What it’s like to work at Etsy

betty ming liu Inspiration 24 Comments

Have you ever heard of Etsy? After a tour of the company’s corporate headquarters in Brooklyn, I have much more hope that great jobs are possible — if we can create them for ourselves. Wait ’til you see my photos!

But first some background. Etsy was founded six years ago by Rob Kalin. He was a 20-something painter, carpenter and photographer who needed a way to market himself. So he made a little website to post little photos of his work. Then, the site exploded.

Today, Etsy.com is a gorgeous online showcase for some 10 million items made by artists, do-it-yourself people and sellers of vintage goods. Every month, more than 25 million people visit the site, racking up 1 billion in page views, according to the company. In 2010, Etsy moved a record $314.3 million in mostly-handcrafted merchandise.

The corporation operates out of a rambling industrial loft building in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Back in the old days, this area was a dump. Now, there are art galleries, boutiques, beautiful parks, funky restaurants and — Etsy’s global headquarters, which was rated one of the “World’s Top 10 Coolest Offices” by GeekSuper.com.

Some 200 employees work here. The room is filled with handmade products bought on Etsy.com. There's everything from kooky lamps and pillows to vintage curtains and hand-made furniture. This is my idea of a corporate culture.

 

Etsy is at 55 Washington St., right near this sweeping view of the Manhattan Bridge. So beautiful. The youngish employes have a strong bike culture. Many of them pedal to work. Etsy's in such an arts-y neighborhood.

 

An artist is busy crocheting custom covers for the overhead office vents. You can also park your bike inside the office. And employees get lab coats they can wear when they're creating craft projects of their own.

 

I wouldn't mind living at Etsy. Twice a week, local chefs are hired to cook meals in the kitchen. Everyone gets to eat FOR FREE. I also loved all the oddities hanging on the walls -- is this a moose? And check out this great room for meetings! As for the floor, it's "repurposed" wood salvaged from an old cabin.

 

Etsy Labs is located at headquarters. It's a place where ANYONE can go to create new projects on designated nights. Just sign up on a first-come, first-served basis. Bernina sewing machines are provided. So are some materials (but you can bring your own). There's also silk screening equipment.

Well, are you impressssed? Of course, no workplace is perfect. Hey, it’s still work! Plus, e-commerce is a hyper-cutthroat world and Etsy’s a young company in a high-pressure growth stage. (Note: Founder Rob Kalin has just left Etsy.)

But visiting Etsy raised the bar for me. From now on, I am totally committed to believing that employment should be fulfilling, exciting and fun — even during this national tragedy that we officially call “the economy.” (And when things get stale, get moving! As a friend of mine says, “My real job is looking for the next job.”)

These photos were taken during my tour of Etsy in August. No matter what, they will always make me smile.

Before I go, here are some useful links:

 

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Comments 24

  1. Post
    Author
    Betty

    i went to visit etsy in august with my daughter and one of my new school students. ever since, i find myself thinking about that tour. it really had an impact on me. never imagined that a workplace could look like this. it was fun and charming in a real way — not the least bit disney. :)

  2. Gerry

    Hi Betty:
    Another example of what you do best…introduce us laggards to new and exciting things! I’ll be passing this interesting site on to young, creative people I know. Thanks!
    Gerry

  3. Post
    Author
    Betty

    gerry, thank you. and let’s not forget the old farts like us. i know it seems impossible for us to imagine working in an etsy world — this is so foreign to our generational concept of “employment,” “career,” “earning a living.” but babe, we can do it.

    there’s that nice quote that supposedly comes from benjamin franklin:
    “we do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!” i think the lack of play also makes young people prematurely old. i see it all the time in my classrooms.

  4. Marianne

    As a crafter (quilts), this post really warmed the cockles of my heart! And they have Bernina (yay!) sewing machines in the lab?! I am impressed. Thanks for the tour.

  5. Ann

    I’m a big fan of a number of great merchant on Etsy. Nice to see the great space behind the brick and mortar. Can anyone get a tour or did you have a special connection?

  6. Post
    Author
    Betty

    you’re welcome, madeline! and ann, yes, i did have a connection. don’t know if the folks there give tours. i will put the question to the publicist. but here’s what you can do in the meantime: go to one of the esty lab meetup sessions. it’ll get you in the building and give you a general feel for the company culture. even if you don’t get to see the offices, i’m sure you’ll still have fun. the lab is a wonderful space. correction — a wonderful FREE space. can’t beat that.

  7. Isabella

    Betty, I love this blog post! Etsy seems like a warm and inviting work environment. Thanks for giving us a glimpse inside. (How do I get local chefs to come cook for me at my work??)
    xo Bella

  8. Post
    Author
    Betty

    hey asianmommy, i felt just like you. it was sort of surreal to see etsy as a physical space. left me sort of overwhelmed and speechless, but in a good way.

    and marianne, i’m a quilter too! i have an old bernina so i appreciate the fact that esty offers its lab users top quality sewing machines. i don’t know anything about silk screening, but since it can get quite expensive, the chance to use etsy equipment for free is a gift to us diy folks. :)

    bella, i could see you working there! i need some chefs in my home kitchen too!

  9. Post
    Author
    Betty

    i was esp intrigued by all the silk screening equipment and supplies. man, that stuff can cost an artist a small fortune. and it’s there for us, for free.

  10. Amantha Tsaros

    – also love your description of the employees as “youngish”. I will be describing myself as “youngish” from now on – it is an ageless description that seems to match an attitude rather than a number. Or am I dreaming?

  11. Post
    Author
    Betty

    haha — amantha, may we all be forever “youngish!” the employees looked to be in their 20s and mid-30s. but since i didn’t do any definitive reporting on their demographics, i figured i could cover my butt with “youngish.” you caught me!

    here’s another good word: “timeless.” or, “classic.” i have a friend who is a stylist and she told me that i was “timeless.” in the long run, that might be more flattering than “youngish.” what do you think?

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