It’s a Launch! Introducing the Women Entrepreneur Series and an Underground Crafter

Readers, I have an announcement and an introduction! This is huge!

Several weeks ago, I attended a wonderful conference on women entrepreneurs. As I sat in the audience listening to all these women, I was inspired to start sharing the story of other women. Women who craft, run viable businesses, and/or are entrepreneurs.  My thinking is if these women inspire me, why not let them inspire you, too?

So…{Horns please…}

With this posting, S2 Stationery and Design’s blog is officially announcing a monthly Women Entrepreneurs Series.

That’s it! The goal of the series is yes, to inspire, but also to give you a bit of a window into the world of women making a go of their dreams and desires. I am fortunate enough to have women that I work with in The {NewNew} who have so kindly signed up to be part of this series. I’m excited not just to share their stories, but to also hear your stories!

Something I’ve learned, especially from women, is that when we open ourselves up enough to share these stories, we learn much more about our selves and our abilities.  We also gain ideas, foster a sense of community and develop friendships.  So speak up and share your story, even if it’s not on this blog. You never know who and what you’ll inspire!

If you are a woman entrepreneur who has a fascinating story, please send me a note and we’ll get started on focusing on you, your dream, your business and your story. As my friend and co-worker enjoys telling me, “everyone has a story.” She’s absolutely correct!

With that said, let me introduce you to the wonderful Marie Segares, Proprietress of Underground Crafter.  You should also check out her etsy shop to learn more about her handmade wares.

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1. Hi! Please introduce yourself. Tell us your name (as you want it to appear), your company name, how long have you been in business and what is your business.

My name is Marie Segares and I’m the proprietress of Underground Crafter.  My business officially launched in January, 2008.  I am a needlecrafts entrepreneur focusing on crochet and knitting.  I teach private and group lessons, design patterns for publication, and also sell my finished pieces.

Little D Ami Group Shot

2. How do you define “entrepreneur”?

In the most generic sense, people use entrepreneur to describe any small business owner.  I define an entrepreneur as someone who is flexible and creative, willing to take risks, and willing to assume responsibility for the success or failure of their own decisions and efforts.  There are many entrepreneurial people who aren’t business owners just as there are many small business owners who don’t seem to be entrepreneurs.

3. When did you first think you could be an entrepreneur?

To be honest, I always dreaded the idea of having my own business.  My mom’s family is very entrepreneurial and so I grew up seeing the dark realities of running a small business.  While most of my friends always had that dreamy idea of “I want to be my own boss,” I understood that entrepreneurs work way more hours than most people who are employed by others, are accountable to many customers (internal and external) rather than to one boss, and take a lot of financial risk.  Nonetheless, a few years ago, my creativity was bursting at the seams and I wanted to set up my business legitimately and professionally, so I established Underground Crafter.

4. Did you have an “ah ha” moment? What was it?

I didn’t have any one “ah ha” moment.  Basically, over time I realized that if I didn’t start establishing my own business, I would never be free to leave my full-time career.  Right now, my business is part-time while I work full-time, but I realized that if I didn’t take the leap into at least part-time business ownership, I would never do it.  I hope to slowly expand my business until it is able to become “my real job.”

5. What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

I am a big fan of intellectual and creative freedom, so that is my favorite thing.  I also like that I can trace the success or failure of my business directly back to me – it isn’t tied up in any one else’s drama.

6. What is your least favorite thing?

My least favorite thing is not having the time to devote to my business to expand it.  It is really tough when you have a business part-time.  On the one hand, I enjoy the benefits of being employed by someone else full-time (e.g., health insurance, a regular paycheck) but on the other hand, I devote a lot of energies to my full-time work that could be used to build my own business.

7. What do you do when you feel the weight of being an entrepreneur? Not every day is great, how do you deal with this?

I have a great partner, family, and friends that I turn to when I’m overwhelmed or when something doesn’t go the way I planned.  I also tend to be more creative in those times, which can end up helping out my business.

8. Walk us through a typical day/week. Do you have a schedule on how you choose to focus on creating or the business side of things?

I usually spend some time each day in front of my computer.  This might be writing a blog post, updating my website, writing a letter for a design sample to submit to a magazine, or creating a new handout for a class.  I also keep track of deadlines and longer term projects with Google docs.

I usually update my bookkeeping and files monthly.  Until then, I leave everything in one big “to be filed” folder.  I do pay the bills as they come in because I’m worried I’ll forget and miss a due date :).

I do some of my crocheting or knitting on the commute each day, and then at home while I’m watching t.v.  I work on larger projects during weekends.  In between deadlines, I work on my long term projects.  For example, this fall, I’ll be teaching at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival and next spring at the All Things Fiber Camp, so I have to make samples, projects, and handouts in advance.  I’m also planning to launch some self-published patterns on Etsy and Ravelry later this year, so I’m finishing up writing the patterns and then will be testing them this summer.  All of this requires a lot of pre-planning so it is important for me to stay organized.

9. Do you work a full-time job? If so, what do you do? Does it interfere with your business? How do you balance these?

Yes, I work a more than full-time job and also another part-time job.  In one way, it interferes with my business but in another way, my other work provides me with the financial flexibility to work on projects which might not pay off until months down the line.  Sadly, I mostly balance these at the expense of my own sleeping!  But this year, I have been more active in taking care of myself.  I started going to the Y with a friend and have enrolled in some creative classes to give me a spark.

10. How do you keep yourself focused?

I tend to make lists.  I keep a physical calendar and also track deadlines on a Google docs spreadsheet.

11. How do you keep yourself creative?

As I mentioned, I’ve been taking classes this year.  I also find that teaching a craft keeps you creative, since you must always stay on top of different trends and learn new skills so you can teach these to your students.  I also read a lot of crochet and knitting books and blogs (and quilting blogs too).

