July 24, 2014
Hey there everyone! I’m back in New York this week and ready to rock this remodeling out with Joie – we are two chicas on a mission to use our girl power and spruce up this space! I am a firm believer that every girl needs to know how to use a rachet strap because when you are at Lowe’s gathering supplies and you’re not quite sure how they are all going to fit in your Honda Element, a rachet strap always saves the day! And that’s exactly where Joie and I found ourselves this week. The scruffy contractors rolled their eyes at us, but after shuffling a few boxes of yarn around, everything was in and we were on our way and ready to get to work.
But, when we got back to the store, we noticed the toilets were making a funny noise. I made the mistake of flushing when I went to check it but it only made things worse…the water started to rise and we didn’t have plunger on hand to help. Yikes! Time for an emergency trip back to Lowe’s for two plungers and snake! And then the real craziness ensued. After snaking and simple plunging didn’t solve the problem, Joie and I each armed ourselves with a plunger and made our way to the two different bathrooms. We thought that synchronized plunging might provide enough power to clear the backup. I yelled down the hall to Joie to start and then we counted and plunged together…one, two, three, four, five, nothing, six, seven, eight, still not working, nine, ten, and all the way to twenty-five. And in the end, all we got out of it was laughs and we had to call the plumber. One thousand dollars later, the tree branches that were blocking our pipes are now cleared. Situations like these confirm that the emergency fund is a necessity, not a luxury.
After a day spent on plumbing issues, we made our way to work with the intention of making good use of the remodeling supplies we’d picked up the day before. As I pedaled up to the parking lot, an incredibly large piece of our maple tree stopped me in the parking lot. The thunderstorm from the night before had broken it off, and I had to change my plans so we could lop this monster of a tree branch (it was as big as a small tree) and get the parking lot cleared. So, Joie, Terry (our landscaping fairy, remember him?) and I (good thing this Jersey girl spent some time in Maine so she would know how to properly lop a tree) made quick work of it and we were back to business.
Even with couple of unexpected setbacks this week, we are making progress. A few weeks ago when Joie was out walking Squeakers, she found a free pegboard on the street. She called me to come pick it up (and yes, if you’re wondering, I did have to use those ratchet straps again) and this week, Joie painted it and made it into a fabulous display our kits. The painting of the office continues and we are saying our goodbyes to the eighties wallpaper. And I’ve been doing lots of picture taking and description writing – there are oodles new products going up this week that I can’t wait for you to see.
And one more thing…I’m excited that something we’ve had in the works for a bit is ready to go. We have new custom and one-of-a-kind drawstring sari silk pouches made just for us that use to pack any order over $30! And orders over $87 get the larger size! These sacks are so fabulous and soft, I want them all for me! Really, I got them for all of you, so I will share and I can’t wait for you to get one!
Those unexpected things always come up, but I take them on with an open mind, flexibility, being able to draw on the emergency fund when needed, and good friends (and landscaping fairies) to help!
July 21, 2014
Have you been wanting to get a sari skirt, but thought you might end up in tangles trying to tie it? Well, worry no more! Nicole shows you how to tie your sari skirt in several ways (as a dress, as a shawl, as a skirt, and a few more…these are SO versatile) in this fantastic video.
These sari skirts are one of a kind so just make sure to tell us what colors you want and don’t want when you order and our shipping staff will fill your request!
July 17, 2014
Hey Everyone! It’s been one jam-packed summer so far! If you haven’t heard yet, we moved our operations to Schenectady, NY. I’m crazy excited about our new space! It’s in the the Stockade Historic District, a neighborhood that’s been around for over 300 years. It’s full of window boxes, quaint old buildings, so much character and I’m in love! Squeakers and I make the mile and half bike ride to work which is helping me recover from a long winter and I’m happy to report that I can fit into my jeggings again!
Darn Good Yarn’s shipping operations are up and running here now (thanks to our fabulous new team member, Joie) and by the end of the summer, we will open our first brick and mortar store! I’m so thankful to be a home grown in Maine business. I still have family and a home there and will run my consulting business from there, but I chose NY for Darn Good Yarn because I’ve wanted to find more balance in my work and family life since Mike changed jobs.
