The ‘Darn Good Business Advice’ Category...
May 14, 2014
Have you ever wanted to know some of the secrets to Darn Good Yarn’s success? Don’t worry, we don’t have them locked away in a vault somewhere. The good folks at FedEx, who have helped support Darn Good Yarn through all kinds of growth and changes in shipping needs, have sponsored a great article about us on the website “Small Business Trends”. The site has all kinds of great business advice, check them out here.
The article describes how Nicole’s choices in technology, the folks she went to in order to gain support and advice, and her marketing strategy all helped to make Darn Good Yarn a successful, expanding business. There are also some great business tips for anyone looking to expand their own business! Well worth a read. Check out the full article here.
April 30, 2014
It’s time for another (slightly belated) business blog Wednesday!
Getting new customers is, of course, extremely important for any company, large or small. But what about repeat business? How do you get customers to keep coming back?
A great app that we use here at Darn Good Yarn is called RetentionGrid. It helps organize sales data in a way that anyone can understand. Which people would most appreciate an email blast about a new art yarn? Which people need to know about new colors of an existing yarn? RetentionGrid takes the guesswork out of these questions. RetentionGrid has really helped us get more repeat customers. In just 4 months our percentage of repeat customers went up from 28% to 46%!
A few months ago, the folks over at RetentionGrid were nice enough to highlight Darn Good Yarn and our successes over at their site. The feature includes some great tips from Nicole about how to drive growth and revenue, how to keep loyal customers, and what’s on the horizon for Darn Good Yarn. Read all about it here.
Thanks to Kalie Moore for writing such a great piece! You can learn all about what RetentionGrid could do for your business by clicking here.
Happy Crafting (and business building!)
April 16, 2014
Lucy Chapman runs the one-woman business of Rosy Toes Design from her home in Ohio, but her products have been seen in nation-wide magazines, publications in the UK, and backstage at Hollywood events! In this week’s business blog, learn all about the unique ways Lucy has managed to get her business in the public eye, her tips for other business craftspeople, and how she does her best to balance business and family.
Lucy is a member of an elite group of artists and craftspeople that make up The Artisan Group. This group’s goal is to “…introduce Hollywood to the best-of-the-best in handcrafted products.” In order to apply, you must handcraft all of your products yourself, not send them off to be mass-produced somewhere. Along with the quality of your work, they also look at your website and social media presence in order to be accepted. The members of this group give their products to celebrities, important media and advertisers, and other people with a large social impact at A-list events. Hopefully this will get celebrities and other folks with a large social media following to talk about an artist’s products, and help smaller artists to really get their name out there. Being a part of The Artisan Group has already helped Lucy. She has gotten articles, magazine mentions, and online reviews – all which has helped increase traffic to her website.
Lucy has also been featured in magazines like Vogue UK, InStyle UK, and Urban Farm magazine. She discovered opportunities to be involved in each of those magazines through social media! She found someone to refer her work to the British publications through LinkedIn, and knew someone who worked for Urban Farm magazine who asked for submissions of organic arts through Facebook. She told me, “You really have to become involved yourself, you have to keep putting yourself out there,” in order to market your business. She certainly has excelled at doing just that!
Like so many small craft businesses, Lucy is the designer, owner, and sole worker at Rosy Toes Designs. It is only somewhat recently that Lucy has decided to really put all her effort toward making Rosy Toes a successful business venture. Before focusing her energy, she was being pulled in too many directions at once, and none of those paths were very fulfilling. “Focusing energy was the best decision I could have made! I won’t ever regret trying to make the business work,” she asserts. With that energy, she, “…was able to prioritize, figure out where I wanted things to go, what direction I wanted to move in, where I wanted the business in general to ultimately go – that is when Rosy Toes jumped from ‘hobby’ to ‘business’,” she remembers.
I asked Lucy if she had any tips for other people with craft businesses based on lessons she had learned. She shared many great ones!
