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Etsy Backs RISD's Newest Entrepreneurs

Etsy Backs RISD's Newest Entrepreneurs

With her classical architecture-inspired jewelry, her entrepreneurial spirit and a first-ever Hello Etsy + RISD fellowship prize in hand, Kellie Riggs 11 JM joined more than 500 participants at theHello Etsy summit in Berlin. The international summit, held over two days in September, allowed Riggs to connect with other independent artists, makers and creative entrepreneurs at an intensive, hands-on gathering on small business and sustainability organized by Etsy, the online marketplace.

It was an experience Riggs says she will never forget. From the nuts-and-bolts workshops to the inspirational speakers to the thriving contemporary jewelry scene in Berlin, she says the summit inspired her “to keep going down a unique path—my belief in the creative power of the individual and the potential for collaboration were truly reinforced.”

The summit included workshops on everything from product photography to social media, branding, community building and tax and legal information. It also featured inspirational sessions with more than a dozen speakers sharing their vision and successes as creative entrepreneurs.

Riggs, who has her own Etsy shop and is now studying in Rome on a Fulbright grant, first learned about the Etsy fellowship through the RISD Artrepreneur Kit given to all Class of 2011 graduates just prior to Commencement. The kits included various offers and activation codes from online firms such as Etsy, Square, Inc., Behance and YouSendIt,Inc., all meant to provide students with tools to help launch their careers in art and design.

Riggs’ early entrepreneurial drive as a student lives on at RISD through RISD Exposé, the student-run pop-up gallery she and a classmate launched in Providence. As she continues to straddle the worlds of fine art and commercial design, Riggs says the Hello Etsy summit inspired her to think about new ways to build community around her own work.

“Etsy leads by example in the way that it simply connects people, their craft and ideas to others all over the world. And this experience really allowed me to meet other international makers who are interested in local yet also global exchange,” says Riggs. “The program’s very first speaker, Doug Richard, founder of School for Startups, talked about the convergence of small and global—how these two words and concepts can actually reference the same kind of initiatives, taking the world and making it smaller and more accessible in positive ways.”

Riggs found particular inspiration in the words of Easy CEO Chad Dickerson, who spoke about “recognizing that there is no failure when you are prepared to go your own way,” she says. “This is one of the reasons I actually applied for this fellowship—I am trying to just say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes my way as I forge my own future.”

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