We have been planning our business for the best part of a year and been active for almost three months now and for all the planning in the world, the biggest challenges have come in the last few weeks when our plans became a reality.
Firstly, for anyone reading this who, like us, wants to work for themselves and be their own boss, I cannot recommend it enough. Get out there, start plotting and doing. It is hard but it is so much fun and the best part is you get to meet loads of people who love doing the same thing as you.
And this is what we have learned on our journey so far:
You know when are sat flicking through Instagram looking at everyone’s dreamy lives filled with upcycled furniture painted with some fantastically named Annie Sloane paint and they have thick pile cream carpets and a knitting stash to die for? And that they are always knitting, like in the day when the rest of us are working? Well that is not reality. I’m bursting my own bubble here a bit as well. For if you were to zoom out of that Instagram field of vision, their houses would be much like our own; covered in washing piles, breakfast pots and chaos from the school run. Quite possibly lit by an energy saving light bulb that makes everything look like an old episode of the Simpsons.
We are image-led and photos make for wonderful stories. The best advice for any crafting business is to have great photos to show people why your handmade creation is better than anyone else’s but remember when looking at others, they are not the whole story. Great photos can make or break a business but they are not the business. Behind those scenes are people working hard, more than likely around the clock and an instagram photo does not tell you that.
We organise ourselves with a strict calendar to make sure that we keep our promise to you to post your box out on the first of each month. We need things by certain dates or else our plans for that month simply will not work. This is difficult for me because I normally work on a different system known as winging it. Winging it does not work in business quite as much as I would like it to and the lead times we need for our content is much longer than we first anticipated. We did it, we got the first boxes out with all the stock in and that was a success but we learned how to do it better next time. Plan your time wisely and tell those around you so they know too. Shared calendars are superb for this.
3. Adapt and change.
This is where you come in. We’ve had some great feedback over the past couple of months about what you would like to see, what works and what doesn’t work. Our business has become a living beast in its own right that grows alongside us. You guys are what feeds the beast, your feedback tells us where we need to pay more attention and create new ideas. Such as making supporting videos for the boxes, which we will be putting up on the site very soon. When starting your own craft business, be prepared to adapt and change.
4. Connecting is good.
Everyone we work with on a box, we chat to and interview. It always feels like serendipity that we have connected with this person. Some of the interview chats have gone on for an entire evening but felt like they passed in the blink of an eye. Both Gina and I are naturally shy people, it sometimes takes us way out of our comfort zones to do this. I attended Leeds Wool Fest recently, I got to talk to some lovely knitters, yarn producers and designers. I just wanted to say hello to them and tell them I liked their work. And I am hoping anyone I met that day did not realise under my cool exterior was a sweaty mess with a crazed internal voice wondering what I was doing starting up conversations with people I didn't already know. But it was brilliant, I came away having met some incredibly talented women and looking in awe at what they all do.
5. Attention to detail is key.
We learned so much from putting our first box together, what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved. Over a bottle of wine we talked through our plans on how we can make the boxes better, what we can do different and what the most important things are that we need to concentrate on each month. So we know that July’s box will be fantastic and as we move towards the end of the year, it will just keep getting better. Therefore, I endorse checking in with yourself and your goals on a regular basis. We naturally do this monthly but it works for everything you want to acheive in life, not just setting up in business.
At the start of this year I sat down and made a very short list of three things I wanted to achieve this year to create less talk and more action. Each month I go back to that list and see how far I have come with all my goals and then write down all the steps I need to take the coming month to reach the next stage.
6. It takes time.
It takes time to get to know you and for you to trust in the quality of what we do. Building up a craft business profile in a market that has so many amazing businesses already is hard work. Letting you know we are here takes time too, our virtual wave and "hello, here we are!" can get lost in the crowd. Keep waving and shouting about what you do. People will hear you.
7. You Need Support.
Both financial and personal. You want people to buy the creative crafty thing you are selling but you need enough cash behind you to support you until you reach that break even point. There is no saying when this will happen, it could be instant or a gentle build up. But since this is a great unknown, plan for worse case scenario and hope for the best.
But it is more than just money, running your own business is putting a piece of yourself out there and that can be nerve-wracking at times. You need someone there who will be willing to talk you down from the precipice every time you need it, someone who keeps your grounded not just when things are going well but when you get carried away or when things are not moving as you would like. Both are equally as important to starting a craft business.
8. It will surprise you.
There are some things which have happened over the past year that have surprised me. Sonic Knits isn’t too far from the original plan that we set out to do but it is different and we have had to keep an open mind about where this is taking us.
9. Plan but also do.
You can talk about starting a craft business, you can work out your costings, budget and plan. You can figure out your branding and social media campaigns. You can write and re-write the business plan but the biggest leap is to do. To take that first step and make an investment. That is also the scariest thing because that is the point it goes from being a dream to being a reality that you have invested your savings into and at that moment you need it to work. And you have to keep doing, a craft business in this market is not going to run itself. Organise your time wisely and do the work.
10. We know nothing.
Well not exactly nothing but we are very much aware that we still have a lot of things to learn about how we work, what we sell and what you guys want. Being open to knowing that you know nothing is key to constantly improving and developing.
To celebrate, we will be giving away a skein of yarn from our July box to one lucky winner. To enter: leave a comment below with your favourite yarn to work with. We will pick a winner at midday on Friday 1 July. Good luck!