I’m continuing my business series on reflecting at the early years of the business. I talked about why I started my hand dyed yarn business, how I started it and now I’m reflecting on decisions I made and how I grew from them.
I’m using the term “What I Wish I Knew” lightly as some were things I knew but maybe didn’t prioritize it as much as I am now.
I don’t know if I knew back then just how big social media was. I’m not involved in social media in my personal life and so I never really took note of how much everyone used it. It’s just never really been my thing. I didn’t use Instagram much before having a business and I rarely post of Facebook. I have learned just how valuable social media is. It’s how businesses market these days.
The thing that I also didn’t think too much about it how people like to invest in the person behind the business as well. This means putting myself, Lauren, out there in addition to everything agirlandherwool has to offer. It’s new to me, but I’ve been doing a lot of things I never expected myself able to do. It’s definitely something I will always be working on, but I am proud of how much I put myself out there for my business. I’m appreciative to everyone I’ve been talking to over the internet!
I knew having a YouTube channel would also help me put myself out there more. I held off on starting one for a while because again, it’s way out of my comfort zone. It’s only gotten easier though and I do think it’s something that is vital to a small business. I feel like I’m able to open up more than just through text and start to be more comfortable with my personality. I edit my vlogs less than I used to and just let myself show. Embarrassing or not.
It’s possible to grow a business all by yourself, but it certainly helps to network. When I started my business, it was a hobby and I wasn’t necessarily concerned with the growth. Sure, I wanted people to buy my yarn, but I didn’t necessarily want to put in the effort of growing a following (see previous section about my internet insecurities). As I changed my mental state of seeing my business as such instead of as a hobby, I realized that growth happens by networking and collaborating. Without a doubt, this is something that I’m still working on and will continue to work on probably forever. Every time I reach out to someone or put myself out there, it’s a win. I was listening to the Knitmore Girls the other day (I will say I’m way behind. It’s still the summer for them), and they talked about rewarding yourself once something stressful (or moreso daunting/not fun/ hard to do) is complete. It’s such a simple and genius idea and so true.
I set a 2021 goal to keep working on networking and I’ve already started the process. It’s something I haven’t prioritized so far, but it is something that is vital to a small business.
Reinvesting in your business
When I first started out, I borrowed from our personal finances to buy the initial materials. I mean, with starting a business, the money has to come from somewhere. While it wasn’t that much money, I had an initial goal of putting the business in the green as soon as possible. This meant that my primary focus was paying us back as soon as possible. When I would estimate how much money I needed to keep for business expenses, I never really accounted for growth. I more paid us the profit instead of planning on expenses growing over time. Amatuer, but that’s the whole point of this blog post.
As I started paying us back much sooner than I probably should have, I had to keep borrowing from us to keep up with the growth. I would essentially break even only to borrow back from us. While it’s not a bad thing to pay off debts before reinvesting in the business, it just made things messy. Looking back on it, I wish I knew that it was ok to hold onto that debt (personally not with a bank) and use the money appropriately to grow.
Buying things that save you time
Building off the previous one, I wish I knew that it was okay to spend money to save me time. I think I always told myself (and still tell myself) that it’s not worth spending the money when it’s something I can do myself. Early on, I think that’s reasonable.
I watch other YouTubers who are Etsy/small business shop owners, not yarn dyers, who enjoy talking about their businesses as well. Advice that I often hear is that it’s worth spending money on the points in your business where you have a bottleneck. It’s also worth spending money where it saves you time because it means you can do more for your business. It really started to hit home and I have to say that it really has paid off.
One of my first early purchases to save me time was my electric skein winder. Originally, I was winding by hand, meaning that I wound the yarn off of cones by manually spinning my yarn swift around and around. This was a time killer and a shoulder killer. At the beginning it was manageable, but there’s no way it would be an option anymore. Let me just tell you that when someone ordered 300g of sock yarn, it was a marathon for my arm.
At first, trying to save money, I tried a swift that had a handle on it so I could crank it at waist height instead of winding it up above my shoulder height. However, it didn’t work and I had to return the product. Once that didn’t work out, I found my only and best option was to invest in the skein winder from Crazy Monkey Creations. It really has changed my business and again, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with orders if I were still manually winding skeins by hand.
My dye studio is something we do not acknowledge our appreciation of enough. I no longer have to work around the eating schedule in our kitchen. I can leave things to cool and have it not be in the way. I generally have more space and time to devote to dyeing with it being it its own area. Being able to invest in that dye studio has definitely been a game changer and one that I should celebrate more.
My spin dryer! This one didn’t save me energy, but saves me TIME. This is a huge thing. Yarn that I dye is dry in only a few hours. Minis can be dry in less than an hour. This is a big deal if I need to add a skein last minute to a gradient that didn’t turn out right. It also means I dont have a backlog of yarn drying. I also don’t have massive amounts of wet towels either, which adds more moisture to the air, further slowing down the drying time.
A lot of the items above have been investments in me and my time. Without them, I’d have to have longer processing times and more stress generally. I definitely wish I had known sooner that investing in my business in this way would pay off, even if the direct ROI didn’t seem apparent.
Setting small milestones is fun!
When I started my business, I set a few small milestones. It was really fun to think about them and hit them along the way. Even if they aren’t these huge long-term goals, it is fun to celebrate along the way, even if it’s just a $1 celebration.
You’ll always look back and think ‘what was I thinking’
There are so many times when we improve on things that it’s only natural to look back and realize how far we’ve really come. When I first started, experience, time and money were all minimal and so of course things are better now than they were. It’s important to take advantage of the early opportunities to both fail and succeed as well as learn about what works for the business and what doesn’t. I know over the years, I will continue to look back and think “I thought that was a good idea…?” but know that at the time, it was an adventure to go on. A good experience to learn from.
A lot of the above has to do strictly with business and I thought it would be fun to also reflect on what I wish I knew, specifically relating to the yarn business.
The first is that people really like to see swatches. I completely understand. I think it’s important as a buyer to know exactly what you are buying and how well it will fit into your crafty project. When I first started out, I knit swatches, but without really interacting with people, I didn’t know of its value. These days, I get requests for it and so I better understand the need for it. It can be really difficult to see what the skein will look like worked up.
Kits work really well for customers who want to know what the yarn can and should be used for. I’ve found kits that I list in my shop, specific to certain patterns, do fairly well. I find the ones based on certain patterns do even better than those generic 2 or 3 skein sets. In general, I’ve been trying to dye up matching tonals for variegated skeins. Even more so, I’m planning to offer up more kits in 2021, so stay tuned!
The last thing goes along with one of my 2021 goals of staying ahead. I hope to be more aware of patterns that are up and coming by designers. One way for me to do this is to volunteer to be a test knitter so I can have a general idea of what’s to come. Often when designers ask for test knitters, they at least say what yarn will be needed, which is helpful for pre-planning kits.
That’ll wrap it up for today, but I plan to discuss more about what’s to come in the future in the next blog post in this series, posting in two weeks. Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a post. You can also check out my YouTube vlog where I can talk more about this topic.