SF Etsy, the San Francisco Bay Area Street Team—a collective of Etsy sellers—found Mobilize on a journey to build a thriving network of local artists. According to Rebecca Saylor, the network’s co-lead, Mobilize has been instrumental in growing the community from 1,400 sellers to 2,200 in one year.
Rebecca Saylor is an artist, small business owner and entrepreneur. Prior to starting her own Etsy store—OodleBaDoodle—where she sells whimsical handmade pillows, she was a corporate recruiter for 15 years. Beyond being a seller on Etsy, she sought ways to contribute her business chops to the community.
“I wanted to share what I could bring from the corporate world to small business owners. A lot of Etsy sellers either come from art school or are working in retail, but you don’t oftentimes get a business education from that standpoint,” she says.
Once Rebecca joined SF Etsy, she was promoted and invited to co-lead the collective. In addition to 2,200 community members, there are 10 people who manage the team today.
Etsy relies on its seller network to drive its business, but as Rebecca explains it, a sense of community and fellowship is necessary to keep this network of independent sellers active, engaged and committed to the Etsy experience. “When you’re an Etsy seller and you’re working for yourself, oftentimes it can be very isolating,” Rebecca says. “You’re alone in your studio all day.”
Etsy founded the Bay Area community in 2006 to better support the needs of the San Francisco Bay Area sellers. By 2012, it grew from zero to 600 individual sellers.
The community benefited from being able to collaborate, connect and idea share on ways to grow their business, but the group was woefully limited by the Google Groups platform. Google Groups created friction during the recruitment process that made it very hard for the collective to grow and reach its full potential. For example, Rebecca explains—it was an arduous process for new members to simply join the collective.
“With the Google Group, there were so many hoops that people had to jump through in order to even become part of our team,” she says. “We’d have to get a member’s Gmail account, but not everybody had a Gmail account. It was really challenging.”
Rebecca quickly made it a priority to find a communication platform where the community could prosper, and adding new members would be easier. She also wanted new features that would allow her to collect feedback that would improve the community over time. “Because our community is so spread out, all over the Bay area, we wanted to run polls and talk to the community in a meaningful way—where it would actually impact our workshops and our events. Before, we would do this annual survey. By the time we were able to implement anything, the community had changed,” Rebecca explains.
After switching from a Google Group to Mobilize, Rebecca’s challenges around recruitment and communication disappeared.
“It’s been a thousand percent easier to actually add people to our community, which has been great. Our communication—events and trying to understand the members better—has been way easier and more effective,” she says.
What’s more, Rebecca says the transition from using a Google Group to Mobilize was simple and fast. Community members embraced the change, and found the platform easy to use.
The community has flourished since Rebecca made the switch to Mobilize. The community has grown significantly—from 1,400 to 2,200 sellers in one year. She’s also been able to get to know her members better.
“I have a deeper understanding of our community. I think we had more of a surface-level understanding before,” she says. “We have people who are living on farms, people who are living in downtown Oakland, or they’re living in downtown San Francisco. It was very inspiring to see that there are people making things from all over. It’s not just San Francisco artists.”
The San Francisco Etsy Street Team is one of hundreds around the country, but Rebecca says it is among the strongest in terms of both growth and engagement.
“I think Mobilize has made the (SF) team, in general, be the best it can be. I think we continue to thrive and survive because of communication tools like Mobilize,” she says.
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