Fancy teams up with Zaarly to turn craftiness into currency

Martha Stewart-style crafts and cooking projects generate a ton of “likes” and “pins” online, but they might also be able to generate some cash. Social discovery and commerce site Fancy and peer-to-peer marketplace Zaarly announced Monday they are partnering to make DIY items shared on The Fancy available for users to purchase.
Until now, members of Pinterest rival Fancy have been able to share photos and “fancy” all kinds of items on the site — from Marc Jacobs bags to cupcakes frosted to look like Cookie Monster — but they’ve only been able to actually purchase traditional merchandise made by particular companies and brands. With the new partnership, Fancy users can use the Zaarly marketplace to find someone who will make a DIY item for a price of their choosing.
For example, if a Fancy member sees a Cookie Monster cupcake (or any other random whimsical item) on the site, in addition to featuring it on her profile, adding to a list or indicating that she owns it, she can now click a Zaarly button that asks someone to “Make it for me.” Through a Zaarly-powered feature, she can then specify the price she’s willing to pay, as well as include her location and any other details or modifications. (The buyer sets the price, but the two parties can negotiate through the site.)
“It’s productivity as currency,” Fancy founder and CEO Joe Einhorn told me.
When people browse Fancy, they want to be able to actually acquire the things they find, he said. The Zaarly integration not only gives buyers the ability to purchase (or perhaps, commission) products that they wouldn’t have time to make, it creates a new revenue opportunity for the sellers. The revenue gains may not be huge, but Einhorn likened it to the kind of revenue people can earn through Airbnb, which lets users rent their spare rooms and empty apartments to people looking for a temporary place to stay.
It’s also similar to Airbnb in that it gives people a way to use untapped inventory. In this case, the inventory is a person’s labor and time; in the case of Airbnb, it’s physical space. (Hunch co-founder and investor Chris Dixon explored this idea earlier this year in a post about “maximizing capacity utlilization as a startup premise” that included Uber and TaskRabbit.)
While I think the overall idea of creating a DIY marketplace is compelling, I did ask Einhorn about the risk that people would simply post handmade items from elsewhere on the Web (like Etsy, for example) and try to find people to make similar items for less. Einhorn said it’s not always straightforward to identify the originator of an idea when it comes to crafts but that, when possible, Fancy will try to give preference to the originator and, as they roll out the Zaarly feature over the next 30 days, they will be mindful of supporting a culture that doesn’t encourage knockoffs.
Since allowing consumers to buy items through the site, Fancy said it earns more than $50,000 a week in merchandise and travel purchases and has attracted thousands of merchants who offer deals on their items and destinations. It’s hard to imagine that individual DIY items will come with big price tags (especially since it’s the buyer who gets to set the price on Zaarly), but by bringing commerce to a new class of products, Fancy could boost its value as a shopping utility.