And I went right back to Maine last weekend to be a Breakout Leader for the Sustain Maine Entrepreneurial Conference. I got spiffed up with a new haircut and color and was on my way to the beautiful Chebeaugue Island. Did you catch the picture of my view? That’s what the amazing Ann Marie Almeida and I woke up to every morning in our shared house. She is a Senior Director at BRAC, an organization dedicated to building opportunities for the world’s poor and the #1 NGO in the world, and if that wasn’t enough, she also works to inspire women to make changes in their local community through Leadership for Local Change.
The organizers filled the conference with so many inspiring individuals. Eric Hopkins, is a super talented artist who got the wheels in my head churning with his speech and I hope to share more of ideas here. The energy when entrepreneurs get together, share ideas, and make things happen truly motivates! And that’s what we did in my Breakout session…motivate through strategizing about using out-of-the-box solutions for branding, content management, and building small e-commerce businesses on bootstrap budgets so you can make your business work for you. I was lucky to have Deb Buxton from North East Forest Products, Jim Van Fleet from Mainely Tubs, Emily Nelson from Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and Christine Williams from Crockett’s Cove along for the ride.
Oh, and I can’t forget the delicious food from Jen at Shady Grove Farm, Kitchen and Events. She does farm to table catering and it’s simply fabulous! And, of course, at the end of the day, I sat down with a glass of wine to chat up some great business ideas with Chris Rector, the Regional Representative for Senator Angus King. What a day! So many great people with great ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing more details here. I’m happy I could be there to support the growing businesses in Maine and make connections that will bring more purpose to our mission here at Darn Good Yarn.
Back in Schenectady, we’re working on projects to spruce up the outside and inside of our new space. Our building had been empty for five years, so we have a long to-do list and we are transforming this place! Joie, Mike, and I (ok, mostly Joie) have been cleaning up, planting, and pruning our grounds here. There’s magic in the air around here, or at least it seemed like it, after we found free flowers to plant in our beds and had a visit from our very own landscaping fairy! One day, Mike pruned our gorgeous shade cedars (can’t wait to yarn bomb them!) and left the pile of branches in parking lot. When we arrived at the shop the next day, the pile was gone. Come to find out, the landscaping fairy was our neighbor, Terry, and I love that he’s making us feel right at home! Indoors, we are hoping to fill the entire store with re-purposed furniture. Joie and I took a trip to the local thrift store and we found some pieces with great potential. Now onto sanding, painting, and putting that Darn Good Yarn touch on them. How many chairs do you think we will need for the knitting space we are carving out? Better too many than too few, right? So many plans and so much happening! We love being here in Schenectady and I can’t wait to get the store open and get feedback from the community so we can tailor our classes and offerings to their needs. If you are in the Schenectady area, be on the lookout for the plans for our grand opening and be thinking about the perfect local yarn store because we want to hear your ideas!
I’ve always been a big dreamer and I’ve loved seeing my dreams come to life this summer because it means that we are doing more good, empowering more women in India and Nepal, and bringing your creative ideas to life!
July 14, 2014
Hey! Did you catch Nicole on Fiber Hooligan? Listen as she tells the story how she went from a New Jersey girl playing craft corner with an old cash register, to an officer in the United States Air Force, to running the best recycled silk yarn company to the fabulous Benjamin Levisay. If you’ve ever wanted to know how Darn Good Yarn got its start, this is a great place to find out. Benjamin asked all the right questions and Nicole entertained with the fabulous story of Darn Good Yarn. Make sure to check it out here or go look for it on iTunes! Better yet, take the time to subscribe to Fiber Hooligan on iTunes.
Special thanks to Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX Books which publishes Knitter’s Magazine, XRX Books, and Stitches Events, for taking the time to chat with Nicole. Be sure to check out all of the other great Fiber Hooligan podcasts for interviews with with your favorite knit and crochet designers and other celebrities from the fiber arts world. Fiber Hooligan recently made it into the top 10 podcasts for Hobbies in iTunes. Way to go!
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.
May 8, 2014
Along with over 300 families in India and Nepal that get a majority of their work for their co-operatives from Darn Good Yarn, Darn Good Yarn also employs some great folks in the rest of the world too. Of the Darn Good Yarn employees, both full and part time, 7 come from the US, 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK and 1 in Australia. You can read up about everyone in our “Meet the Team” page here.
