Thursday, August 30, 2012

Imelda of SunsetShutterbug ~ Neighborhood Business Group Hostess

Please join me in welcoming Imelda to the SF Etsy Business Education Committee!  She's not new to DIY business though, she's been a great host of our team's monthly neighborhood Business Group meet up.  You may have seen her invites go out on the google group as each month she invites SF Etsy members to learn and share together on topics such as photography, SEO, and catch up on current features.  Look for her invite for the next date: September 28th in the Sunset District, we'll have a show and tell on packaging!

I Love You Photo Greeting Card by Imelda of SunsetShutterbug
Imelda's role in the Business Education Committee will be to continue hosting monthly meet ups and be an advisor to other hosts as more neighborhood groups crop up.  I've asked her to give us an interview about how she started her business group and some details that will be helpful to others wishing to create similar cohorts.

If you'd like to see about starting a business group in your neighborhood, please contact Even first at evenhoward @ and we'll set up a good way to connect; we are hoping for a monthly chat for hosts as more groups get organized. 

1. How did you first start the business group?
The idea for the business group came about when Genevieve of Lightbox SF did a blog post on the SF Etsy blog about business groups and the benefits of getting together with other like-minded people. Korie, Eko and I met when I hosted a crafty computer night at my apartment in February (2012). We then got to thinking about trying to organize a regular business group and so 2 months later we had our first business group.

2. What has surprised you about the meet ups so far?
How informative they are! Meeting other artists who are all at different stages in their shops really helps to create a diverse wealth of knowledge. You can really learn so much from other people no matter what their background is. The other thing that's been cool is how much people seem to enjoy themselves. Everyone seems to walk away feeling like they got something out of it so that's really nice. It makes me feel like it's really worth everyone's time, especially since it's on Friday night!

3. What has been an effective way to learn for the attendees? Can you explain the formats you have tried?
Since we've started, we've discovered that sometimes we want to discuss a specific topic, such as SEO or photography. However not everyone may want to learn about specific topics, but would prefer to get together with other members and talk about their shops. We then decided to alternate months from a more open forum to specific topics.

Keeping themed topics focused is best. For example, photography can cover so much from editing software, how to use your camera to lighting set up. If it's not focused or outlined, it's really easy to lose track of time or get off topic. Members who have presented these topics have come with an outline as to what they want to cover and it is super useful for members because they have a handout they can take home and it's easy to follow along during the meeting.
Eko and Megan discussing listing critiques during July's meet up.  Cristiana, Terrie, Imelda, and Marc in the back circle.

4. Did you have any challenges or difficulties so far? How did you address them?
Mostly trying to stay on track and keep track of time! It's so easy to get wrapped up in dicussions or get off topic that it can be a challenge at times to keep things to a 2 hour discussion. We want to be sensitive and respectful of everyone's time. I usually try to keep my eye on the clock and bring the group back around if it's close to end time so we can start wrapping things up.

Another challenge I think most people can relate to is trying to coordinate and organize a group of people for an event. Keeping track of who RSVP's, making sure that everyone gets the information they need and hoping everyone shows up can get crazy. Keeping the group small helps (I have a limit of 10 people total) and being organized helps to minimize problems.

5. What would you recommend as a first step for those who would like to start their own neighborhood group?
Things to consider when creating a business group are mainly commitment and location.

We host our meetings monthly because we are able to make that commitment, but not everyone can. I think deciding if you want to make it a monthly or bi-monthly event is important. Being consistent helps because other members know it happens every month so they can look forward to hearing about what the next month's topic will be. It also gives people a sense of community knowing that members get together on a regular basis to help support and encourage each other which is really important when running you own business.

Location and time is important. It's great if you can have a regular meeting location and time. Having a regular location helps minimize the stress in finding a location for every meeting. We schedule ours on Friday evenings at my apartment because it works best for my schedule and minimizes disruption to my roommate (my brother) who is college student. 

The other thing to consider when finding a location is informing people whether there are animals. I have cat allergies so I have to take that into consideration when attending events at someone's house. The other reason we picked my apartment is I have no pets so if someone has pet allergies, they can attend without worrying about their allergies. It's also helpful to inform people if it's a smoking household since people are sensitive to smoke too.

6. Has it helped your own shop to be a host for the business group?
Hmm, I'm not sure. I usually get a few new fans (so does everyone else!) when we add each other's shops to our favorites and browse them. I normally tweet and Facebook our meetings as they're happening and work to promote the other members who attended to give them some exposure. It's also nice when tweets and posts get promoted via SF Etsy. I love promoting other Etsy members, especially if I've been able to meet with them in person. If it helps my shop, then that's an added bonus. I like our business group because it's just fun meeting other members. 

7. Have you used any online resources for planning or content that you would recommend to others?

Korie, Eko and I have come up with topics for future meetings from ideas from other members, previous meetings or just our own suggestions. What's super great is when another Etsy member has their own expertise. Talk with other members, reach out and find out what people are doing. We can learn so much from each other! 

Thanks Imelda!

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Katy or Steph about joining SFEtsy!

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