Q+A: Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy
Can you imagine designed your own role at a company? Dayna Isom Johnson can. She started working at Etsy in the Marketing and PR department few years ago, until she noticed there was a need for trend guides. In recognition of Dayna's contributions to DUMBO, we honored her with a 2019 DUMBO Dozen Award this year. We met up with Dayna to learn a little more about her and her roll as a Trends Expert at Etsy.
Let’s start at the beginning. What's your background? How did you end up at Etsy?
I started my career in the fashion industry. When I was in college, I worked in showrooms sales, but I quickly realized this was not what I wanted to do. So, when I graduated, I got a job in the Corporate Training Program at Chico’s. I was in the marketing department and I started as a coordinator. The program was great, because you got try out different departments. Then I got a taste of PR, and fell in love with it, so I moved into the PR department and grew with the Chico's brand.
After a while, I started to feel stymied. I wasn’t able to really express my creativity, and I began thinking about my next step. I heard about this little place called Etsy, where I had purchased small gifts for my friends, but I had this question: "What do those who work at Etsy do?" In my mind, it was like, people are making things, so what do you do when you work at the corporate level?"
I remember the first time that I walked into Etsy, I felt like Alice in Wonderland, it felt like a breath of fresh air, especially coming from the craziness of retail, with its not-so-nice personalities and demanding schedules and all of that. Etsy just felt like really different and special. I started in PR at Etsy, and I really saw the brand transform, going from a small, local company to a leader in the maker and creative industry. I was in the PR department for about three years, and I began to notice that more and more people were buying items bases on the way they were presented to them. In some way, the interest of fashion never left my blood. I still loved fashion, and trends, and I said to my boss, “You know, I think people are coming to Etsy with different ideas. They see Etsy as this independent business, and places like Urban Outfitters and Anthropology are now looking to us for inspiration. are looking to them for inspiration." We were still in startup mode at the time, so we started to explore this, and that's how I ended up as the Trends Expert.
I remember the first time that I walked into Etsy I felt like Alice in the wonderland, I felt like a breath of fresh air.
What does the job entail?
What I really love about my job is that it changes every day; I never really know what's going to happen. I am responsible for writing a trend guide, which comes out monthly or quarterly, depending on the category. I'm always scouring Etsy to find interesting things that haven't been discovered yet. I also work very closely with my data analytics team to learn out what everyday shoppers are clicking on, and figure out how to use this information to create the best possible experience on the site.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I would probably say interacting with the sellers is the best part. I get to talk with sellers at least once at week. I obviously love seeing their products, but hearing their stories is really inspiring. It makes me thing, “wow, if they are able to be an accountant during the day, and a full-time parent, and on top of that they make these beautiful watercolors or illustrations or whatever they do...." it's like, get it together girl! :) I love talking with these amazing people doing amazing things.
What makes Etsy an interesting place to be a trend expert?
We have over two million independent businesses on Etsy. I’m not just working with one singular brand or one singular voice. This is a diverse, global marketplace. I get to hear about and work with everyone from right here in Brooklyn, to Ecuador and India and Nebraska.
Being on "Making It" was a magical experience; it shined the light on so many creative people, and hopefully it inspired many more to reconnect with the creativity in their own brain.
We loved you on “Making It”! How did that come about? How was that experience for you?
The experience was INCREDIBLE, INCREDIBLE, INCREDIBLE. It all happened around two years ago. NBC was coming out with this show, which sounded crafting and creativity, and the producers got in contact with Etsy to see if they could recommend anyone to be on it. My supervisor at the time mentioned me. The NBC folks saw that I’d been on the TODAY SHOW, and had done some other relevant work, so they asked me to submit a video, just like everybody else. I wasn’t a hand-selected–I had to work for it!
When you work for Etsy for five years, you get a sabbatical month, and my husband and I had gone to Paris. So it was my sabbatical month, and I'll never forget it–I was at the airport in Miami picking up my bags and my boss called and said I'd gotten the part! I packed my bags and went to LA a week later. Being on "Making It" was a magical experience; it shined the light on so many creative people, and hopefully it inspired many more to reconnect with the creativity in their own brain. Sometimes, as adults, we turn that creativity switch off. But, creativity really matters, even in the routine every day stuff. It helps you to connect with other senses in your body.
What does Etsy stand for?
What sets trends on Etsy apart?
When you work for a traditional retailer, and are working with a creative team and a design team, you have to follow the rules of a Creative Director, and you have a very specific customer base. On Etsy, sellers can do what they want–they don't have to abide by any rules. They can be inspired by a rainbow that they saw after a rain shower, or inspired by some funny things that their kid did last night at dinner time–they are just able to let their imagination run wild.
Can you give me some examples of trends that started on Etsy?
Oh yea! About five years ago, an Etsy maker was the first to create a beauty pallet rainbow highlighter. Another example of a trend that started on Etsy cosmic leggings. Now there's this "higher celestial movement" thing going on, and you see moon and stars on everything, but it came out on Esty first.
And finally, what's your favorite spot in Dumbo?
I love the margaritas at Gran Electrica! I am a new fan of Cecconi's, their pasta is amazing. And Vinegar Hill House! Lots of favorites.