We are all made up of a series of interlocking identities. Sometimes these ties that bind us relate to the places we live, and sometimes they have to do with what we make or what we do for fun. Either way, I’m talking about the things we are proud of that make us who we are — our passions.
On Etsy, we have a whole community dedicated to organizations based on people’s identities. We call them Etsy Teams, and they are divided into two basic types: interest-based (a.k.a. global) and geographic (a.k.a. local). While both cases have their challenges and advantages, it is generally more straightforward to come up with events and activities for local teams, since these groups are built around the fact that all the members live relatively near to one another. How do global teams (whose members presumably are scattered around the world) work together or come up with bonding occasions? There are lots of creative solutions to this conundrum, but here’s how one team made it happen.
The Vintage Etsy Society Street Team is an interest-based organization that has always put an emphasis on in-person connections. Founded in 2009, the team has frequent regional meetups where members who live nearby can get together (like this one that took place in southern California). Run by powerhouse Martha Layton Smith of OpenDoorStudio, the VESTies team (as it is lovingly nicknamed) now boasts more than 2,500 members. Last year, the team received a Team Spirit Award and in order to share the honor with all the members, they had the creative idea to put the circular trophy plaque inside an old atlas and mail it around the world from one person to the next so that everyone could see it in person and add their name to the book. The team also participated in our West Elm Holiday Workshop, along with the Chicago Style Crafters.
A few of us had the pleasure of meeting Martha in person last year at an event called Junk Bonanza, an epic, three-day affair for purveyors and shoppers of vintage, antique and repurposed pieces held in Shakopee, Minnesota. We had an amazing time, as you can tell from the photos (the vendors even set up their own team on Etsy)! This year, we knew we would return, but we wanted to do things a little differently and get more of the Etsy vintage community involved. So, we decided to have our presence be represented by an Etsy team, instead of Etsy Admin.
Our first step was to reach out to Martha about rallying some VESTie members to come together and set up and run an Etsy booth at the fair. She put an open call-out to team members searching for sellers who had some experience in display and at least one local vending experience under their belt. Applicants were required to submit a photo of a booth they had curated and these photos were vetted by an Etsy Admin as well as the founder of Junk Bonanza. At the end of this process, six vintage superstars were selected to run the booth: Thom from circa810, Susan from Sugarcookielady, Barbara from ionesAttic, Niki from BombshellShocked, Linnea from BrooklynStVintage and OldStoneFarmhouse and, of course, Martha from Opendoorstudio.
To brainstorm space design and organize details like transportation, they created another small team on Etsy as a homebase in which to share feedback and check in with one another as they all prepared separately for the event. Using the team discussion forum, the members perused each others’ shops and found common themes that would evoke a real “Etsy” feeling at the booth. The color scheme they ultimately settled on was turquoise and orange. For months leading up to the Bonanza, they conversed daily within the team and set up a Flickr pool to share items they were considering bringing to Shakopee.
Finally, when the big day was just around the corner, Martha and Thom rented a giant trailer and filled it with vintage gems and display items to bring the booth to life. Everyone finally met in person at the venue (along with Nickey and Jacob, both in town from Etsy HQ in Brooklyn) and truly made magic happen together. Incredibly, six team members who had never met before were able to put together a streamlined, immersive booth experience. In keeping with the collaborative atmosphere that they fostered in team discussions leading up to the event, once they arrived at the venue each person continued to contribute something unique to make the final product cohesive. Susan even brought her sewing machine to make curtains on the spot and made aprons complete with orange E (for Etsy) appliqués!
For a detailed write-up of how all the moving parts came together (including tales of white-knuckled drives through the night and salvaging massive fence scraps from a greenhouse), read Martha’s blog post about the adventure. Here are before and after pictures below to give you a taste of the scale of what this intrepid team pulled off:
When asked about her experience, Martha gushed, “I was given the lead, but the team sparkled. We actually had about 15 members come to the booth to say hello. Folks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, illinois, Kansas , Nebraska, Ohio and Arizona came and spent some time in the booth helping the team and sharing the Etsy team philosophy with those who visited. Meeting face to face and forming friendships really keeps us motivated and inspired. This is what Etsy teamwork is all about.”
Do you know of a team that has come together to create something impressive together? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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