I have so much to say about Hello Etsy PDX! I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost I’m still so honored and grateful to have been asked to co-chair the event along with Rebecca Kerr. It’s hard to have perspective when you organize an event in some ways because there are so many steps required to see any one aspect through to fruition. The role of event planner keeps you so busy it can be hard to gauge at times what the response is from the public was. This was not one of those times. You could feel the energy in the air. Ideas were flying all around the room and you could see people lighting up with enthusiasm. There’s too much to really say, so I thought I’d share the part of the day that I feel was very successful – the keynote address.
I love how things come together. One person has an idea and then it grows and other people add to the idea, which grows and becomes something else that’s better and bigger than any one person could make. On the back end this is my perspective of the Hello Etsy PDX conference. It started like this, I had this idea for the Keynote . . . it was born out of a Facebook post from months ago in which I posted about Stumptown Coffee procuring investors. I was surprised how many people were coming down on Stumptown and it was Rebecca Pearcy of Queen Bee who said in Facebook thread, “Growth isn’t always a bad thing. Business people have to weigh out many different scenarios to sustain their businesses and growth is some times the answer.” When Rebecca, Isaac and I were in the early planning stages of the event we were looking for a dynamic keynote address and I thought of this Facebook post. From there we thought it would be incredible if we presented a few different ideas around intentional business growth. One where we profiled a business that chose to grow large and one that felt they could be more viable by staying small. We really wanted the bigger business to be represented by Stumptown and the smaller by Queen Bee. The idea seemed too crazy to happen for real. How could we get Duane Sorenson from Stumptown to even pay attention to us? None of us had a connection to him. And would Rebecca Pearcy want to talk about staying small? We had a few businesses in mind to represent the big and small businesses and cast our net wide. Surprisingly we heard back from almost everyone, including Duane Sorenson! Next we needed to talk with Duane and explain our vision for the conversation. I have to admit that after doing some reading online I had a sense of a message I was hoping to send. I felt as though Duane Sorenson was being raked over the coals for bringing in investors to Stumptown Coffee and selling out, but I really didn’t feel he was a sell out after reading how well he was taking care of his employees and the coffee farmers he works with. I think it was at least part of the reason he decided to do the Keynote, because he could tell we were interested setting aside biases and presenting the whole picture.
Next we needed a moderator for the keynote and we were lucky to have Diane Gilleland who did an amazing job! I had some insider information on both Duane and Rebecca because I had researched Duane and spoken with him on the phone. Rebecca and I are friends, so I wrote up questions and sent them to Diane. Diane did her own research about Duane and came to the same conclusion I’d had. She felt that Duane was being accused of something that he wasn’t, a sell out. In her graceful style, Diane tailored the questions, but kept the underlying message:
Bigger local businesses and small local business are a matter
of choice and equally necessary in a local economy.
A small business isn’t doomed to fail if they choose to stay smaller
and a large business isn’t necessarily selling out
if they choose to grow larger by taking on investors.
Just to give you a sense of the amount of work it took to schedule a meeting to review the questions that would be discussed during the keynote between Duane, Rebecca and Diane, I believe it took 2 phone calls, 5 emails and 2 texts to set up that meeting. Duane is a really busy guy. More busy than I knew. I learned that he has a wife and 4 kids! Not to mention the 200 employees and all of the coffee shops he has sprinkled around Portland, Seattle and New York. Phew! That’s a lot to juggle.
I felt Isaac would do the best job introducing the keynote and in typical Isaac B Watson style he totally exceeded my expectations. I really enjoyed this part of Hello Etsy PDX so much because it was informative, funny, it shed light on some iconic Portland businesses as well as it helped dispel some myths about bigger businesses by telling a different story. One of making the best choices for the business and employees, like Stumptown Coffee. It also reminded all of us about the incredible viability and success possible for small business, like Queen Bee.
The keynote for Hello Etsy is really a microcosm of the overall event. It took a lot of people, specifically, it took the I Heart Art Leadership Council members and some pretty amazing volunteers all really pulling together along with Etsy who footed the entire bill. The fact that Etsy had this vision for this incredible conference alone is HUGE. People have asked me, “Why do you think Etsy wanted to have this international business conference for makers with such a big picture, educational perspective?” I know it wasn’t any type of monetary gain, because they spent more than they earned from the conferences. I think they must have had a vision for international good will and an education revolution for the universal maker community. The internet adoration was their payment. I received an email from Kimm Alfonso who works at Etsy in NYC. She told me that there were over 4,000 tweets with the Hello Etsy hashtag. I think this conference was truly beneficial for all involved. Thank you, Etsy for making this day possible!