Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Experience at the HelloEtsy Conference

This weekend was a global event held by Etsy bringing together small business owners to discuss human scale economies.
Human scale Economies:
a place where prosperity is measured not in dollars but in happiness and durability.

There were conferences with livestream broadcasting in Berlin, Germany, Booklyn, NY, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, Washington, D.C., and here in Portland, OR.

Want to hear about my experience? Here we go.

I spent all of Saturday at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, attending seminars and watching streamed broadcasts of talks in other parts of the world. It was a great opportunity to connect with my peers, learn skills to find new success.

The first message of the day still ringing in my ears came from speaker Jack Joyce, the CEO of Rogue Ales:
I am not selling a product. I am selling a part of a journey, a ticket to the game.
He kept telling us it was all about repeatable stories. And all day long I was struck by the importance of repeatable stories. Every speaker seemed to add punch and glory to their presentations by having some good repeatable stories. Every successful business mentioned was brought up via a notable story. Stories play such a valuable role in our lives as small business owners: they put a face on our brand, they make us memorable and they serve as a catalyst for conversation.

I love a good story, and it made so much sense to me the role that repeatable stories play in incredible branding and professional success. And Jack tells a great story! He is very funny and I love listening to him talk about his business. Rogue Ales is an amazing local business, the list of things they are involved in is a mile long and never ceases to amaze me. One thing he mentioned that struck me:
Rogue Ales has never made any attempt to grow bigger, they have just worked to get better.
This message was repeated throughout the day, both in Portland and Berlin. A message about making your business better.

The keynote speaker at the Berlin conference, Chad Dickerson, the CEO of Etsy, was streamed online and after lunch we all watched it together in the commons of PNCA. He spoke about Courage.
When he was asked by an audience member what to do when courage fails you, his response was to get up out of bed each day and think how can I make it better today. He emphasized it was all about the small steps to make it better.

Again the message was not about how to grow our businesses, but rather, how to work harder to make them better. And I must say, it was his repeatable stories that made him personable and fun to watch. Here it is if you would like to check it out:

Watch live streaming video from etsy at

It was clear throughout the day that the most successful businesses are owned by extremely passionate people. I know for sure that my enthusiasm for my work is what keeps me going. And seriously, persistence is key.

The keynote speakers here in Portland were the owners of Stumptown Coffee and QueenBee Creations. Both companies have grown recently and I've head about it thru media outlets like Facebook. Both companies needed more money and the paths they each chose were very different. Stumptown took on investors and was shredded in the press for doing so. QueenBee also faced needing more money and considered investors, but in the end decided to shrink her business in order to maintain growth.

Want more details than that? Are you a fan of Stumptown and QueenBee and interested in hearing more? Hear it from their mouths directly, here's a video of the talk:

Watch live streaming video from etsy at

Back to my experience at the conference... the last session I attended was led by Jackie Peterson, author of "Better Smarter Richer", a great book that serves to help creative small business owners make more money.

Jackie informed us her middle name is "Raise Your Prices" and she likes to tell her clients to do so. Her philosophy on what makes a successful artist wealthy centered around developing a deep and narrow niche. I love this venn diagram she uses to illustrate how we could work to make our businesses better:
She spoke about the pressures and stress of the "Time/Money Squeeze". I swear she pounded the nail right on the head. So many artists like myself have a lot of passion and talent but with the growth of our businesses we experience a serious time/money squeeze. Her answer: develop a very specific deep and narrow niche and set measurable monthly goals, structure your time to meet these goals, and finally Charge More! Remember this is Jackie Raise-Your-Prices Peterson talking here. Words of the wise. She kept re-iterating and illustrating the value of working your business into this very deep and narrow niche.

Can I share a repeatable story that Jackie used in her presentation?
A client of hers, Amy McAuley of Occulus Fine Carpentry, came to Jackie one day for a meeting and told her she had decided to get rid of all her power tools. This seemed shocking, for a struggling professional woodworker to ditch all of her power tools, but she explained to Jackie that she had decided to focus her business on historic window restoration and learning the traditional techniques to do so. In focusing her work on windows created before the introduction of power tools, Amy McAuley had found a incredibly deep and specific niche for her business. This niche was so deep and specific, that within the next few years she became a renowned and sought after historic preservationist and now her business is thriving.

A deep and specific niche. This is what Jackie Raise-Your-Prices Peterson was all about. This niche is the intersection of a great amount of talent, passion and money. Evidently if we want to raise our prices, we need to declare to the world our professional deep and specific niche.

I found this very interesting. I took more notes in Jackie's session than anything else all day. And she has a free online book - check it out (its basically the presentation I attended)

Okay... so this is a very long blog entry, but hey, if you didn't get to attend the conference, or you felt like hearing what I had to say about my experience there... this is it!

Throughout the day I got to revel in my creative community of small business owners. Exchange stories and ideas and create a list of things that I want to do to better my business and nurture my relationships within this community.

videos of some of the talks are available here:

and a final quote from one the speakers in Brooklyn, Bill McKibben:

"Community is the key to physical survival in our environmental predicament, and also to human satisfaction."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Pictured here is my beloved easel. Its pretty old and needs a little tender loving care, but its a great easel and has sentimental value for me. Even though I haven't used it in a few years, I can't bring myself to give it away. So I think I will weather-coat it and keep it outside. Damn thing is big and awkward. Hard to get through doorways and takes up a lot of space in a room. I have moved with it many times over the years and curse its awkwardness, but hey, my Dad made it, and I am an artist, so what can I do but consider myself lucky.

Years ago when I was in highschool and my brother had gone away to college, our Dad, woodworker extraordinaire, took up the challenge of making a good easel. You see, my brother had decided to minor in fine arts in college and so I think my dad was making this gift, you know, to support his son's choices an' all!
My Dad is an engineer, so he had to make up some plans and try out some ideas with a prototype. As I was the little sister still living at home, I got to test out the prototype! I was taking a lot of art classes at the time at the CIA, so this was a great opportunity! In the end, for some reason my Dad never made the finished easel, this one was the beginning and the end of his efforts in easel making. So I was pretty pleased to keep it for myself!

So that is the story. Love you Dad :) still have the easel and its still wonderful. Thanx.