- Don’t be afraid to take risks in approaching others for help!
You don’t have to do absolutely everything. It’s not a requirement. For example, Lucy recently went to a professional photographer to make sure she had great pictures for her website, and got some help with press releases and marketing. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone more established for ideas and pointers.
- Little steps are fine, but have a larger goal in mind.
Even if you can only take your business is tiny steps, make sure those steps are headed in the right direction. Be purposeful.
- Learn to market yourself.
It isn’t about bragging or boasting – knowing how to market yourself and your business is essential to getting your name out there. Have confidence that your product is great, and other people will want to buy it!
- Know your market!
Are all of your customers women over 50? Boys around 10? Retirees? Golf enthusiasts? You don’t have to get too specific, but knowing the general demographics of your market will help you make things they like, sell more, and help you know where to market your products.
- Be flexible! Change things if needed!
Don’t be so attached to your work that you refuse to ever make any changes – but make sure not to change your artwork to the point where it’s no longer “you” just to make a sale. Stay true to your passion, but be flexible – especially in the marketing and selling of your work.
- Don’t give up when things don’t go quite how you thought they would.
Sometimes you won’t sell as much at a show as you hoped, your Etsy site stays quiet for a while – don’t be discouraged! Try some new methods of advertising your site, sign up for a different show – always keep trying.
Lucy has some more great advice on an issue that I’m sure many at-home crafters deal with – trying to balance business and family! Here are some of the solutions she tries to implement.
- Try to compartmentalize your day.
If you’ve got a kid-free morning, try to get as much work as possible done then, so you can put it away for a kid-filled evening. Will this work every time? Of course not! But it helps to structure your day.
- Involve the kids when you can!
Lucy’s kids can make small projects on her knitting machine, and they also help with putting tags on finished pieces. Involving family in their own craft projects can be great too!
- Make sure to carve out time for family! If you concentrate so hard on your business that you start neglecting other parts of your life, it’s easy to burn out.
Lucy tries to give herself at least one day off every week, and volunteers at her children’s school once a week as well. She knows that when everything you need to do is right there in front of you in your home, it’s hard to put down. “One of the most difficult things about operating a business from home is always thinking about the next thing I need to do, next person I need to contact – it’s very hard to put aside,” she remarks. One of the things she has found she needs to do to accomplish this is to put away all devices – phone, ipad, laptop, whatever – when she wants to concentrate on family. The business will still be there later to come back to!
I hope these tips have helped you think about what you may need for your own business. If you want even more great advice and insights, check out Lucy’s blog here. She’s also got a great sale going on to clear out her inventory before releasing new products – check out all of the great stuff that is on sale here!
Best of luck in all of your business endeavors, and Happy Crafting!
April 2, 2014
Just starting up your business or considering starting one? This week’s tips are for you. Even if your business is more established, these points are worthy of review!
I asked Nicole, Darn Good Yarn’s founder and president, some questions on the behalf of an author writing a book about successful internet businesses. The following tips are from her responses.
Let’s start at….
What are some vital areas you should concentrate on when starting up your business?
1) Make sure you have a strong support system of friends and family.
Even if you aren’t being supported financially by friends or family, these are still some of the most important people to your business. The time and emotional support they provide make them essential shareholders in your endeavor. Nicole knows the pitfalls of becoming so involved in business you lose sight of the important things. “People who own businesses tend to isolate, and my family helps me keep my priorities in check. They help remind me that it’s not only all about making money,” she says.
2) Figure out how much time you can really devote to your business.
“I do 16 hour days pretty regularly!” Nicole shares with me. If you are not ready to put in the time you may need, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to start a potentially very time-consuming business.
3) Have a higher purpose, try to make the business about something outside yourself.
Are other people relying on you for a paycheck? Can you support those in need through your work? Bringing in a wider and more beautiful or inspiring idea of what your business is and what it can do can inspire your work and help you avoid burning out. If you make it about something more than just buying and selling, you can make it personal, and make it a community.
