Last Sunday, the Capital Region Etsy Street Team (CREST) had the opportunity to meet with Etsy CEO, Maria. She is spending time talking with various street teams, getting to know the people behind the storefronts, and it was also a chance for us to ask her some Etsy questions. It was also a great chance for the members of CREST to have a chance to meet each other IRL, putting faces to the now-familiar names.
We were all struck by how accessible and down-to-earth Maria was. She told us about her background at Amazon and NPR, which had prepared her for her role at Etsy through experience not only with online retailing, but more importantly, virtual community-building. It became clear as she spoke to us that she sees Etsy as so much more than a place where crafters can sell their stuff. She sees its value and uniqueness in the opportunities for people to come together around a common desire to be creative and to be part of something genuine. The handmade movement has been growing over the last several years, and it seems to be just one aspect of the movement by many people away from the mass-produced, impersonal, throw-away culture.
I recalled a moment five years ago, entering a knitting shop on 14th Street in NYC, and seeing one of my neighbors (a former super model and wife of a rock legend), sitting in a side room taking knitting lessons. Here was someone who could have any material thing she wanted (someone who had a limo drive her to the grocery store), and there she was, with wool and wooden needles in hand, learning how to create something with her own two hands.
Besides the great satisfaction of creating a tangible product, there are many other reasons to love the handmade movement: handcrafted items from local sellers don’t have the unfair labor practices that are often associated with mass-produced items; the quality of handcrafts is so much greater than any factory-made product you could buy; plus, there’s something about the love that goes into a handmade product — it’s a tangible intangible that brings a totally different quality that commercial products are simply missing.
As we discussed with Maria, there are many things that Etsy can do to improve the experience for their sellers and buyers. But, they are offering something that nobody had done before — create a space where people can come together, share the authentic handmade experience, and find some really cool stuff in the process.