On Thursday, May 14, students, faculty and staff gathered in Karp Hall’s performance classroom for a discussion on creativity and innovation with Matt Stinchcomb, Vice President of Value and Impact for Etsy.
Professor Erika Nelson of the Department of Modern Languages and Sean Farrell ’17, a 2015 University Innovation Fellow, collaborated on planning the event.
Farrell described Etsy as an “e-commerce based website focused on sale of handmade, antique and vintage items.”
The event invitation promised “an enlightening discussion on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.” The event did not fail to deliver on this promise.
The invitation explained, “Matt is coming to talk about Etsy, what it means to be an entrepreneur and how to use the innovative and creative spirit to attain success.”
The event drew a varied audience, with members from all walks of the Union community. From Economics majors, Classics professors, Counselors from the Becker Career Center, to lovers of crafts and vintage, fans of Etsy and curious minds, the event had both a high and diverse attendance.
One member of the Union community, Patty Soules, who works at Wicker Wellness Center, displayed her personal Etsy shop to the audience before Matt arrived.
On her shop, ‘les sou les,’ Soules sells ‘a collection of one-of-a-kind chic and fashionable scarves, cowls, ponchos using a variety of materials allowing you to define your personal style.’
This served as a perfect kick off to the talk because the audience members, many of whom were unfamiliar with Etsy’s system, were able to see the unique independent artisan-based market place in action.
Stinchcomb began his talk with the story of the founding of Etsy and how he became a part of the project.
Stinchcomb discussed the goals at Etsy, “We are trying to reinvient what business education looks like.”
An Art History major at Oberlin College and retired Indie rocker, Stinchcomb became involved with Etsy spontaneously.
Over and over again throughout his talk, Stinchcomb emphasized his lack of formal business training, and it is this that has in many ways enabled the company to be so successful.
Stinchcomb commented on how significant the size of the Etsy market place is “when you think about the fact that these are all these small, mostly (female-run) businesses, about half of whom are right at the median poverty level, so its actually meaningful economic impact in people’s lives.”
Stinchomb’s understanding of the Etsy began to shift when he realized the positive influence the company had on the community.
Stinchcomb said “My thinking started to shift about Etsy around two years or so into the business. So originally, I thought it was a great place; you sell things, you can sell the things you make and that really was the extent of what we thought we were trying to do, but as I travelled around and I got to know a lot of the people, especially a lot of the women selling on site.
I realized Etsy was actually having a lot of meaningful impacts on on their lives, and not just economic, but less time being spent on a job that was really soul-sucking, more time being spent doing their art and the validation that comes with people really appreciating the things that they are making.”
Recently, Stinchcomb has left Esty to become involved in a new project, Etsy.org. This project, spear-headed by Stinchcomb, will continue this regenerative entrepreneurship. He hopes to educate other businesses through this project to help them succeed in the same positive fashion.
Stinchcomb and his involvement in Etsy has revitalized the market for unique proucts and crafts. Etsy cast a spotlight on small independent artisans once again.