Everything Etsy

We go behind closed doors with the Managing Director of the e-commerce giant

Photo: Courtesy of Etsy

It took a pair of dangly, yellow earrings and Helen Souness was hooked on Etsy. Now she’s Etsy Australia and Asia’s Managing Director and spills the beads on what goes on behind closed – no doubt custom crafted – doors.

How did Etsy come into your life? Were you a customer or perhaps a crafty soul yourself?
I definitely craft a lot, especially since [the] birth [of] my daughter. Her room has been decorated with my applique and art. But the thing that most attracted me to the role was the community around Etsy. I find it really inspiring to work with so many highly creative people, many of whom are working from home and like me, juggling life and work and creative pursuits along the way.

Do you remember your first Etsy buy?
A really early Etsy purchase were ​earrings​ by Jen of Aubepine.etsy.com. They were perfect for a dress I was wearing to a wedding but I wanted them in silver, as I never wear gold. I communicated with Jen on the custom order and had such a lovely experience speaking with her. The earrings arrived beautifully gift-wrapped and with a note from Jen hoping I enjoyed the wedding. I was hooked.

What products are currently selling like hotcakes?
Beautifully handmade home wares, ceramics, jewellery and vintage items. Art is another area that’s showing real potential and of course wedding [items] – from dresses to invitations and everything in between.

Etsy is an online marketplace, but what’s your bricks­and­mortar office culture like?
The culture at Etsy is nothing short of incredible. Etsy encourages creative collaboration where everyone can have ideas and make them happen. We all love the creative arts and are genuinely passionate about what we are doing: working to grow the creative businesses of the Etsy community.

Also Etsy views our social, environmental and business goals as inseparable. To demonstrate our commitment we have been certified as a B Corporation. Each year we monitor and publically report on our efforts to minimise the harm and maximise the benefit that we have on people and the planet. Our efforts include office recycling, local food programs and the option for staff to volunteer in a charitable organisation five days per year.

Socially, one of the highlights of the week is Eatsy, our opportunity to come together as a team and share a meal, often with special guest sellers and creative partners. We also enjoy making things together. I have crafted with colleagues in Berlin, London and recently made ceramics with my team in Melbourne. I feel very lucky to be here.

You’ve worked for some incredible organisations, from Lonely Planet and SEEK. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
In every one of these wonderful organisations, the thing that has always struck me is if you have hire the right people, give them a great working environment and plenty of autonomy, they will always achieve great things.

In terms of future Etsy developments, where do your attentions currently lie?
Coming up in June is Craft Party, which is one of my favourite events on the Etsy calendar. Craft Party is a once ­ a­ year celebration when the Etsy community all over the world gets together to celebrate making. Last year more than 8500 people attended a craft party, with more than 1500 people attending one in Australia, making things together and just having some fun.

This year the theme is Kaleidoscope: Paper Taking Shape and the parties will feature beautiful paper crafting activities. We’ll be holding a major event in every city, and loads of small events being run by different members of the Etsy community. This year’s biggest party will be on Saturday June 6th in Sydney’s The Rocks Precinct as part of Vivid Sydney. We will have crafting events all afternoon and into the night and I am so excited to be part of it. You can find out more about craft party at ​etsy.me/craftpartyaustralia​.

And of course we have about ten more projects in formation, so let’s talk again soon…

Helen Souness is speaking at this year’s Remix Summit (Sydney, June 2-3). Find out more here.

Above: An Etsy craft party in Brooklyn. New York Photo: Courtesy of Etsy
Above: Helen’s first Etsy purchase – a pair of handmade earrings Photo: Courtesy of Etsy

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