These jobs would not be possible without the freedom to import such wonderful products from places like India, Nepal and Chile. In fact, over half of all of the businesses dependent on imports here in the US are small firms just like us! In celebration of small business and the benefit of imports, Stefanie Holland, Director of International Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, used Darn Good Yarn as an example of a successful import business creating jobs overseas and here at home. Check out the article she wrote for “Imports Work for America” week here.
Thanks so much to Ms. Holland for mentioning us! We hope to be able to expand our imports, as well as more easily reach our international customers, even more in the future.
May 5, 2014
Here at Darn Good Yarn we always love to see the projects that everyone is working on! We recently got some fabulous photos from Darn Good Yarner Pat Staehler. Pat made a gorgeous shawl out of our 3 Ply Silk Cloud yarn. Check it out!
I really love how this crocheted shawl really shows off the great colors in the variegated yarn! Take a closer look:
It looks lovely! Thanks so much for sharing, Pat! What have you been making with Darn Good Yarn? Share with us any time on our Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest pages, or just send us an email at email@example.com!
May 1, 2014
Denae Merrill is a serious knitter. I might even go so far as to say, a hardcore knitter. On a recent post from her blog, DenKnits, she mentions a Knit-A-Long she is planning of a pattern that she designed, a charity knit-along that she is taking part in for a lap blanket, some blanket squares that she is working on to make a couch blanket for her own family, and a color-work project that started as a hat but then became a scarf. In the same post (which was only written 2 weeks after the previous post) she also catalogs a shawl that she completed, 2 spinning samples she created, and 2 skeins, one of them 2-ply, one single-ply, that she spun. When I asked, “How do you finish so many projects?” She seemed to be under the impression that her knitting output was not unusual. Considering I have a blanket that I started at age 12 which I still haven’t finished and is currently gathering dust in the corner of my room, I felt a bit differently.
Denae got a “learn to knit” kit for Christmas in 2007, but it wasn’t until later in 2008 when she got some hands-on lessons from her Mother-in-law that she really got hooked. She did have some trouble learning because there aren’t enough good “learn to knit” books written for lefties! Her MIL is left-handed as well, but she knit right-handed, and that’s what Denae ended up doing as well. At the time she was traveling constantly due to her job, and a co-worker of hers helped her expand her knitting skills. I asked Denae if she ever tried out any other crafts. “I used to do lots of scrap-booking, but knitting has taken over!” she tells me. While she has tried out crocheting and weaving, knitting remains her strong favorite.
Denae has many great ways to fit more knitting into her day. “I knit every day,” she explains while answering my question about her nearly super-human productivity. “I find some down-time in the evening, I knit when I’m waiting in line – I always have a project with me.” She has some specific projects that she likes to have going simultaneously. She usually has a sock project going, just because they travel so well, one simpler project and then one more complicated project. I may have to try this method myself. It seems like a great way to prevent being bored with one particular project. When I asked how she managed to have so many FOs (finished objects) as opposed to the many UFOs (un-finished objects) that I have hovering around my room, her answer was simple. “I just really want to have the finished product,” she remarks. Maybe I need to get re-invigorated about some of my old pieces.
Denae started making her own designs at almost the same time that she started knitting. She would find a stitch pattern she really liked, and then modify it so it would work with whatever piece she wanted to make. As her knitting skills improved and expanded, she got more ambitious. She would find inspiration in lovely knitted garments in movies or television, and then create her own personalized version. While she does plan things out prior to starting a new design, Denae tends to be very flexible once she’s in the middle of one. “I don’t like ripping out work and starting over, I’d rather make it work from where I am,” she says.
In addition to her blog, Denae is on Ravelry under the username “denmoma” – click here to see all of her original patterns – and under the same name on Instagram. Social networking – especially the fellow hardcore knitters she has met on Ravelry – have really helped expand the reach of her blog and her designs. She also has a great “podcast”-style show on YouTube where she does product reviews, talks about her own personal twist when designing, and demonstrates some unique and fun ways to wear finished knitted pieces. You can find all her videos here. Most recently, Denae has opened up her own small online shop where you can get great kits including her patterns and all of the yarn needed to make them. Check out her store here.
