A couple of weeks ago Ryan and I got an email from Etsy, asking if we would be interested in traveling to Washington DC to meet with the US Trade Ambassador and the Department of Commerce to discuss some of the challenges we face as a small business exporting globally. The part of me who still feels like a 12-year-old girl cannot believe I just typed that sentence. (Side note: is it just me or do all adults have a sneaking suspicion that everyone around them is a ‘real’ grown up but they are still pretty much the same person they were in 3rd grade, only with more responsibilities and better clothes?) Anyway, back to our trip. We obviously jumped at the chance, not only because it’s an enormous honor, but because we really have some legitimate issues to bring to the table and knew our voice, no matter how small, could join with others and make an impact.
The weekend before DC, Ryan was competing in the Ragnar relay race in the mountains of West Virginia. We brought the whole family and camped out. We decided not to tell the kids about the charging station at the event and declared it a technology-free weekend. This needs to happen more. I don’t think you have to hike into the woods to do it, though the scenery was a welcome distraction to the beeps and buzzes of our family’s combined devices (three ipads, two televisions, two smart phones, three computers, various Nintendo ds games and a wii). The silence was heavenly.
Then it rained. And rained. And rained. It rained so hard they put the race on hold for a few hours because the trails were getting washed out. We all took cover in the dining tent and still got drenched from the wind pushing the rain under the tent. And we still had a blast:
The rain eventually passed and the race resumed, but the temperature had dropped considerably. So much so that I changed into long yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt for the rest of the weekend. So much so that I didn’t think about how sunny it was, only how cold I felt. So much so that I ended up with a second degree burn on my face. Ugh. When I woke up Monday morning my eyes were swollen nearly shut and my skin looked very, very angry at me. I have worn sunscreen religiously since I was 16 years old. Winter, summer, rain or shine. And the one time I forget to use it I get burned to the point of being unrecognizable a mere THREE DAYS before I am due to speak to the US Trade Ambassador and the Department of Commerce!! Double ugh.
After two days of intense aloe therapy, a hearty antihistamine regimen and considerable peeling, I felt normal enough to venture out of the house without scaring small children and I bee-lined to my favorite salon. Project Emergency Bangs commenced. It was the only way we could think to cover the remaining burns on my forehead, and by the time we set out for DC, I was pink, swollen and now sporting the same bangs I had in kindergarten. They’ve grown on me (no pun intended), and now that the swelling has gone away and the pink has settled into a bit of a tan (which I refuse to enjoy- the only tan I want is from a bottle!), I actually quite like them and think I may keep them around for a while.
I’m not sure how much to say about the meetings themselves, because I know that our Etsy contact Althea is planning to discuss them and don’t want to say anything prematurely. I will say that it was awesome to meet other Etsy shop owners in person and the group they gathered for this trip was amazing. Ambassador Froman couldn’t have been nicer and we could tell he genuinely cared about our concerns and challenges. At the Department of Commerce we saw just how far-reaching our shops are when one of the women we met with realized she owned a state-shaped cutting board from the very seller sitting at the table.
It was a great day and showed us just how much the people at Etsy care about their sellers and how far they’ll go to protect our interests, whether we are a hugely busy shop or a brand new seller shipping their first order to Germany (if a seller like that is reading this- be sure the invoice is on the inside AND the outside of the package!!).