I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, number crunching, and brainstorming lately for my business and where I want to go from here. One of the things I am most thankful for and one of the best opportunities I have had to date was attending Etsy Open Call in NYC last year. Not only was it an amazing and inspiring experience, but my sales have quadrupled in the months since I got back. I walked away from it with new connections, new friends, so much knowledge, and great new stockists that are excited to carry my products. What is Etsy Open Call, you may ask? Let me tell you.
Available only to Etsy Wholesale sellers, Etsy Open Call is an annual event that choses a select number of makers to go to the Etsy Headquarters in NYC to pitch their lines to retailers. Last August was the second year for the event and the five main retailers included Macy’s, Paper Source, Whole Foods, Giggle, and the Smithsonian Museum. They also had a new segment after the main event that brought in hundreds of small shops from across the country to shop and choose new products for their stores. Personally, I liked that part of the event better, as it was more relaxed and I love to support the brick and mortar shops.
I kept getting emails from Etsy about the event last summer and really did not think twice about it. Never in a million years did I think someone like me would get chosen for something like that. I did not have a huge social media following, I did not have thousands of sales on Etsy, and I had just joined Etsy Wholesale at the beginning of last year and had literally two orders on there (which, nonetheless, I was still ecstatic about. Some people waited months before getting their first wholesale order). After reading through the criteria, I decided to give it a shot – I met all the qualifications, it was free to apply, and I did not have to fill out pages of information, which seemed alright to me! Days later, I received an email from Etsy with the subject, ‘URGENT Open Call Information.’ I was in the car with my sister, who was visiting from Pittsburgh, and almost had a heart attack when I opened it. I could NOT believe I had gotten chosen! There were thousands of applicants from all over the world and I was chosen among thirty-five others. Once I was over my initial excitement and disbelief, I realized the amount of work I had in front of me and the short time frame I had to do it. The event was at the end of August, and at this point it was the beginning of July. I already had a trip planned to go back home for two weddings, and I had maybe a month to book all the travel info to NYC, take time off work, finish up the open orders I had, prepare my pitch, figure out how to ship products AND a display across the country, and a million other little things to go along with it. Somehow I managed to get it all done, and I am not going to lie to you, it was a very stressful month. My boyfriend went on the trip with me and although I am sure he wanted to kill me by the time we got there, it all paid off in the end.
We took a few extra days and drove up to Rhode Island and back down through New York. It is SO beautiful up there; I wish I could live in a little farmhouse on the water.
The weather in NYC was gloomy when we arrived but through Etsy we were able to go to NY Now, which was amazing. It was so inspirational to walk around and see all of the beautiful housewares and products. I would love to do that trade show… maybe someday. I also got to tour the Etsy Headquarters, which is just a great space overall. They have a living plant wall and a perfect city view from the rooftop. I would love to work at a place like that.
The day of the event was both fun and stressful. On the first day in the Etsy HQ we were given a few lessons on how to pitch our lines and how to talk to the retailers. It was important to know which stores our products would be a good fit for and target those. After hearing that, I was even more stressed out. What was I supposed to say to the woman from Giggle, who had a store full of baby products? I tried to convince her that my products would be good for a nursery or a stylish mom, but after twenty seconds of rambling we both just blankly looked at each other. At the time I was a bit embarrassed and definitely frustrated, but she did give me some good pointers that I took away from speaking with her.
One of the things I struggled with most was getting my products and display to NYC. I wanted it to look clean and highlight the products, but I did not want it to be too simple. I decided on sheets of wood with dowel rods to hold them up, that was they could be disassembled and everything could fit perfectly in a carry on. At first I was unsure about it, but once I saw it all set up at the event, I think it turned out really well.
Although the event was most of the day, I met up with Karl after to sightsee. I had been to NYC once before but we went to Coney Island and walked around the city to see some new sights. We went to dinner with some friends I met at the event and spent some time relaxing in the hotel before we had to head back to Wyoming.
I did not end up getting the coveted Golden Purchase Order from any of the five major retailers, but to some extent I am kind of relieved. At that point in time I do not think I would have been able to mass produce hundreds of items to meet the holiday deadlines, but I did get a few orders at the show from smaller shops. Once I was back home, I got quite a few more and my sales since then have really increased. Overall, it was an experience that I would not trade for anything. It was refreshing and inspirational to be around so many other talented individuals and hear their stories. I feel more comfortable reaching out to stores and retailers to pitch my lines, and working with my existing stockists on wholesale orders. I am excited to see what new changes Etsy will bring for the event this year, and I encourage anyone to apply.