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 30, 2014
Want to meet Nicole and check out all of your favorite yarns and other products from Darn Good Yarn in person? Will you be in York, Maine this coming Saturday April 5th? Lucky you! You’ll have a chance to attend The Fiber Marketplace where Nicole will be one of the many great vendors attending!
This fantastic fiber show will be from 10 -3 on Saturday, April 5th at the York Harbor Inn. (Get directions here.) Entry fee will be $5, and many great vendors will be there. If you live anywhere nearby, make sure to check it out! Local yarn store “The Yarn Sellar” is hosting the event. Read all about her here.
We hope to see you there!
March 27, 2014
Darn Good Yarn has had some great mentions in the press recently! Bangor Metro, a magazine that covers the area where Nicole is currently living, published a lovely Darn Good Yarn article. Check out the Metro’s website here.
The article covers Nicole’s success and great business growth over the few years that she has been running Darn Good Yarn. Thanks to the folks over at the Metro!
Another article a few months ago in the Chattanooga Times Free Press features Darn Good Yarn as well! Olga Klein, a great friend of Darn Good Yarn and fabulous yarn-bomber was featured in the Free Press as she has many of her works in a gallery in Chattanooga.
Olga helped Nicole immensely on site at the FedEx commercial shoot in LA (read all about that here!) and talked all about how they have helped each other out in the article. It reads:
“She purchases the majority of her yarn from the DarnGoodYarn website, she says. “The owner of the business, Nicole Snow, has helped me in all my yarn-bomb endeavors, and always came through when I had to place a frantic call for more and/or different colors of yarn, texture, etc.,” she says.”
You can read the entire article here. Many thanks to Olga and the Chattanooga Times Free Press for mentioning us!
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 23, 2014
So you are dreaming up your next crafting project, and you think, “I have the perfect idea! I just need a vintage string of pearls, some sari ribbon yarn, and 5 alphabet refrigerator magnets!” Want to visit a unique and funky shop that has all that and lots more? Head over to Atchison, Kansas and check out Vintage Gypsy.
Christina Jackson opened Vintage Gypsy in November of 2012 after years of dreaming about her own little arty shop. Described as “A Fabulous mix of Art, Vintage & Whimsy,” Vintage Gypsy carries a little bit of everything. Supplies for your own quirky and unique mixed media project including great finds like vintage lace, ribbons, buttons, fabrics, ephemera, and even game pieces? They’ve got that. Gorgeous handmade pieces by local artists featuring things like found-object jewelry, handmade journals, Mixed Media art and home decor? They’ve got that. Their newest addition? A great selection of Darn Good Yarn!
We are so excited to be included among the found-object funky and the wild whimsy.
Christina herself, like so many of us, is a bit of a craft-aholic. When asked about her favorite craft, she said, “I dabble in just about everything! Love mixed-media, painting, upcycling whatever I can get my hands on…” She has stocked her store with tons of great items to up-cycle, re-use, and re-invent. Need tiny plastic soldiers, an Olive Oyl hand-puppet, or hat pins?
It’s all available at the Vintage Gypsy Etsy shop here.
Despite the shop name, Christina, unfortunately, does not have any mystical Gypsy powers. Her customers sometimes think otherwise, though. She told me that one time a customer asked: “If I could please put a “Gypsy spell” on a toddler so that she may keep her shoes on while she’s in the car seat!” Even though she was unable to solve this most pressing concern, Christina and her eclectic and unique wares will certainly solve all of your mixed media art needs. Learn more about her shop and all that she offers on the Vintage Gypsy website here.
It’s great to see Darn Good Yarn find so many interesting homes! Make sure to support Vintage Gypsy and their crafty adventuring by liking them on Facebook. Click here for their page.
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!),
March 13, 2014
Remember the FedEx Small Business Grant that Nicole went to Nashville earlier this year to promote? (If not, check out my blog here!) She was there because through the support of all of you Darn Good Yarners, we won the Grand Prize last year! Now this year’s contest is almost over, and the top hundred finalists have been chosen.
Want to check out the top 100? Click here.
In a fun article about one of the top 100 finalists – the entrepreneurs at Spin Chill (learn more about them here) – FedEx writer Daniela Mencos wrote some lovely things about Darn Good Yarn. She writes:
“Nicole Snow, founder of Darn Good Yarn, a company dedicated to producing recycled-silk yarn products, won the grant contest in 2013.
