Here’s what jumping feet first looks like.
It was two years ago today I moved away from San Diego. After twelve years of living in a city that forces you to get creative when choosing an entrepreneurial career path, I felt the itch to play in the big leagues. Thus, after years of living and learning on the job, traveling the globe with bands, writing books on creativity, making foolish mistakes, and never letting the lack of health insurance or a steady paycheck stand in my way, I decided to leave the perfect climate and perfect burrito for a city where creativity runs rampant and opportunity smacks you in the face. Hello New York City.
You know those moments when you step outside yourself and realize you’re not where you are anymore? That’s the feeling I had on September 28th, 2010, my first day at Etsy. I woke on my brother’s couch (thanks, Scott), walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (holy shit, talk about surreal) and made my way to a super-cool, totally beloved startup in DUMBO. It was an incredible atmosphere filled with crafty hipsters, yarn-bombed ceilings, ping pong tables, locally-sourced food, random visits from the likes of Ev Williams and Mayor Bloomberg, really smart and socially awkward engineers, awesome perks (headphones expense account, ski trips, custom lab coats and $100 for each new employee to spend on the site) and an infectious feeling of optimism that we were really doing something meaningful. I was brought on to set a vision for the company’s social media strategy, from driving additional revenue and scaling internationally to integrating with future product releases and being able to manage crisis situations. Being the voice of Etsy’s millions of fanatical social media fans was a real treat. I realized quickly that experimentation was a huge part of any social media wizard’s DNA. On a whim, I bought a chalkboard speech bubble from Photojojo and started posting and responding using a physical medium that I would then photograph and publish online. Engagement went through the roof, but more than anything, it reinforced my fascination for blending online and offline worlds. Fast forward a few months and Etsy’s social media was expanding to international markets (Japan, France, Germany, UK, Australia), contributing a few million dollars in sales per month and establishing itself as an effective customer service tool (especially during site outages). It was an exciting time and the company was growing its workforce at an alarming rate, mainly in product and engineering. I can’t publicly say much on what led me to leave Etsy (I’m legally bound to never talk shit) and to be honest, there’s nothing I could possibly say that would make me think otherwise. The board decided to make some bold changes and it became pretty clear it was time for me to move on. I mean, things stop being fun when people are brought in above you who know jack shit about what you do or how to treat people. It’s a total bummer, especially when you’re passion is more than power-hungry execs could ever relate to. All this made me realize just how incredible it is to surround yourself with super smart, creative people. My time at Etsy was filled with a lot of highs and lows, but the overall experience was epic and I learned a ton, made genuine friendships and developed a deep love affair with all things handmade.
There is nothing about a journey that is more exciting or terrifying than those moments when you walk away from something (familiar, consistent, safe) to explore a whole new something (unknown, challenging, fun). This is the sound life makes when you’re tired of waiting and ready to stare down any fears. Your hands are shaking, but you’re ready to answer the call even when you haven’t the slightest idea what that call is or where any of it might go. But let me tell you, the hairs standing up on the back of your neck don’t lie. It’s time to make it happen and it’s that rush that makes the car drive faster, the music sound louder and the sex feel oh.so.incredible.
My craving led me to MKG, an experiential marketing agency in the heart of SoHo. Just steps away from Broadway Lafayette’s subway stop, the creative energy is so tremendous you can almost taste it. We’re surrounded by startups, fashion brands, creative agencies, a shopping paradise, overpriced everything, epic architecture and the best pizza your lips will ever touch. This is what it’s all about – the adrenaline pumping, mind racing and ideas flowing. We’re building, designing, architecting and executing thoughtful consumer experiences for some of the biggest brands in the world (Google, Delta, NBCU, evian, GQ, Coke, New Balance). The work is bold, beautiful and best of all, challenging. Not to mention I get to play at the intersection of digital and physical, a sandbox I’m having way too much fun in. It feels good, but none of this would be possible had I not taken that leap. Now two years later, San Diego, I do miss you but I hope you’re proud of me. Who knows what the future holds, but as confident Facebook is of Instagram, I sure as hell know the best is yet to come.