Inside a sprawling, former cannonball factory in Hudson, 17 deeply creative souls mill about quietly creating magic.
Their daily mission? To make Etsy safe for humanity. Well, that and hula-hooping.
Working at Etsy Hudson may be as close to internet superherodom as mere mortals can come.
It also might just be the best job on the planet.
Many of the photos from this post are also in large format at the top of the page.
"There aren't many days where the clock strikes six and the place clears out," laughs Ami Lahoff, office and facilities manager of Etsy Hudson.
"I think of myself as a house mother. In a lot of ways I think it's really true. I am a mom and this is a young company. Some days I'm carrying around tools, putting up signage, and other days I'm meeting the public and providing support."
What they do
With 14 million members, 800,000 shops and more than $500 million in sales last year alone, Etsy has grown by leaps and bounds since it was created in 2005. And it's still growing.
"When we expand, it will happen here," said Lahoff noting that with new programs and services Etsy thinkers are always innovating.
Right now, what mostly happens in Hudson is customer service. Building community is their ultimate goal.
They spend their days answering emails, searching the interwebs for sellers and buyers in need of assistance and, perhaps most amazingly, turning a collection of random crafters and consumers into a tight-knit community.
"We get lots of love letters," says Lahoff, who notes that the buzz around them has been steady since Etsy opened the support services center last year.
"People who are new to Etsy, whether buyers or sellers, don't always understand how Etsy works. New buyers often get confused that they're buying from individual craftspeople and not directly from Etsy. They sometimes need help contacting sellers but they just don't realize how to do it."
New sellers are also surprised to find just how much support is available to them.
"We really are here to help them whether they need help to set up their shop or to make their shop better," said Lahoff, noting that it's not an impersonal system either. "We encourage people here to use their voice in their responses. We don't want to sound like robots and we don't. We sound like the way we talk."
"It's really a trickle up process here," says Branda Maholtz, assistant site lead and project manager. "We are the first line and when there's a problem or when there's something good happening we're the first to know. It's heartwarming that we get to help someone."
The Hudson location has always been considered an annex to Etsy's DUMBO office in Brooklyn.
"There are over 200 people in DUMBO. They're running out of space. When the founder of Etsy saw this place ... with a train nearby and also a thriving community of self-employed people, it was a perfect fit. There's a really close connection between product and makers and that's what Etsy is really all about."
The perks of working at Etsy
Etsy Hudson has two full kitchens with pantries stocked with locally procured snacks. Lunch is served to staff two days a week.
The design of the work area is open, with desks arranged in pods for unfettered communication.
More private areas are available for video and phone conferences, as well as comfortable chairs scattered in living room setups for those who need to stretch their legs or get a change of scenery.
Natural light pours in to the upstairs office.
The upstairs kitchen, constructed by a local carpenter, has salvaged doors and windows, low VOC and natural beeswax finishes as well as poured concrete planter boxes.
Dogs are welcome.
An apothecary in the Etsy offices -- available to staff and visiting public -- offers natural remedies for everything from headache to heartburn.
A pool table was purchased locally at ReStore.
Hula hoops are propped up in various areas. Employees find it stress relieving and helps them keep their creative juices flowing.
The décor at Etsy Hudson is often made by Etsy sellers as well as local shops and craftspeople.
One room, dubbed the Old West Room, is slowly taking shape with the help of local salvage stores and even one Etsy seller who came to the Hudson facility in person for help starting his shop.
"He was the cutest old dairy farmer, and he made lamps out of stanchions that used to keep the cows in place as they were being milked," said Lahoff. "He came out a couple of times for help with the website and when we saw what he was doing we knew we had to have one for our Old West Room. We were his first customers on Etsy."
It's this kind of interaction, as well as a sense of group independence, that keeps employees smiling.
Etsy folks have flexible working schedules, many working four days in the office and one day from home. They also have unlimited sick time, something Lahoff says encourages people to rest and recover rather than spreading illness around.
Twice a week the downstairs community area (recently made available when the office proper relocated upstairs) offers yoga classes and even a book club, both of which are also open to the public. Every Tuesday and Thursday employees share a catered meal they call Eatsy. Also on Thursdays guest speakers from the community come to share the fare and a bit of a chat.
"The speakers invite the next speaker and it's always a surprise. We've had a lot of interesting conversations that way."
Etsy is also a group that cherishes celebrations -- anniversaries, holidays, birthdays offer ample reasons for busting open a pinata filled with bouncy balls or sipping on mid-afternoon root-beer floats. Etsy Hudson also implemented a Thirsty Thursday where coworkers kick back, drink a beer or a glass of wine after a hard day's work and play a game of darts.
Fostering a safe, creative environment has always been the mission of Etsy corporate.
Starting in May the community will see more of Etsy, inside and out.
"I think the number one thing people approach us about is how we can work together as a community. How we can collaborate. How they can use the space. Yes, we want to do more of that. That's always been the goal," said Lahoff, who joined Etsy in September.
Plans are in the works for an open house in May as well as monthly craft events. More community engagement is also in store, with collaborations between other local organizations. In April, Etsy will be one of the venues for the Hudson Opera House Movable Feast fundraiser. They'll also collaborate with Habitat for Humanity's Hudson ReStore for an Earth Day project.
"Whenever people find out I work for Etsy, the thing they're most curious about is when we're going to have a an event and how they can get involved," laughs Lahoff, noting that they've learned that, in this small city, sometimes the best ways to spread the word about events are decidedly lower tech than they're used to.
"I'm always saying check our Meetup page. This is a flyer town. If we're going to get people to look at our calendar, if we're going to have a comprehensive calendar, we have to get them here with a flyer. The supermarket bulletin boards are huge and people are seriously getting stuff done on those bulletin boards, big time," laughs Lahoff.
"I got my vet on a bulletin board. She was advertising that she does home visits."
Siobhan Connally shares her writing and photography at Ittybits & Pieces.
359-361 Columbia Street
Hudson, NY 12534
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