Snow said the money enabled her to expand. Before the grant, she was able to provide 250 colors of yarn, and now she has 1,700.
“It’s conscientious capitalism at its finest,” Snow said.
Darn Good Yarn, which is based in Maine, helps women in Nepal and India become financially independent by employing them as yarn spinners. The company created jobs for more than 300 families, she said.
Snow said she had people reach out to her during the contest process who said her company inspired them to start their own business. She said she attributes this to the exposure companies receive through their Facebook pages during the contest voting process.
“People want to see you succeed,” Snow said. “People root for small businesses.” ”
Read the entire article here.
And guess who else is a top 100 finalist? Our friends over at Fiber Arts Now! If you have been following us on Facebook, you may remember a contest give-away we did with them a while ago. It’s a great magazine with lots of fiber inspiration.
Check out all of the awesome inspiration and read about their goals if they win the FedEx grant here.
Thanks to FedEx for saying such nice things! And thanks, as always, to all of the Darn Good Yarners who support us! We couldn’t be where we are without you!
March 6, 2014
Here at Darn Good Yarn we get the opportunity to sell yarn to many great individuals, but we also get the opportunity to wholesale our wares to some truly great and unique yarn stores across the country. (Interested in setting up a wholesale account? Click here.)
One such great yarn store? Purl’s Yarn Emporium in Asheville, North Carolina.
Elizabeth and Rik and their young son moved to Asheville in 2008 without a definite plan in mind. Elizabeth’s mom owned a yarn store when she was growing up, so she grew up among crafty folks. She was always an avid sewer, but hadn’t had the time to learn to knit yet. Being in a new city without a job to immediately go to gave her the time she needed, and she and her son started learning together.
Meanwhile, Rik was a middle school teacher, but wasn’t finding that to be a great fit. He got bit by the knitting bug as well, and they both found themselves well on their way to that healthy level of knitting obsession that so many of us experience.
They both visited Purl’s and spoke often with the previous owner. When she wanted to sell in 2010, they decided to go ahead and buy it.
“We can even walk in to work!” Rik enthused.
When they took over Purl’s, Liz and Rik both wanted to stock really special yarns.
“We want to have yarn with a story,” Rik explained. Telling a customer the story of the people behind the yarns, where it came from, who’s hands produced it – it makes it so much more special. The story and energy gets imbued into the project the yarn is used for, and makes it much more exciting to work with as well.
“We are very critical about where our yarn comes from.” They told me. “The term ‘fair-trade’ is not yet well-defined for the textile industry. We would rather carry ‘family-trade’ or ‘direct-trade’ – we want a personal relationship or a ‘chain of trust’ that connects us with the yarn.”
As a member of the board of 10,000 Villages, Elizabeth learned to think globally – asking important questions about where products come from and who produces them. She and Rik are both big proponents of “conscious consumerism”.
As they already held all of these beliefs, carrying Darn Good Yarn products was a natural choice.
“The previous owner had carried some recycled silk – and we really liked the transparency of how Darn Good Yarn obtains its materials.”
Darn Good Yarn is in some excellent company among the yarns at Purl’s.
They feature several companies that support micro-enterprises worldwide, just like Darn Good Yarn does. The other yarns they feature are all American-made, and they are looking to expand their local yarn selection as well. They eagerly described their continuing talks with local farms about obtaining fleeces for a wool/alpaca/mohair blend they want to produce at their own mill. They do their own dyeing in-house as well. Among the locals, however, they are most famous for their fabulous store-window displays.
“The sock-monkeys became iconic.” Liz tells me. Liz was part of a fun group that sent sock-monkeys across the country to each other, each person adding a fun detail – a little sweater, a knitted hat – to the sock-monkey before they send it along. She put some of the monkeys in a window display as “Dr. Knit and Professor Purl” and they took off immediately. Since then, they have had all kinds of sock-monkey fun.
Their most current display? Dowton – sorry, “Yarnton” Abbey sock-monkeys!
Overall, they say their “nerdy” windows are the most popular. Personally, the Doctor Who display they did was my favorite!
