Realism in Business

Snowy view

The realism of winter.

This view of our back yard isn’t the subject of this post, but it needed a picture 🙂 as I present some cold hard facts opinions of the realities of our business.

Disclaimer; I am not a business expert or even a former student of business courses. I have worked in both retail and service industries and observed many practices, some that are applicable to our style of business and others that are not.

In trying to analyze our business goals, I am trying to keep a realistic approach to what is possible.

We are in business to make some money, but also to provide customer satisfaction by providing quality handmade products. How much money and how many customers is dependent on many factors, primarily the amount we can produce and finding suitable markets.

Our business is completely handcrafted, limiting our expected growth by the amount of time we can spend creating. As we develop good markets, we need to be able to produce enough to supply them without running too low on merchandise. (With craft shows you’re unlikely to sell what you don’t have with you)(The things we have listed on line are also ready to ship, but custom orders can also be made to requests)

Hiring outside help, besides not being in our present budget, would defeat our premise of handmade by family. If we had to concentrate on quality control and supervision, it would take time away from our own creating. As it is, if a product we make doesn’t meet our self-imposed standards, we don’t sell it!

Having a variety of crafts. I’ve heard the opinion that a craft person should concentrate on only one medium, to become successful and create a professional,cohesive display. This is not our opinion! Throughout our lives, we have become acquainted with and proficient using a variety of supplies and tools. With three of us creating, that broadens our scope of expertise even more.

So when we display our work, at a craft show or on-line, our business will look more like a boutique or department store than a specialty shop. Our products are tied together with an array of colors and completely hand made by us. That way we don’t become bored and our customers mat be pleasantly surprised.

The above is far from a professional business plan, but is beginning to work for us. After years of gathering (investing in our business while we were still working for others) we are at the point of now pushing our business to its limits.

Do you have a small business? Or dream of having one? What are some realities that apply to yours? Would love to hear in a comment.

 

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Second Hat from My Pattern

This is the second hat that I’m knitting from a pattern I created for a hat, taking my inspiration from a free infinity scarf pattern . I am wearing the first one myself, I like the weight of it but didn’t feel the tri-colored yarn that I used showed the pattern to it’s best advantage.

A new hat on my needles

Green and Brown hat started with spiraled green stitch

This is one of the reasons I knit with my hand spun yarn, to better know which type of yarn is more suitable to which style of pattern. This hat is being knit from a hand dyed pastel green paired with a dark brown wool yarn. What do you think, compared to the first one?

tri-colored hat

First spiraled hat

Organization of Inventory

One of my goals this year is to improve my organization of inventory.  As a business I need to have control of my inventory. Although most of what I make has a long shelf life, instead of making what I enjoy, and struggling to make more of other things before the next show, I’ve decided to better track the specifics of things I sell and develop an inventory par level, to relieve some of the stress between back-to-back shows. Of course I will still be developing new projects as well as tweaking older ones, since another part of business is constant change. With a better inventory system I should be better able to see where I’ve been as well as where I’m going.

Last year I made a spread sheet for candle inventory. Instead of just writing down the scents I sold at each show (as I had in years past) I began by listing all of my scents (over 100),  included my beginning inventory, my sales of each for each month, and the number of each made each month. Then I had a running inventory to tell which ones needed to be made next. (Yes, this could be done in excel, but was easier for me to track by paper & pencil/pen on a columnar pad.) This year I have plans for slight changes which should make inventory keeping easier yet.

Soy candles at a craft show

Free smells of Soy Candles

Now at the end of the year, I have a complete picture, not only of my best sellers (which tend to vary from year to year) but  also of the monthly and seasonal variations which will allow me to better tailor my production for this year.

With candles somewhat under control, I decided that yarn needs to be my next challenge…..I spin a lot more than I realized, both at craft shows and at home.

I have more than five 18gal totes of yarn that I have spun over the last several years. (Plus a smaller amount that I have listed here and here. Starting  with the five craft show totes, I emptied them on the table, one at a time, sorting them by color.

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Then I started taking each color and dividing the skeins into families by color (dye lot) and fiber type, assigning a “parent” number and sub-numbers, and recording the pertinent information on a spread sheet. This way with a quick look at the parent number, I can tell a customer how many skeins of a particular yarn is available, whether it is in my back stock or listed on line.

two different colors ready to re-label

sorted into reds and greens

 

 The greens and the reds are completed (unless I find more in hiding). I am pulling some skeins to use in knitting hats and cowls. It’s a good way to display how well the yarn works, and gives me a better idea of the yardage needed for a project (although this will vary with pattern and individual gauges.) But best of all, I have the enjoyment of working knitting with my own yarn; A skein with no knots, easy to wind into a ball without tangles because of the way I wind my skeins from my spools. And I see how the shades of color work together to enhance the pattern, forming an unique project.

Yarn for future knitting

Some of my added stash

 

 

(Hover mouse on pictures below to read captions)

 

Organization is a lot of work, especially when I get distracted with knitting 🙂  Two totes turned into two and a half, plus a bag of stash for me. I have only three totes plus a small box left to do. It is progressing quicker than when I was handwriting everything on my old labels.

retagging yarn

new yellow tags ready to replace the old handwritten ones.

