indiana, before she launched her own business. She is considered an “Etsy original,” opening her shop back in 2007.

“I was the first artisan to ever create and sell a handmade crayon on Etsy," recalls Lewis. "This was long before the days of social media, Pinterest, Instagram, and the DIYers out there now.”

It started as a hobby. She opened her Etsy store, Art 2 The Extreme, when she was home sick one day. Her initial shop featured art prints, pottery, crayons, and sewn items. A year later, when she switched to just making crayons, her business doubled.

After she had her first son in 2014, she left her teaching role and turned her Etsy side-hustle into a full-time job. “Since 2014, Art 2 the Extreme has remained a full-time business for me, and I love that it allows me to be home with my children,” Lewis says.

She’s made a profit since the beginning and has steadily climbed the ladder to an Etsy Design Award finalist in 2020. “I placed Top 10 in the Etsy Kids Category out of 4.3 million Etsy shops and 2020 was one of our strongest years financially,” Lewis says. “Early 2022, we hit a one million milestone on Etsy.”

One of the best benefits of her business is that she’s been able to build her brand from home and spend time with her family. “I love that my handmade crayon business on Etsy has allowed me to work from home with my young children (two boys ages 5 and 7), successfully navigate a pandemic as a small business owner, and fill a desire to apply my knowledge of art and color outside of education to create a playful and unique crayon brand that is loved by so many,” Lewis says. 

Etsy's Dynamic Duo: Team BeNiralu

Friends Khadija R and Zainab D are “Team BeNiralu” and started their Etsy shop in January 2017. "We were born in India and migrated to the United States," says Khadija. "We belong to the same community, and our love for making creative items for our kids gave us an idea to open an Etsy store." With five children between them, they make a five-figure profit from their shop, which they run full-time from home.

Khadija has two kids, an 11-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old girl; while Zainab has three girls, ages 17, 13, and 4. “We started because of our love for personalization,” says Khadija. “We love creating unique products—hence our store name BeNiralu. Niralu means unique in the Gujarati language."

The Pennsylvania-based store offers personalized backpacks, keychains, ornaments, and more. The most popular items are water bottles. Not only can parents and kids choose the color of the bottle, the font, and their name; but they can also add decals like a gymnast, dancer, soccer player, instrument, and other options to showcase their favorite hobby.

"The decals are cut on a professional cutting machine and then transferred on the bottle," explains Khadija.

Hillary Thrash's Nursery Necessities

Hillary Thrash was a veterinary technician before becoming a mother. After she had her daughter in 2019, she started her store Giggle and Jump. "I wanted to be able to stay home with my daughter, so we started this business," she shares. "We were profitable in the first month and now we make six figures a year."

The first item she created came from a need of her own. "When she was a baby, I needed a way to store her headbands and bows," Thrash says. "I looked at the different options to buy, and thought to myself 'I can make something exactly how I want it!' So, I went to work on making a headband hanger for her nursery."

In addition to personalized headband and bow holders, the shop makes ornaments, metal name signs, and metal letter hooks. Everything is handcrafted in northern California.

"I started with headband hangers, but wanted to expand more," Thrash explains. "I started thinking of more baby/nursery items, and that is how I came up with the milestone photo props. Then, it just expanded from there as I thought of more products."

Thrash says she advertises on Etsy, on social media, and at local craft fairs. "We make a lot of gifts for new parents," Thrash adds.

A Family First Business

Mad Tree Woodcrafts & Engraving is an Ohio-based online shop specializing in personalized keepsake boxes. The brand's customized woodwork is popular with students who are graduating, or anyone trying to remember a moment in time (new parents, grandparents). You can store sentimental baby items, family photos, or even makeup in the boxes.

“We handcraft keepsake boxes, personalized door hanger signs, and leather journals,” says Christy Hall, Co-founder and CEO. “We offer free laser engraving on our handcrafted products.”

Hall launched the store as a side-hustle with her husband in March 2017. Christy held a Vice President position within a corporate insurance company, while her husband Tyler was a corn and soybean farmer. When they started making a profit two years later, her husband made it his full-time job in February 2019. It became full-time for Christy in September 2020. The business had nearly $250,000 in sales dollars in 2021.

Their kids, including their 16-year-old daughter and two pups, inspired the store. “The Mad Tree Woodcrafts & Engraving name was crafted from Mad (our daughter Madison), Tree (a combination of dog’s first names Trigger and Reba), and our love for nature (especially walking in the woods), and crafting,” shares Hall.

The store has brought them closer as a family, and the inspiration came from shared grief after the passing of their Chow Chow Reba, who is the dog pictured in their logo. “A strong, stoic, regal, funny, independent and lively dog, she exhibited courage and passion throughout her fight with lymphoma (she passed away at age 12 in 2016),” Hall says.

This life event deeply affected how they live. “Through our grief, we were reminded how short life can be," she adds. "We set an intention to live life to its fullest. After her passing, we vowed to love and laugh more—interact with others, create something meaningful with our whole hearts—working together doing something we love, each and every day."

The Bottom Line

Starting an Etsy shop or Instagram store can be a lucrative side hustle for parents. There is a huge market for personalized items, as well as a lot of competition in the space. Earning a profit can happen, but it may take an initial investment, years of hard work, and lots of self-promoting on social media for your dream to become a reality.

By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.