Today it has been exactly one year since my first sale! There have been highs and lows, really busy periods where I barely have time to think, and really quiet periods where I second guess everything I'm doing.
This year I plan on continuing to expand not only the range of kits, but also the range of craft supplies you can buy on the website at the same time. But to ensure success going forward and ultimately be able to keep the venture going, it's important to reflect on what has gone before. So here are my top 5 lessons learnt from my first year of sales!
Sometimes you have to say no
I would LOVE to create patterns and kits of all the places you love, but unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn't make sense. It takes me about 2 months to create a kit. From the initial research, to the first sketches, then the computer based design process, actually stitching a prototype (which in itself takes me about a month of all my spare time on evenings and weekends), then creating the instruction leaflets, patterns, threadholders and stickers. If only one or two people buy the kit, unfortunately I would be making a huge loss.
Similarly, I would love to be able to offer collection, but at the moment, that just isn't feasible as most of my customers are local, not just the odd one, and so when I previously offered collection it meant I couldn't do anything in the few hours I was home., including putting kits together, but also the little things like going for a walk with the dog and my partner! Unfortunately at the moment offering collection just doesn't allow for a good work-life balance while I'm still working full time in healthcare.
It's ok to let things go out of stock.
I absolutely ran myself into the ground last year trying to make sure that nothing ever went out of stock. I would spend all my evenings after my day job putting threadholders together, and both days on a weekend creating kits. My poor partner ended up doing all of the housework and cooking, I never saw or spoke to friends or family, and I barely even spoke to my partner!
So I had a word with myself and reminded myself that while cross stitching is important to people, it's not the end of the world if certain kits are unavailable for a few days until I can restock them.
Social media will have your life if you let it!
Prior to this venture I used to stay clear of Instagram because to be honest I already spent too much time scrolling Facebook. I got my Instagram page for business purposes and ended up doing just as I thought I would, scrolling endlessly through all the lovely pictures, posts and stories. I also felt a real pressure to keep posting. Everywhere I kept reading that to grow an audience on Instagram you have to post constantly, at least once per day but preferably more! So I tried so hard initially but as you see in lesson number 2, I was already strapped for time and it was causing more stress than it was worth.
So some of you may have noticed I've taken a step back from social media through the week while all my mental energy is in my day job. I'm still responding to messages and comments through the week, but stories and posts are waiting for the weekend.....ironically apart from the one I posted today but that's because my 1 year anniversary has fallen on a Wednesday!
Just because something isn't an instant hit, doesn't mean it's a failure.
It may be so many other reasons, you may just not have the audience for it yet, or it's not the peak sales time. For example, when I released the Herd Groyne Lighthouse kit in summer I was so excited because it was my favourite so far. I adored the colours and had really enjoyed seeing it come together. On release, however, it didn't get half as much interest as the Whitley Bay kits had done. and to be honest, I was a little downhearted. But then again, the Whitley Bay kits were released peak lockdown 2020 when people were looking for something to do. Also Summer isn't the peak season for craft businesses anyway because people are happy doing outdoorsy things. And finally, while I'd built up a Whitley Bay focussed audience, I hadn't yet built a South Shields audience.
Don't compare yourself to others!
Luckily what I do is a little different to other cross stitch designers or other local artists, so I don't necessarily compare my products to others. But in the past I have compared myself to them in terms of how they run their business, services they can offer, their social media etc. All this did was result in me feeling down, like I was inferior. I would then end up putting lots of time and energy into trying to match up! Complete wasted time. Each business is unique, not just in it's products but also how it runs. What works for someone else, doesn't necessarily work for you, your business and your customers. Now I'm just focussing my attention on my business and customers alone allowing the business to grow organically.
I hope you've enjoyed that whistle-stop tour through the mind of someone starting up a craft business, and lets hope for a successful year ahead! I've got so many exciting things on the horizon, including the release of some super cute crafting supplies, as well as new designs!