When I asked about her most memorable project, Denae said, “The cowl-neck poncho I designed that started the great relationship I now have with Darn Good Yarn!” Denae had found Darn Good Yarn through Facebook, and had just finished creating the cowl, made of Recycled Photon Rainbow sport weight silk yarn, just in time to enter it in a designing contest that we were holding at the time. When she won the contest, she used the gift certificate she received to get some great Banana Fiber yarn and came up with another great pattern, “That Sunset was Bananas!” – and we here at Darn Good Yarn loved that one too! She since has provided us with some lovely hat patterns with our llama wool yarn (find a kit for those here), and a couple more of her patterns will be showing up on the site soon. Her patterns are some of my favorites that we have on the site! (Shhh, don’t tell any of the other pattern designers.)
So many thanks to Denae, for bringing us such lovely patterns on our website, and for taking the time to chat with me. Keep on madly knitting, designing, and inspiring!
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 24, 2014
Genea Crivello-Knable has been a dedicated crafter and artist for most of her life. She was accepted into her first craft show as a vendor when she was just 15. Since then, she has discovered and refined new skills, made many new friends through her work, and been able to do what she loves for a living.
Genea has always loved beads and jewelry, but has worked with many different mediums to create them. She started with polymer clay and a bead collection, and she is continually evolving new styles and techniques. “As you take more art classes, you fine tune your skills, and find out what you really have a knack for,” Genea tells me. Genea has tried her hand at knitting, sewing, curtain making, painting, drawing, sculpture, and even metal-smithing, but her favorite medium is glass.
A lampwork glass maker creates glass pieces with colored glass rods and a torch. After the glass has been melted into shape, the final piece is then heated in a kiln to harden it and make it durable. Creating lampwork glass beads involves a steady hand and a lot of detail work. Genea was working in a bead shop when the owner started taking lampwork glass classes. “I thought it was a natural next step, as I already knew so many different jewelry techniques,” Genea remembers. Soon after that, she was selling beads in the shop where she worked, and decided to set up her own Etsy store. (You can check it out here.)
Not only does Genea sell her beads online, she sells her own mixed-media jewelry as well! (Check that out here.) The piece shown, called “Love Earth” is made with her own beads, Darn Good Yarn reclaimed sari ribbon yarn and Wooly Wire. Where does she find awesome products like “Wooly Wire” – wire with hand-dyed wool spun around it – and Darn Good Yarn? Mostly through social networking! Genea has been able to meet and become friends with lots of other great bead and jewelry artists through Facebook. There are many active beading groups that are a fabulous support network. A fun example is a project called “Bead Soup“. Started by blogger and jewelry designer Lori Anderson, “Bead Soup” is a project where two random jewelry artists are paired up, and they then send each other a mix of beads including a focal point and fun clasp. They then make a piece using the beads they received from their fellow artist, and blog about the experience on their own website. It’s a great way for artists to promote each other and create something gorgeous and meaningful.
Along with her Etsy sales, Genea also vends at major shows like Bead Fest in Philadelphia. I asked her which was the most lucrative, shows or Etsy. “It’s about half and half,” she reckons. “Etsy is a great marketplace,” she explains, “but it’s hard to stand out there. You are a droplet in an ocean of people.” And while she tries her hardest, it’s hard to really represent the look and feel of the beads through pictures alone. “It’s so great to see personal reactions to your work, to forge a personal connection,” she says.
Genea is constantly honing her craft and always stays creative. The beads shown above are her “wingdings”, which were actually created by accident! A bead of hers wasn’t turning out, so she smooshed it in frustration. It’s now one of her best-sellers.
One reason that Genea loves working with glass is it’s versatility – glass can be manipulated to look like many different things. The stone-like appearance of the bead shown above is achieved by adding baking soda to the glass. As the glass heats, bubbles rise to the surface. As the bubbles pop, it creates the organic pitted look of the final product. I love the look!
We always love seeing the awesome places that Darn Good Yarn ends up. Interested in becoming a wholesale customer and using Darn Good Yarn in your work? Just click here. Make sure to support Genea by liking her on Facebook here, and checking out her blog here. What are you doing to expand your creative skills? How are you using your Darn Good Yarn? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be featured in a future blog. Thanks to Genea for chatting with me and creating such beautiful pieces!