Posts Tagged ‘small business’...
January 13, 2015
Nicole recently shared her business growth secrets of Darn Good Yarn during her interview with Felix Thea of Shopify Masters. In the podcast, you’ll find out Nicole’s tips for anyone wanting to turn their hobby into a business and way of life on a bootstrap budget. Find out about how Nicole started Darn Good Yarn, a triple bottom line business, the tips and tricks she uses to attracted and retain customers, grow her social media audiences, and increase conversion rates! Enjoy!
Listen on the Shopify Masters site HERE.
Listen on iTunes HERE.
January 8, 2015
Nicole Snow, Darn Good Yarn Founder and President, was interviewed on SCENE TV, a local Schenectady show by host Maya McNulty. Nicole and Maya chat about the founding, the mission, and the future of Darn Good Yarn. From the story of the founding of Darn Good Yarn to business advice and how to grow your social following, it’s all there! Take a look!
October 17, 2014
Hey Everyone! This morning Nicole was a contestant on Dream Big America! It’s a radio show contest highlighting entrepreneurs in the US that have big ideas. Nicole gave a fabulous two minute pitch about the concept behind Darn Good Yarn and shared our story. You can listen to the whole show or just Nicole’s pitch HERE.
And now, we need your vote! Voting started this morning at 9 am ET with the start of the show and will go until next Thursday, October 23 at 5 pm. If Darn Good Yarn wins this weeks contest, we will advance to the monthly finals where we will compete with the weekly winners from this month. You can vote right HERE on the main page of Dream Big America.
August 22, 2014
Hi all! I’ve been waiting for this week…the official Darn Good Yarn husband is home! Mike normally travels to different locations for work and is gone during the week, but he’s home now, at least for a few days, and it has made me grateful for the technology that allows me to work at home so I can spend more time with him. I’ve been enjoying Mike’s company and being able to be here will all of you too…definitely the best of both worlds. Maybe you didn’t know this, but the majority of Darn Good Yarn’s team works from remote locations. Joie and I are the only ones that are here in Schenectady. Everyone else works from as close as Maine and North Carolina to as far away as Australia! How do we do it? Let me tell you about a few of the technologies that allow our business to be a global entity.
Darn Good Yarn could not have existed in the way that it does, even ten years ago. With the development of cloud based solutions, anyone of our team members can login to apps, documents, calendars, social media sites, our ecommerce solution along with customer service apps, and just about anything else we need to run the business. It’s pretty fantastic, don’t you think? Let me tell you about a few of the specific solutions that we use.
Darn Good Yarn is a big fan of all things Google. We keep our schedules synced up on Google Calendar. Our Google Drive account is full of documents and spreadsheets that we each can create and share and then edit from home as we modify ideas and data. We use Google for our e-mail. We have meetings via Google Hangout and we connect with you on Google Plus! If you’re looking for a good solution to provide e-mail for your business, keep all of your documents in one place and have an amazing array of tools available to you with one login and password, Google will do it for you!
Shopify is our ecommerce solution of choice! We run our store (retail and wholesale) through them and they make it easy, quick, and convenient to organize our products and see our sales data at a glance. I can add multiple users to our Shopify account which makes it simple for our remote employees to login and see what’s going on too. There’s even a Shopify mobile app, so you can keep track of things on the go. And within Shopify are apps that help us serve customers better. Robin, is a customer service solution that brings all of our customer conversations into one place so we can stay on top of their questions and needs. And one more…Retention Grid helps us keep track of our customer base as a whole and lets us know how to serve each customer best and how to retain them. All of these can be accessed from anywhere in the world where there is internet access! It makes keeping balance between family and work life so much easier to achieve.
And how does this look in real life? It’s back to school time and our team members, Maggie and Jessica both have children that are headed back to the classroom. Maggie, our Vice President, works from her home office in North Carolina and occasionally needs to comes to visit us at DGY headquarters. Working from home allows her to be there when Ember, her daughter, gets home from school and be flexible in her schedule so she can maintain a balance between career and family life. Another team member, Jessica has never even been to DGY headquarters (yet!). After an interview on Google Hangout, she was hired and keeps her eye on our social media outlets all from home, with her two boys in the background. Dora is in Canada, Karleigh in Australia, Tia in Maine, and the list goes on. We all stay connected through these technology solutions and we can all do almost everything that we have to do at any computer. This model also allows us to hire employees from anywhere! I think it’s a pretty spectacular way to run a business!
What works for Darn Good Yarn might not be the exact right solution for your business, but I hope you realize that the same creative nature that helps you craft your goods and bring that craft to others is the same tool that you need to use to grow your business. Brainstorm and think of solutions that will work for you and imagine what you can make your business when think beyond the simple model of create and sell. Think big and allow those ideas to flow. Maybe it’s technology solutions that you need or maybe you need to think about adding multiple streams of revenue so you can keep your business afloat when one is running a little dry…whatever it is, keep your be open to possibilities and channel your creativity to come up with solutions that will work for you!