And finally, an important one to keep in mind as your business grows…
4) Learn every process you can involved in running your business – from packing, to taking pictures, to customer service – then delegate some of those processes. Make sure to give the majority of your energy to the things that only you can do for your business.
I hope that helps those of you just starting out, or helps those of you in a business rut to re-imagine what you can do! Looking for more inspiration? Nicole also shared some of her favorite business resources.
The Accidental Creative podcasts – available here.
Inc Magazine – be inspired by their website here.
The book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. Check out the “delivering happiness” movement here.
Best wishes in all your business endeavors, and Happy Crafting!
March 26, 2014
Before interviewing George Shaheen, owner of House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing which produces “10 Hours or Less” patterns, I came up with a list of questions based on the type of small-business operation I assumed he was running. “Maybe he enables a small group of pattern designers to publish through his brand,” I thought. “I’ll ask how many people he employs and what it is like running a small craft business.” Shortly after he answered the phone of the personal contact number he gave me with, “House of Shaheen Publishing” I realized I was quite, quite wrong.
In an earlier interview with Nicole, one of the questions was, “What are areas you should concentrate on when starting a business?” I’ll detail more of her answer in future blogs, but one of the things she said that really stuck with me was to: “Bring in a bigger and more beautiful picture of what the business is, not just buying and selling on the internet.” George Shaheen really has that passion, that driving more beautiful vision behind his work. This man loves creating, loves playing with yarn, loves the creative process. During our chat, he said, “If I were independently wealthy I’d give the patterns away for free!” Unfortunately for him (and for so many of us) he is not independently wealthy. And he is selling patterns in a market where many large companies can, in fact, afford to give them away for free. And he is doing it all on his own.
When I asked if he had any advice for people who might want to sell their own patterns, his first response was: “Don’t quit your day job!” He has learned over time just how hard running a one-man business can be. He told me: “…if I knew how hard it was going to be in advance, I would have been discouraged!” Not only does he design each and every pattern, but he painstakingly tests them, he makes his own diagrams, he lays out how each pattern will look when published, he takes his own photos, does his own printing, his own shipping, his own billing, and of course, answers his own phones. He listed his titles for me: ““I’m the Design Department, the Procurement Department, the Production Department, the Photography Department, the Publishing Department, the Sales Department, the Marketing Department, the Accounting Department, the Customer Service Department, the Shipping Department…and the CEO.” I will expand more on George’s story in a blog next week, but for today’s business-related blog I wanted to share some of his methods he has used in making his business in a crowded market a successful one.
First and foremost, again, is the passion behind what you do. George said he has always been, “Fascinated with the process of turning string into fabric,” and has tried cross-stitching, needle-point, tatting, and has attended design school where he learned pattern-design, drafting and construction – but nothing truly spoke to him like knitting and crocheting. In fact, he sold his first crochet pattern when he was just 13! He went on to do free-lance designing and eventually decided to go into business for himself. “I think it is uplifting for the spirit to be able to create,” he says.
His first piece of advice? “”You have to know your strengths, know what unique benefit your designs bring to the market.”
“What I’m contributing to the market has to have value so people will put down the money to buy it – you have to define a brand and a ‘design identity’ so people know what to expect from your work.” The ‘design identity’ of 10 Hours or Less patterns is very important to how the patterns will sell. George describes what he looks for: “I need it to be practical, I need a large number of people to have it fit in their wardrobe, and it needs to be as multi-purpose as possible.” He also needs patterns to last for years on the market – he tries not to be too trend-reliant or gimmicky. Due to these pressures, his patterns have tended more toward the conservative – but that is what sells. Even within these constraints he still finds the joy of creation. “Even when the yarn turns out differently than I thought it would I still love trying to make it work! The pattern can turn out even better than I originally planned,” he reflects.
