Camp EtsyNooga – The Why

Camp Etsynooga Banner

Okay, a little truthful background – I didn’t even really know what I was creating at first.

I knew I had the beginning of a good idea. I knew it would cover multiple kinds of education. I knew the Etsy name would raise the bar for both expectations of my content and the teen’s end results. I was just compelled to create and see what shape it would take on.

When I came to Chattanooga last fall I was given the green light to simply follow that course and discover what my fledgling Etsy program would become.

Through continuing design tweaks it became apparent that one off programs wouldn’t work. To effectively host a product photography workshop teens would already need to have their shops open. To offer a workshop on packaging they would need to have a clear understanding of both their brand and their intended customer base. It was obvious that the way to go was to run a camp on how to start a small business using solid building blocks- understanding what drives your creativity, defining a solid brand, honing in on the audience for your product, doing the hard work to understand how to price your items for both wholesale and retail, and SO much more.

I had a goal. I would create a camp to teach the basics of starting a business to teens. Then I would teach them how to open an Etsy shop! Ooh! AND I could give them a chance to sell their stuff! Like everything else I do I was already thinking BIG.

This story may sound familiar to you. Maybe you’ve wanted to teach small business classes to teens as the debate of “is college really worth the cost” swirls around us. Maybe you’ve wanted to take your craft program to the next level by teaching your talented teens how their skill actually carries a monetary value. Or, maybe you’re like me and both of those are true as well as your belief that the world would be a better place had we all been given the opportunity to let our creative growth flourish along with our academic growth.

Imagine a world where your lawyer is a macrame master on the side. Where you accountant is also an oil painter who appreciates landscapes. Where beauty and imagination are just as important as earnings and the bottom line.

I firmly believe that by encouraging this age group to take responsibility for their artistic growth during a time when society is telling them they can only be serious about academics, sports or earning money will result in a healthier future for us all.

This post marks the first in a series I’ll be doing about how to run your own version of Camp EtsyNooga. And just like the camp it starts by understanding why you want to do it. So re-read the reasons I just gave, sit down with a pad of paper and hot cup of whatever and mull it over, or talk to some of your trusted teens about what they think. Whatever you do to brainstorm start there and be honest with yourself. If there’s no passion behind a program like this it just won’t work.

Coming up next- The Who

Lessons from 1 Year in the South

Some of these are funny but true and others are simply heartbreaking and true. I present them in no particular order:

1. Take Care of Your Hair

Women here take care of their hair. They get it cut, they dye it, they curl it and do it before going places. There’s an importance placed on looks that I will never really be concerned with but there’s something about their hair, man. It’s like putting on a jaunty hat without actually wearing one. I’ve come to realize that even if I’m never going to be the kind of lady who wears makeup and heels daily I would like to look like I’ve got my shit together. So getting a good haircut seemed the natural way to go. I have a do that is progressively getting weirder as I work with my new stylist (Right now I’m somewhere between Ramona Flowers and Carol Channing…) I really like this part of adulthood and hope I can make my hair a natural extension of my style (A struggle that anyone with curly hair will relate to).


2. IHOP is a Young Woman’s Game

Food down here is not like in the north. Well, maybe a little like growing up in Downeast Maine, where everything seemed to be fried and no one counted calories or even servings most of the time. But fast food is a totally different game. As a kid we never really ate fast food. We would have a kind of biannual outing to the big city of Calais, Maine where we would run errands and then stop at Burger King for junk food. I developed great eating habits and blah, blah, blah, but it’s always been a source of entertainment to friends all the different kinds of fast food I’ve NEVER tried. I’ve made a kind of junk food bucket list that has expanded exponentially since moving to the South. A few months ago Karl and I ventured out for errands and i saw the blue glowing beacon of IHOP in the distance. I made him stop, erupting into a fit of giggles that lasted throughout our meal and until we got into the car. Then I thought I would die. I developed a food baby that would not budge. I was so uncomfortable and not even a fart would pass. This feeling lasted well into the night and I awoke the next day with a new found appreciation for water, fresh vegetables and life in general. I shall not darken that glowing blue doorway again.

3. People Talk About Race Here a Lot

Race is still very much identified as a divide here. That’s super obvious to most people and I even thought I knew that before I moved here but living inside those distinctions as a white woman was something I sort of didn’t see coming. I am perceived in a very new way and I don’t know what to think of that yet. Maybe I never will.

4. We Aren’t Listening to One Another

I sort of have these very sad glimpses of the public I serve from time to time. It’s happened at each library I’ve worked at where a divisive issue is in our face (rich & poor, educated & uneducated, any color & any other color, really any us vs. them you can think of) but all we think about is our own side of the story. If all the marching and anger from places like Ferguson is to mean anything we need to take action where it matters most- by talking to one another and voting to make change. Otherwise protests will only continue to open eyes (to what they choose to see), not doors.

5. I’m Not Normal

What a crazy, privileged, fortunate year I’ve had. Between writing the book, getting married, getting my first paid speaking gig where my library career began, moving to one of the greatest libraries in the world and then getting a promotion I have been insanely fortunate. (More on all of that later, I swear…) It’s beginning to dawn on me that while I am crazy lucky to have built a career almost entirely upon play I also put a LOT of work into it and owe a lot of my success to being me. Stubborn, competitive, risky old me.