August 15, 2014
Hello! If you haven’t heard, I’ve been super sick with whatever the latest hack up your lung cold, cough and flu that has been going around and even though my body didn’t let me keep up with all of the things I had planned for last week, I didn’t let it keep me from being productive! I’ve said before that when the unexpected comes, it’s time to be flexible and go with the flow. Downtime is the perfect time to put a new project on your needles, and then think, get perspective, come up with new ideas, and make sure that you are staying true to your vision. When you have a chance (or are forced to) to step away from the daily grind, it’s easier to remember the big picture and think about whether all of the day-to-day is helping to achieve it. So, let me share just a few of the thoughts and ideas I had while recovering…
-New patterns…on day one of being under the weather, I took some Black Yickity Yak Wool, Reclaimed Suede Ribbon, and Recycled Rainbow Silk Yarn and came up with the Black Magic Woman Shawl. I’m looking forward to wearing this more and more as the weather turns cool with the upcoming fall! It’s going to be great for putting around my shoulders or tying around my waist with some leggings and t-shirt. I also made a wine bottle gift bag with our At the Bahamas Sari Silk Ribbon Yarn. This is going to give you a great way to present that bottle of wine to your host with the upcoming holiday party season. Better yet, make one for the host, but make sure to make one for yourself too! This looks amazing just sitting on the table. I’ll have the pattern out ASAP, so watch for it!
-New products…we just got in a huge shipment of product and there are so many new items on the site and so many more to come. Did you catch all the fun and vibrant colors of banana yarn? That’s just a piece of it! Thank you to all who are participating in our naming contests on our Facebook page! We love your ideas and wish we could use them all…but if you didn’t win, keep your eyes peeled for more because we still have lots of fresh products to bring you. We just got a fresh batch of sari skirts too! They won’t last long, so if you’ve been waiting to get one, now is the time. Between the new products and my next share, I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting at the computer.
-A book…yep, that’s right! I’m writing a book. Can you believe it? Sometime I can’t, but every time I get a second, it’s on my mind. And every time I get a minute or two, I sit down and try to get my ideas out. It’s going to be all me, all small business, and all to help you know all the secrets of how Darn Good Yarn became what it is and how I work to keep it going and growing…consider it my own personal consultation session with you!
-StitchesEast…if you’ve been reading the blog, you know that we’re going to be at Stitches East! We cannot wait to be part of the fun in Hartford, CN from October 9-12 and we’re making plans for a space that’s going to feel like home. We’re hoping you’ll feel as comfortable there as you do in your own living room. Please come see us, sit and chat, and knit or crochet a little or a lot. We’ll bring the yarn and needles, you just bring you! I can’t wait to see you there!
-Oh, and let me share one more thing with you! This week, we had a special visitor to our Schenectady, NY space. Linda, one of our fabulous Darn Good Yarn wholesalers, came to pick up a ton of yarn to take to the New York State Fair! Be sure to check her out in Syracuse, NY from August 21 to September 1 in the Wool Center across from the sheep barn. She says she’ll have all of Darn Good Yarn’s fibers that “grow on four legs.” Here’s wishing Linda a fabulous time at the fair - thanks for taking Darn Good Yarn to the people of New York!
So, sure, I wish that nasty virus had passed me by, but even though it didn’t, the upside is that my ideas bucket is full and I’m feeling more grounded in my vision of what I want Darn Good Yarn to be. And now with all that time to think and plan, it’s time to get back to the doing! Hope you all have a wonderful week!
July 29, 2014
Darn Good Yarn and Nicole have been up to some big things this summer…here’s a re-cap in case you missed anything!
*As a 2013 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Winner, Nicole attended the US Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Small Business Summit. Not only did she hear an inspiring speech by Colin Powell, but she was part of the teaching as well and helped lead a breakout session on Small Business Insider Tips with the other winners from the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, Danny Catullo of Catullo Prime Meats and Ari Hoffman of Gobie H2O.
*Nicole also attended the IRCE, the Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition, in Chicago and gave an insightful interview with Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa Media Center about starting a small e-commerce business. She gives her best advice and tells how she grew Darn Good Yarn by 2900% on a totally self-funded budget.
*Another great interview with Nicole happened on The Shut Up Show with Berni Xiong. Nicole chats with Berni and shares the story of Darn Good Yarn, how she finds courage in the face of fear, and how to build purpose and connection in your business. If you haven’t watched yet, you are missing out!
*And just a teaser here…Nicole took a trip to Toronto to get the ball rolling on something huge! I can’t wait to tell you what she is up to!
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!
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 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!
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!