Highlights from the Inaugural Etsy Success Symposium

Yesterday I spoke at the first-ever Etsy Success Symposium, a one-day gathering for Etsy sellers and other creative business owners (you can view my presentation, What Creative Business Owners Can Learn from Improv, here). The day was jam-packed with sessions offering business tips and inspiration for the talented artisans who sell their wares in Etsy’s online shops.

A few highlights:

1. Noah Scalin Was Awesome

“Peanut Butter and Skully”Noah Scalin is the guy behind the Skull-a-Day project, wherein he created a skull every day for a year using materials ranging from peanut butter and jelly (see photo at left), to plastic bags, baby toys and trash he found on the street.

Noah gave an energizing presentation about the value of taking small steps to implement big ideas. Then he had us all choose a simple shape (a star, a heart, a peace sign) and create 10 iterations of said shape in 20 minutes (a wonderful warm-up for my session on improv!). Etsy provided a bunch of supplies (fabric, metal pieces, pom-poms), plus we could use any other materials we found in the room — I ended up using a leftover bagel from the morning’s breakfast spread, for example (photo in the slideshow below).

Check out Noah’s website. He also has a new book, 365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!. Check it out!

 2. Your Dreams Can Change

I sat next to Michelle Ward, aka the When I Grow Up Coach, at a dinner for speakers on the eve of the symposium, and instantly knew that this was someone I really liked. She’s friendly, quirky, funny and smart, and runs a business that so many people need: coaching creative people to identify and pursue fulfilling careers.

I love Michelle’s personal story:

“Since I was a little girl of 6 years old, I always wanted to be an actress. Being on stage is where I belonged, and it took me places. It took me to New York City, where I majored in musical theater at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. It took me on a cruise ship around North America where I sang my heart out for a year. It took me to Studio 8A in Rockefeller Plaza, where I got to be on “Saturday Night Live”. It even took me to The-Closest-Movie- Theater-Is-An-Hour-Away, PA and The-Town-With-A-Gas-Station,-a- Consignment-Shop,-a-Pizzeria,-and-a-Gun-Store, New Hampshire.

And all of a sudden, the life I was pursuing for 20 years wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I didn’t want to leave my home in New York City, where I built an incredible life for myself. I didn’t want to spend my “days off” sitting at auditions to sing 8 bars of a song and wonder where the day went. I didn’t want to get a job and have to pick up my life with one day’s (or one week’s) notice. I didn’t want to be a 35 year old waitress/ hostess/ temp/office manager. I wanted my days to mean something, to be valuable, to matter.”

I can so relate to this last sentence. As I wrote about recently, I’m struggling to reconcile my love of improv with what it takes to get on stage as an improviser in New York City. Life is short, and I personally want to put more energy into my passions themselves, than into pursuing those passions as some sort of remote end goal. If you aren’t enjoying the journey, then it’s time to make a change. Maybe you need to journey differently. Or maybe, as heartbreaking as it might seem — maybe the destination isn’t worth it. But here’s the silver lining: by letting that destination go… what journey can you begin that might fill your days with joy?

 3. Etsy HQ is Swoon-Worthy

Admittedly a more superficial takeaway from the day, but my god: Etsy headquarters is the coolest office space I have ever seen. Words can’t even describe. There were arty fabrics hanging over bright, sunlit windows; giant floor lamps the size of trees, with wooden bases and brightly colored shades; and a huge eat-in kitchen that would make any apartment dweller drool, complete with chunky wooden tables where staff members enjoy delicious gourmet lunches two times a week. This slideshow tour from Mashable does a pretty good job of the office aeshetic, but you’d really need video to get a sense of just how bright, spacious and inspiring it feels to stand in the space. Ahhh.

While I didn’t get any great shots of the Etsy space, I did take some photos that can help give you a sense of the symposium (including two photos I snapped on the streets of DUMBO, Brooklyn, where Etsy is located):

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

If you were at the symposium, what were the highlights of the day for you?

5 thoughts on “Highlights from the Inaugural Etsy Success Symposium

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