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Etsy CEO Josh Silverman: Pandemic was ‘our Dunkirk moment’

April 20, 2021, 9:42 AM UTC

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Good morning. 

I’ve heard many great pandemic transformation tales from CEOs over the past year, but few match that of Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy, who was our guest this week the Leadership Next podcast.

“This was sort of our Dunkirk moment,” Silverman says. “Americans desperately needed all kinds of things, and the supply chains of the big mass retailers couldn’t keep up. Cottage industry came to the rescue.”

Top of the list, of course, were masks. “Masks were not a thing before April 2, 2020. If someone was searching for a mask, they were looking for a Halloween mask or face cream.” But over the rest of the year, Etsy sold a total of $740 million dollars in masks, allowing buyers to find one “that expressed their sense of taste and style.” 

And it wasn’t just masks. “In May, the world woke up and decided they wanted to make bread.  Within hours you had thousands of sellers offering yeast recipes and bread making recipes.” All told, Etsy’s merchandise sales doubled during the pandemic, reaching a total of $10 billion. And the company’s market value soared over $25 billion. 

Okay, that $10 billion may pale in comparison to merchandise sold over Amazon’s platform, which was fifty times that. But it’s still a big deal for a company once viewed as an outlet for Brooklyn hobbyists. Silverman says buyers “discovered you can keep commerce human.”

And by the way, Etsy is holding strong to its commitment to be a good citizen as well as a good business—which Silverman says go hand in hand. “There are a lot of problems out there, and people don’t have a lot of confidence in our political system to solve those problems,” he says. “If business can’t be part of solution, then where are we?”

You can listen to the podcast on Apple or Spotify.  More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.