 

spreadsheet taking form

yarn and my inventory tools

Once finished I will know which colors I need to dye more of to spin. This leads to the roving totes that will next need to be “organized”! Then there’s hats etc that need their own spreadsheet!

As I create, I’ve also created “the never-ending organizing-inventory monster”! (I do like red though 🙂 All a part of growing a business I guess!

What inventory and organizing secrets have you discovered? Please share in a comment.

 

 

 

Fun Fur Doesn’t Felt, Does It?

Of course we know that fun fur doesn’t felt. That’s what makes it fabulous to knit with wool in a felting project. Held together while I knit, it looks kind of sparse, but when the wool shrinks, the appearance of the fun fur becomes more dense.

I had to take a picture of it fresh from the felting water.  It looks like a drowned, half bald rainbow creature! But just wait til it drys, and shakes itself fluffy!

cranberry felted hat

felted but wet

And It’s Finished!

The hat that I showed you as a work in progress is finished!

knitted hat awaiting felting.

finished cranberry and fun fur hat.

 

I realize it doesn’t look quite done, and it’s not!  This hat now joins the two others, that I have knitted recently, for their hot water felting bath. After their bath, and a day or two of air drying, I will take the final finished pictures. The mobius cowl (that matches the wildberry hat) will be left unfelted, so at least one of the four objects is complete and ready to label. It’s so nice and soft that I’m almost tempted to keep it for myself, but I’m running out of closet room!

Hats to felt and cowl to label.

Cranberry, Wildberry, and Colonial blend Hats, Plus knitted cowl

New Work in Progress

This is a WIP that I started the other day. It’s a hand spun, hand dyed shaded cranberry wool yarn that I’m combining with a fun fur for another hat to felt and add to my inventory.

hand spun, hand dyed yarn for a felted hat

Shaded Cranberry yarn as the start of a hat.

So far I am meeting or exceeding my inventory building goals. Now to make time to work on the rest of them (but knitting is too much like fun!)

Wondering Wednesdays #9

I started Wondering Wednesdays, because I was wondering what other people wondered about. Now I’m wondering if my title was wrong, if instead of locking myself in to a certain day to post on whatever subject I might think/guess is on your minds, that it would be more freeing to write a weekly post or two on whatever I am thinking or doing. So this is my explanation. Don’t want anyone wondering why Wondering Wednesday is disappearing, at least for a while.

But I will join the masses and for tonight wonder if anyone is going to win the BIG Powerball  Jackpot tonight? (It won’t be me, I didn’t buy a ticket, knitting needles were more useful.)

wildberry handspun marian cowl

New needles and a cowl half knitted

I wonder how it might change someone’s life? Would it be a good change? Or bring more problems than one could ever imagine?  My hope is that it would have a positive effect on the winner and those close to him or her. That they would have the wisdom to use it for the best benefit to themselves and others. It’s nice to dream about, but most people’s needs are much smaller than the amount of the jackpot.

I wonder what would you do as a winner?

 

Another Hat on my Needles

The other day I started organizing my hand spun yarn inventory that I carry to craft shows with me. Of course a few of the skeins jumped out and said “use me, keep me, knit me”

There were three skeins that I had spun from colonial wool in a colorway called Wildberry, so of course these were among the keepers! The color is deep and rich, with all the tones that one would get when combining blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries and others into a mixed berry jam….but non-fattening.

a future felted hat in the making

wildberry hand spun yarn

I started a hat which I will felt. I bought larger needles to make a matching cowl. I may even make some finger-less gloves if there’s still yarn left! Yes I really like the texture and color of this yarn, so am treating myself to some fun knitting. Naturally the results will join my craft show inventory, but at least the yarn gets a little outing and is replaced in a different tote with more hat friends 😉

Photography

Today is the first day of a free course on photography that I signed up for. I am hoping to learn lots about improving my pictures.

I’ve already picked up some useful information on the teacher’s wonderful blog.  Be sure to check it out for some great tips on both photography and blogging.

Wondering Wednesday #8 Dryer Balls?

Have you ever wondered “what are dryer balls?” “why/how are they used?”  “how are they made?”

Dryer balls are simply felted wool balls, that you place in your dryer. They help fluff your clothes and absorb moisture to shorten drying time. A natural product with no added scent, they are great for people with fragrance sensitivities. However if you practice aromatherapy, you can easily add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil.

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finished dryer balls

The other day, when I was playing with fiber, I weighed some extra top to make into dryer balls.

Once they are shaped, they are wet felted by agitating them in hot soapy water. When finished the soft fibers have joined together to form a firm ball.

I use two or three to a dryer load, but have used the same ones repeatedly for over a year now. (In spite of their attempted escapes, by stowing away in shirt sleeves, they are always returned.)

Before having heard of “dryer balls” a friend had suggested that I make “cat balls” to sell and described how she does it. After some experimenting, I’ve changed her methods a little, adding colored wool to solid colors and making a variety of sizes. After selling some of the regular sized cat balls for use as dryer balls, I added larger natural colored ones to my line.

Currently I make mini cat balls, regular cat balls, jingle balls, and dryer balls for my craft shows. I’m considering making enough to offer them on-line too. What do you think?

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craft show display

 

Disclaimer; No cats or sheep are harmed in the making of these balls 🙂 However these balls should not be used by small children or chewing dogs.