When I asked the silly question in my interview, “Knitters and crocheters – enthusiastic hobbyists or insane yarn hoarders?” They gave it due consideration. Liz theorized that there are whole ranges of insanity, and that folks’ hidden yarn passions (or insanities) tend to emerge through conversations while yarn-shopping. If anything, she said that she wanted to get people more engaged.
Purl’s certainly has many ways to do just that. Along with several different “Sit & Knit” type meetings throughout the week to which all are invited, they also have “Purl Scouts”. As a “Purl Scout” you pay a basic joining fee, and then you get access to all of their beginner classes for free, and all of the advanced classes at half price! The most fun of all, you get to collect badges for every new technique you learn! I love this idea! I would oh-so-proudly display a sash full of knitting or crocheting badges if I had one. I may have to start one soon myself.
Elizabeth and Rik are proud that Purl’s is a very welcoming and inclusive store. They have rainbow flags alongside Doctor Who stickers, they sat with around 150 knitters at a local baseball game, and they encourage everyone of every age and skill set to build up their crafting arsenal little by little.
If you are ever in the Asheville area, come stop by Purl’s. Marvel at the sock-monkeys. Stock up on some Darn Good Yarn and other yarns with great causes around the world. Want to check up on the fun without leaving home? See pictures of all the great sock-monkey window displays? Check out their Facebook page here, and make sure to “Like” them for all the great stuff they do!
Many thanks to Elizabeth and Rik for taking the time to sit and talk with me. I may have to come in and join the Thursday night Sit & Knit!
February 27, 2014
Nicole Snow, Darn Good Yarn creator, owner, late-night-picture-taker of new merchandise, over-achiever, arm-knitting fiend, and generally all-around fabulous entrepreneur, is kind of a rock star in Maine. No, seriously.
She lives in Piscataquis County in Maine, in a town called Sebec. According to the US 2010 census, 630 people live in Sebec. But with a trusty internet connection and FedEx delivery trucks, her reach has extended across the state and across the world.
As Darn Good Yarn expands and more people learn about our support of families across the world, responsibly sourced materials, and gorgeous products, more and more people are supporting us and our goals. And we love the support! One of the folks that supports us? The governor of Maine, Paul R. LePage.
Nicole was even invited to the “State of the State” address earlier this month. Governor LePage is all amount micro-enterprise business. He spoke all about it in the address:
“We are a state of entrepreneurial “doers.” There are 40,000 small businesses in Maine. Our state has roughly 130,000 micro-businesses. They employ 170,000 people. They drive our economy. If they could each add one more job, that would transform our economy.
Nicole Snow of Sebec is a very successful micro-entrepreneur. She created Darn Good Yarn, and she does all of her business online. Nicole is growing her company into a million-dollar business—thanks to the internet. Nicole, please stand.”
*Insert Wild Applause Here!*
How fabulous is that? Thanks, Governor LePage!
Not only that, but Nicole’s local paper has hopped on the Darn Good Yarn train as well. The Piscataquis Observer featured the Darn Good Yarn story on the front page! Check it out!
Thanks to the Piscataquis Observer for your support as well! We have so much love for everyone out there who helps spread the word about the great things Darn Good Yarn is doing, and all of the great stuff we provide!
We want to continue to expand, offer more great products, and be able to employ more great people around the world. Help us out if you can – talk to your local yarn shop about carrying Darn Good Yarn, share us on Facebook and Pinterest, and, if you have a website of your own, look into becoming a Darn Good Yarn Affiliate. Thanks so much to everyone who already supports us and loves our yarn and craft supplies. We love ya!
February 21, 2014
From chats on Facebook and many inspiring emails, I know lots of you Darn Good Yarners do lots of great crafting for charities of all kinds. There are so many great places to donate knitted and crocheted items! It’s great that so many people are inspired to give to great causes.
Here at Darn Good Yarn we are all about supporting people. Supporting the families in India, Nepal and Chile that make our yarn, and supporting everyone that love and support us in every way that we can! Now we have a whole new way in which we want to support everybody out there that is crafting for charity.
If you have a charity event that you are crafting for, or items that you are donating for a raffle – anything for a good cause – we’d love to give you a great deal on our fabulous Assorted Chiffon Ribbon.
You can get great discounts on packs of chiffon and make excellent projects that will bring in the money for charity. Don’t know what to make? We might have a few ideas…
Interested? Want to get crafting for charity right away? Just tell us all about it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll let you in on all the great deals available!