Sorry for the giant (non!) glam shot, but it's fitting because my husband took it of me after I got back from the Speaker's dinner all aglow and excited. It's always hard to summarize really powerful experiences, which is exactly what the Hello Etsy! conference was. Here were some of the highlights for me:
Getting There and Arrival
We decided to get a car-share and drive to Berlin instead of fly, plus that way we were able to bring two more people. It was great way to get to know two fellow Etsy Germany Street Team members and Etsy sellers, Katherine of Katheyl and April of Swagg Jewelry better. Not only did it help the ride go by faster, it made for a nice leisurely 6 hour conference debrief on the way back home.
After a quick stop by at the tea at Hudson's to register, we went back to the hotel where I had a half hour to change and head off to the Speaker's dinner. I came back to our hotel afterwards on a complete high. The dinner was hosted at a private dining room in Neukölln called Fortuna's Feast. I found myself dining at a table of lovely, interesting women including Farai Chideya who is the VP of Voice at Etsy, Biba Schoenmaker who gave a talk on the Dutch cooperative, trust-based insurance group for small businesspeople which she co-founded. As well as Ulla Engeström, a Finnish social media entrepreneur (whom I had met last September at the Hello Etsy! Advisory panel meeting) and Isa Maria Seminega the founder of a London-based PR consulting firm for indie businesses. We covered everything from travel, to business to the choices women make. Awesome. I also had fun mixing it up and chatting with a lot of the other speakers.
HIGHLIGHTS DAY 1:
The conference kicked off with some of the 'heavy hitter' speakers. I really enjoyed were Tom Hodgkinson who gave a very funny (and very British) account of his paradoxically harried life running a magazine called the Idler. I wasn't surprised that it was good because we shared a cab back to the hotel and he was quite funny.
Natalie Chanin's presentation on connecting business to community and how she started Alabama Chanin working with the local sewing ladies in her small town in Alabama, was beautiful and inspiring. She had a soft, soothing southern manner of speaking that was very easy to listen to, and her experience of going from a stylist and crafter to a business owner who had to learn the ins and outs of labor law after being investigated by the department of labor was fascinating.
I had yukked it up a bit with Charles Festa the evening before (I confess, I had not heard of Threadless, but I live in Germany!) and was not surprised that he gave a very funny talk 'On Tour with the Grateful Thread' sharing his experience as their community manager. If you can hear the constant chortling up front, that was me.
Marco Clausen's talk on urban farming and the community garden, Prinzessinnengarten, he and his partner started near Moritzplatz in Berlin was one of the most inspirational talks of the weekend. I was glad there was some good representation of German-based initiatives like his, as well as the story of LemonAid out of Hamburg.
Dinner with the team
Many of us in the Etsy Germany Street Team were meeting for the first time at the conference but there seemed to be so much planned for the conference, including cocktails, that we weren't sure we would want to miss anything. Once we saw the line for the cocktails though, we decided that, yes, let's go out for a team dinner! After a bit of wandering, we found a decent Vietnamese place with enough room. Thankfully it was warm enough to sit outside. We had a tasty dinner and more than a couple cocktails.
HIGHLIGHTS DAY 2:
My project management for Indie Business session! It went really well. I posted a bit of the back story on Scoutie Girl here, but suffice it to say that the stress, nervousness and work was worth it. About 100 people attended, the audience was engaged, and a lot of people told me afterwards how much they got out of it. To my delight, once I got into it, I actually had a lot of fun myself. The session was filmed, so it should be up on the Etsy Live Stream channel soon. Here are a few pix in the meantime:
Doug Rushkoff. To be honest, before the conference I thought this was a weird choice. I like him, and very much enjoyed his Frontline documentary, Digital Nation. But I didn't see how his perspectives on digital life related to the theme of the conference (Small Business and Sustainability.) I was wrong. Really wrong. His talk was radical, political and provocative and was a delightfully subversive choice for a keynote speaker. Rather than wrap things up singing Kumbaya and participating in a group knitting circle (not that there's anything wrong with that!) we were confronted with Rushkoff talking about Marx, alternative currencies and, with birds flying, telling corporate titans to 'Scale this Motherf*ckers!'. It was a brilliant, bold and visionary move on the part of the conference organizers to include him. The audience, including myself was electrified. It challenged us to think about what we are doing as small creative business people on a broader scale and within the context of what is happening in the world economy today.
Fraser Doherty and the Adventures of Jam Boy. You just have to watch this as soon as it's on LiveStream. He started a Jam company at 14 after jam-making with his Grandmother. He is a gifted storyteller in the Scottish tradition and tells his story in the most funny and charming way (helped by a lilting Scottish Brogue) His continuing of his Grandmother's tradition of reaching out to the elderly and the lonely by visiting with jam and scones, literally brought me to tears.
I plan to spend the week watching all the sessions that I missed, and even re-watching the ones that I saw.
Throughout the conference I had the feeling of being very lucky, supremely blessed, extremely proud of myself for taking risks, and totally inspired by how many wonderful people there are in the world, doing wonderful things. I've been listening to and reading too much news lately, which always puts me in a cynical, negative mood. This conference was a big reminder to turn towards what is good and follow it. Kudos to Etsy for putting on such an event. I hope this is the start of something annual, and I am deeply grateful that I got to be a part of the first one.