Friday, April 11, 2008
Last Thursday I had the opportunity to see Rob Kalin, the founder of Etsy, speak at The Grace Street Theater here in Richmond. I heard about it on The Storque, and was very excited because it happened to fall on a day off, and right before I went to NY. I had no idea what it would be like, but let me tell you...
First of all, it was not just Rob. Matt, from marketing at Etsy, was also there, along with the head of the crafts department at VCU, the head of Quirk Gallery here in Richmond, and none other than Arthur Hash, one of my hearted Etsy sellers. It was an awesome set-up.
Rob talked at length first. He happens to be very well-spoken, and I found myself getting caught up in a major way. He is unbelievably only 28, and seems like one of those people who never gets tired, haha. The way he talked about the crafts movement was so romantic! How so much is disposable these days, and handmade gets back to the time when each object had a story and a personality behind it. He really believes that there is a limit to how far the current big box trend can take us, or even the gallery system. And when asked how he will keep Etsy from becoming just another behemoth corporation, he talked about keeping Etsy like a school of fish -- seperate individuals who come together to make a big impact, rather than the corporate standard Borg-like "We" (he had a lot of analogies, loved it).
Having the board of people was excellent because there was some really great dialogue about buying handmade online. The point was brought up that it seems strange to buy such a tactile thing as craft online, where all you can see is a picture. But Rob countered with the sentiment that I think a lot of people who shop online share -- that everything leading up to the point where you actually unwrap your package and hold what you have bought is like foreplay!
There were some neat statistics I learned too. 96% of Etsy buyers and sellers are women, which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Rob talked about the opportunity for growing small businesses among women, which I loved. I think it's amazing how easy they make it for people to sell their stuff online, and without charging ridiculous fees. This was a point of difference with the gallery system, where there could be up to a 60% commission.
After the lecture I was floating on a cloud (bear with me all friends who have heard this ten gazillion times already). I already loved Etsy, but the experience made me love it even more. Rob was very up-front about how Etsy is always a work in progress, and there is room for improvement and growth. Matt said they are also working on developing the Shop Local feature more, which is a wonderful idea. I'm so glad I went, and I feel bad for the people who attended the Virtual Labs and couldn't hear the lecture because of technical problems. Hopefully they will be able to do another similar talk elsewhere (with better internet reception).
There is so much more I could say, and it was really hard not to describe every minute detail. And now I can't wait for Renegade! Viva la Handmade!