Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Maria Show

Maria Thomas, CEO of Etsy, visits HandmadeMN at Nye’s Bar in Minneapolis, MN

By Corrin of Athena’s Little Owl

As soon as I entered the banquet room in the basement of Nye’s, I was immediately greeted by a friendly and casually dressed woman. At first thought I was meeting one of the HandmadeMN team leaders. However, as soon as she said, “Hi, I’m Maria,” I knew the woman in the black hoodie and German “I heart Etsy” vintage style tee was indeed the brains behind the Etsy empire. Her down-to-earth style and clear intelligence surprised us at first, and then held us captive the entire night.

Very soon after, a great showing of the HandmadeMN team filled the banquet room at Nye’s. The community of the HandmadeMN team was apparent as people who had only met briefly at shows, or through online discussions, were suddenly immersed in conversations centered around the opportunity of having a chance to not only hear Maria speak, but be able to open a forum to discuss the site that brought us all together.

Maria (center) and HandmadeMN team members

Maria spoke well, telling of her history at places like NPR and, as well as her desire to make Etsy a lasting business. The crowd of about sixty Etsians learned from Maria about the behind the scenes world of Etsy: 65 employees all dedicated to making the site the best it can be. She also spoke to the need to continue bringing in more consistent buyers, and the company’s plan to avoid “traditional” marketing. Maria also shared her appreciation for the dossier put together by Diana, and her plan to read through the pages describing the HandmadeMN members and our wishes for Etsy. Many members seemed to feel relieved that not only are their concerns ones that Maria shares as well, but that Maria herself is friendly, competent, engaging, and funny.

A common topic during the Q and A session was how to better organize the structure of the site, and to make it more user friendly. Ian of Etsyhacks suggested welcoming new sellers with a “seller’s guide” and continuing to support growing and experienced sellers with appropriate and leveled information. Other questions dealt with the fact that Etsy doesn’t own the payment system or the shipping vehicles; so giving customers coupons or allowing them to choose shipping options becomes difficult. There was also a dialogue opened about archiving the “Virtual Labs” so that more people can use the valuable information gained in those sessions.

The HandmadeMN swag bag

After a fairly lengthly discussion and Q&A session, Maria recognized the need to let everyone mingle, talk, eat and drink. Kelly jumped in to present Maria with the MN “swag bag” filled with treasures from many HandmadeMN members. She was touched, and planned on sharing the bag with Etsy staff at their next meeting. Maria joined many conversations that began as the crowd began to mingle, and once again, seemed to blend right into the group of Minnesotans.

“If Etsy somehow becomes non-human, I have failed.” Maria’s words speak to her desire to keep Etsy a community. Not only a group made up of unique people selling and buying handmade, one of a kind, and cherished items, but also that the business itself needs to keep the human touch. If Maria was looking to build community on Thursday night at Nye’s, she succeeded.


wynzia said...

Great article, Corrin. The 'lovefest' at Nye's on Thursday was fun, inspiring, and truly did help solidify the community of HandmadeMN. And, Maria rocks!

Evie's Tool Emporium said...

Thank you so much for coming to Minnesota! I'm sorry I was traveling for business and unable to attend!

Glorious Hats said...

Thanks so much Corrin for sharing your perspective on the Maria Show, especially welcome to members such as myself who were unable to attend and such a nice way to keep us included and in touch.

The videos of Maria's presentation by Di of Magical Realism were another super avenue of inclusion and outreach, not only to Handmade MN members but to anyone interested in Etsy.

Maria, so glad you came to Minnesota, so pleased you took some of the time you were here to meet with and speak to Etsy sellers. So enjoyed and appreciated your comments, enchanted with your style, appreciate what you are doing and how you are representing Etsy.

With kind regards to all,

Toni said...

It was such a fun event, and so great to meet Maria. As wynzia said, she rocks!


maria thomas said...

Hello Handmade MN, Thank *you* for your hospitality, your kind words and, of course, for selling on Etsy. Kelly and Toni, thanks for helping me to organize the event. Diana and Brenda and all those who participated, thank you for the dossier. It will be opened and presented at Etsy when I get back to Brooklyn. If any of you are in New York, come say hello.

Gratefully, Maria

Cheri said...

Thanks for the opportunity to attend this fun and inspiring event. Maria was reassuring that Etsy is on course with the handmade movement!

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have been there! I tried...

Sounds great though. Go HandmadeMN!

Stena Lieb

Suz said...

Thanks for the great article. The meeting was so inspiring and everyone's enthusiam and passion for Etsy was contagious. I wanted to run right home and work on my shop!! It was so interesting to learn about the "inside" of Etsy and a little peek at how it runs. Thank you Maria for giving us such an amazing opportunity to learn more about Etsy.

Diana said...

The event was a LOT of fun, and Brenda and I had a great time assembling that dossier. You can see pics, and get links to the youtube clips here, as well:

Sorry I couldn't stick around for the pic. It was great to meet Ian and Maria and to see some of my teammates!

Harvest Moon by Hand said...

Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the evening. Wish I could have been there!

Harvest Moon by Hand