A global leader: Linda Findley Kozlowski ’95

Meet Linda Findley Kozlowski ’95, the woman in charge of operations for the e-commerce site Etsy. 

By Madison MacKenzie ’18

What do Alibaba, Evernote and Etsy all have in common? Linda Findley Kozlowski ’95. The corporate communications and journalism graduate has held high-ranking positions within each organization, leaving a mark wherever she goes. After graduating from Elon, Kozlowski earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spent her early professional career working at several public relations firms until 2009, when she landed her first leadership position at Alibaba.com and led global marketing, business development and customer service for China’s largest e-commerce company. 

In 2012 Kozlowski joined note-taking and archiving software tool Evernote and eventually became its chief operating officer, overseeing worldwide operations and leading cross-functional teams in offices across 10 countries. By the time she was named COO for Etsy—the global marketplace for unique and creative goods that has more than 45 million items from sellers around the world—in 2016, she had more than 20 years of experience under her belt. She shared some insights about her career trajectory and her new role during a recent Q&A. 

Q: What attracted you to Etsy?

The opportunity to join a creative and passionate community, as well as to further scale Etsy’s platform globally, were big motivators for joining the company. Over the course of my career, I have also consistently chosen companies that support entrepreneurship and small businesses, as that is a personal passion.

Q: What did you learn in your previous roles that have helped you be successful at Etsy?

Because of my previous role and experiences, I am a true believer that all strategic and product decisions need to be made with a global mindset and focus on connecting these markets together. Part of my overall strategy involves intertwining domestic and international strategy so that we operate as a strong, global, cohesive approach. 

Q: How is Etsy’s model different?

One of the interesting things about Etsy is that we have two very strong customer sets to generate revenue. One set is our buyers, the people who come to Etsy looking for unique products. The second customer set is our Etsy sellers. When they succeed, we succeed, so we are laser-focused on providing them with all of the tools they need to start and manage their Etsy shops. Etsy sellers challenge conventional notions of entrepreneurship—most are women (87 percent), almost all run their shops from their homes (97 percent) and a vast majority are businesses of one (77 percent). We want to offer our sellers the freedom to build their businesses on their own terms so they can spend more time living their lives. 

Q: What are some of the challenges for Etsy in the future?

At Etsy, we advocate for policies and regulations that make it easier for microbusinesses in the U.S. and around the world to do business. Our approach is a bit untraditional. Instead of hiring lobbyists, we empower our sellers and put them directly in front of their representatives. We’ve found this to be a very effective tool for bringing about change. However, as the number of independent workers continues to rise, we are keenly aware that it’s more important than ever to advocate on their behalf and do our best to influence positive change. 

Q: How did your time at Elon help you achieve your career goals?

Elon is a student-centered university and a teaching university—students get time with professors and classes are small. This taught me a lot about the importance of one-on-one interactions and this translates into the businesses I’ve worked with over the years. The great balance of arts and sciences and career-focused courses helped me to develop as a person, but also learn skills that prepared me for the world. A big part of my most recent jobs is scaling businesses globally. Since Elon is a very global and service-oriented school, I learned a lot about the world beyond the classroom.