10 Hours or Less patterns are distributed by Leisure Arts and can be found in big retail stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby. However, recently George has found a better market for his patterns through social media – especially Ravelry! (You can check out his Ravelry page here.) In working with the large retail stores, he found he was always talking to people who weren’t knitters or crocheters. They didn’t know the merit of the patterns he was offering, they just cared if they sold or not. However, on Ravelry he was talking to people who were passionate about their hobbies. 10 Hours or Less began to grow through word-of-mouth, through crafters who were really passionate about the brand. He designs were mentioned in crafting podcasts, featured in give-aways, and have been donated to great causes. Ravelry really allowed him to be supported by others – and then support them in turn. He is very active on the site – answering questions quickly with knowledgeable, detailed responses. Even when he is feeling bogged down by all of the different roles he has taken on in his business, he is excited by the kind of response he gets through the Ravelry community. “The energy of great comments from across the country re-invigorate me in my work!” he enthused.
His last piece of advice? “Know what other small companies you can work with in order to help each other grow.” That’s just what he has done with us here at Darn Good Yarn! Check out the first of 3 gorgeous patterns George designed at his website here. Here’s a sneak preview of the first of the patterns.
You can even get 20% off George’s great patterns with the discount code DGY20. So go visit 10hoursorless.com, support a great one-man business and get crafting!
March 20, 2014
Here at Darn Good Yarn, we are all about supporting others out there starting and running their own small businesses. Whether it’s by offering artists awesome pricing through our Wholesale site, (check out more about that here) sharing your work on Facebook or telling folks all about your work on this blog, we want to get behind you and cheer you on. Toward that end, we are starting a new blog series, “Darn Good Business Advice” with pearls of wisdom from Nicole, Darn Good Founder and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, along with other successful business types we collaborate with!
Hopefully, we’ll be just what you need.
To start off, I wanted to feature some great tips from Nicole gleaned from a recent interview she did for an upcoming book on internet businesses.
She was asked, “If you had to share exactly 3-5 keys to building a successful online business, what would they be in order of priority?”
1. Define your customer segment.
Knowing who your customer is and starting a dialogue, even a personal relationship with them is the most important thing you can do. Knowing your customer helps you know where to best advertise to reach them, what products they will like and what pricing you can offer. Having a great relationship with your customers is at the root of everything.
2. Figuring out what channel you are going to use to reach your customer.
Do you have a brick and mortar store? Then maybe advertisements in local papers or radio is your best bet. Attending lots of Art & Craft fairs in the area? Maybe taking email addresses and starting a newsletter, or advertising on popular local blogs for the area would work for you. For almost any business, Social Media marketing is going to be a great way to reach out. Make sure whichever way you choose is the absolute best way to reach your particular customers.
3. Perfecting those marketing channels – in my case, making darngoodyarn.com the best website I can.
If you’ve got an ad in the paper, make sure it is eye-catching and informative. If you connect to your customer through social media, make sure you put up interesting and informative posts your readers will want to share. Take crisp, clear, well-lit pictures of your work. Make sure to respond quickly to questions and comments. Make sure websites are easy to navigate and customers have an easy way to contact you. As a whole, make sure your marketing channel reflects well on your business and communicates exactly what you need to get across.
4. Create a strategic marketing plan to target your customer segment.
Figuring out how much money you can spend on marketing can be tricky. Make sure your dollars are being spent as effectively as possible. A great way to help visualize what you have and what you need is a “Business Model Canvas”. Read all about those here. There are many great online resources to help you fill out your Canvas as well.
5. Continuing to revise all of those steps as you learn more – it’s all about the customer.
Don’t get stuck in a rut and only rely on your first evaluation! Keep learning more about your customer. You may discover a segment you didn’t think you would appeal to loves your work! As you update your definition of who your customer is, update each of the next steps as well. You will evolve along with your fans!
I hope that information helps! Feel free to comment with tips and strategies that have worked for you in your business. And it doesn’t end here! Stay tuned for more blog posts all about succeeding in your business.
Happy Crafting (and business building!),