When I arrived at a little past 8 a.m., a chill blew through the doors, up the concrete stairwell, and into a room crowded with antique Persian rugs, mismatched vintage chairs, and numerous stools of salvaged wood, a signature piece of Piet Hein Eek. The space was the third floor of a reimagined Philips Factory Building, Eek’s own workshop and showroom, and the event was this year’s Hello Etsy, a conference examining the role of small business and creativity in reimagining and transforming the world’s economy. Attendees, some wearing hand-knit scarves and warming hands around cups of steaming coffee, chatted in Dutch. Dutch, as we recently announced, is the latest language available on Etsy. Offering access to Etsy in another language, though, means more than providing easier site usability; it means connecting with a new community. At Hello Etsy in Eindhoven, I was lucky to sit among sellers from that community.
We settled in and the day began with Janine Vangool’s recollection of the founding of UPPERCASE. With this magazine, she realized a lifelong calling, one that began when as a nine-year-old she self-published her first magazine for her at-home library. With a commitment to high caliber production and design, Janine launched UPPERCASE, a self-described “labor of love.” Amid the downfall of other magazines, she carved a path with a subscription-based business model and a high cover price. For Janine, quality trumps cheap production. As the day continued, presenters continually offered examples of business success being measured beyond financial profit.
Diana van Ewijk, co-owner of MamaMarketing.nl, a platform which helps small business owners with DIY self-marketing, demonstrated how her marketing consists of honest sharing and relatability; by blogging about the struggles of motherhood, she truly engages and connects with her customers. “Stay you,” van Ewijk said, “because you are unique and personal and you have to talk like you like to be spoken to.” Marketing efforts, she explained, do not need to be sales pitches, but instead personal stories and advice. On her blog, she creates a space that feels like home for herself and her customers. Value does not just exist in her products but in the experiences and relationships she creates.
Van Ewijk and Vangool both illustrate the authenticity, excellence, and personal relatability that small business owners can offer their customers. As a member of the International Team at Etsy, I come to work every day believing that Etsy members, worldwide, apply these values to build their businesses. For small businesses, value resides in creative output, thoughtful packaging, inspired marketing, and superior customer relations. The result is a personal experience for both buyer and seller.
After lunch, Satish Kumar, a former monk and current editor of Resurgence, declared the need for this new harmonious economy. “Your life,” he exclaimed, “is more important than spending all your life to pay the bills.” Each of us, he affirmed, has the power to turn anything we do into a work of art through mindfulness, attention and creativity. With a standing ovation, he declared that imagination is a transformative power, and that in every act, even in that of conducting business, we can be conscientious creators.
As we soaked in the inspiration of Kumar’s speech, the sky opened up, and outside of the steel-cased factory windows, rain and hail pounded down. I looked around and thought how cold, on such days, the factory must have been when it was in the prime of its production for Philips. The windows were large and drafty. Every wall was cold concrete. In the warm glow of Eek’s large colorful fabric lanterns, in a room full of inspiring Etsy sellers, though, I felt anything but chilled. Imagination had turned the looming factory room into an intimate, cozy space.
Interest piqued? View these presentations and more on our Hello Etsy Livestream.