12. Who is your business hero and why?

My mom is my business and personal hero.  She took a big risk when I was in high school by launching her own business and has really found success.  She is constantly reinventing her business while keeping true to her core values so she has been able to get through many economic ups and downs.  And, of course, she did this while also being a mom, cooking real dinners, and keeping on top of me and my sister to be successful in our own lives.

13. How have you found success? How do you measure it?

I am still a long way from calling my business a success though I have met many of the goals I set for myself when I started (for example, I’ve taught over 100 beginners to crochet – not too shabby for a part-time business focused on small class sizes!).  This year, I’ve set some public, professional goals on my blog.  I’ve kept these process oriented and about me developing as a crafts professional because I prefer to keep the business and financial details private.  But I have ideas about the monetization of meeting these goals in terms of increasing the success of my business.

In the last six months, as I’ve started to think more seriously about the future of my business, I’ve also shifted focus from making and selling finished objects to self-publishing more of my patterns.  (This is why my Etsy shop doesn’t have much in the way of finished items for sale right now – I’m in the process of preparing my patterns to sell in the fall.)

14. What does your business offer the world that is unique?

Obviously, I’m not the only crochet designer or crochet/knit teacher in the world or even in New York.  As a teacher, I have a tremendous amount of patience (shockingly, since I’m fairly impatient in the rest of my life!) so I work well with beginners.  I also have a great love of the crafts and want to share that with other people.

Teal Multi hexagon Scrubbies

15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

In 5 years, I’d like to have at least one crochet book published.  In 10 years, I’d like to be working full-time in the needlearts industry.

16. As an entrepreneur and business woman how do you view sustainable enterprise? Is this a concern for you now? If not, are you considering it for the future?

I think being responsible for our own impact on the planet is critical to the future existence of our race (meaning, humans) on the Earth.  We can continue not to worry about the environment and that’s ok – the Earth will endure as will many other creatures, but we will have made the planet inhospitable for ourselves.  I’m not currently a sustainable enterprise, but I do consider the environmental impact of everything I do and try to balance it with other factors, such as cost and customer preferences.  I have been moving towards using mostly natural fibers in the past year, but I don’t think it is ok to just throw out synthetic yarns that I already have.  I put those to use making samples and kits for my beginner classes.

17. How do you view money? Do you work to live, or live to work (If this is too personal, you don’t have to answer. I’m more curious if view it as a MUST, or if it’s okay to have less as long as your happy. That kind of thing.)

Living in New York makes you view money differently than in many other places.  I’m a native New Yorker and have seen the City go from a place that tourists feared to a place where long-time residents are financially forced out so that people from other parts of the country can live their dream of spending a few years in the Big Apple.  In this context, money is something I need everyday or I’m in danger of being homeless, hungry, etc.  On the other hand, my full-time work is in the non-profit sector and my business is in an area not known for huge profits.  So I think the answer is that I value money but I don’t value great wealth.

18. Let’s talk about pricing. How do you price? How do you deal with competitors pricing? How do you respond to requests for discounts/deals? What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs in this area?

For my teaching, I have a set rate for private lessons and I really don’t budge on that.  I’m not too concerned about the fact that other teachers charge less – I think the experience of taking a class with me and all of the preparation and follow up support I provide make it worth the extra dollars!

When I teach through a venue, I am willing to get a lower rate if they are active in promoting the class since that saves me time (and therefore, money).

I have used many different methods for pricing my finished pieces, but ultimately, I don’t earn as much by selling my finished work, which is why I’m refocusing my efforts towards selling my patterns.  I will always have some finished objects to sell (such as samples of my patterns), but I won’t be creating a lot of new things just to sell as I did in the past.

I think pricing is pretty personal, because only you can judge how much profit you feel comfortable making.  But making a profit is key!  New entrepreneurs should take a look at all the various pricing tips available online (and there are many!) and come away with a formula that makes sense for them.

19. What is your guiding philosophy? What piece of advice do you want to share with other entrepreneurs or have them take away from your experience?

My guiding philosophy is to remember that you are in business.  It may be a business that allows you to do things you enjoy more than other types of work, but it isn’t just a hobby.  This extends to many things you do, like keeping good records, pricing, how you promote yourself, how you deal with dissatisfied customers, etc.  I also try and remain flexible, like my mom does, especially as technology changes.

In terms of advice, entrepreneurs should have a good understanding about the use of social media.  It is much cheaper than traditional or even online advertising, BUT if you consider the amount of time you have to invest in staying active online, it may not actually be cheaper.  I think entrepreneurs, especially crafty ones, often forget to value their own time.  If it takes you 15 hours a week to promote your business through your social media outlets, is that cheaper than a weekly ad that costs a few hundred dollars?  Then again, the connection you establish with current and potential customers may be worth the extra investment of time (especially if you lack the cash flow for an ad!).  In other words, understand the cost associated with social media and then decide if and how much time to devote to it for promoting your business.

I also think entrepreneurs need to be assertive about seeking advice and help from others who have found success.  I had a mentor, Mary Nolfi, for two years through the Crochet Guild of America‘s mentoring program who gave me really personalized tips from her experience as a crochet designer.  I’m still learning and I remain open to feedback, which I think is key.

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Reading Marie’s interview gave me goosebumps! At points, I felt like she was describing my current space as an entrepreneur- losing sleep, working a full-time job, wanting more time to focus on the business and create. It’s tough work! It is also reassuring, in a way,  to know that there are many of us out being forces and fighting for what we want and believe in.

I wish Marie the best of success as she pushes forward and I hope that in five or more years she returns to the blog series to update us on her successes, failures, published works and whether or not she moved away from her full-time job.

Until next month, stay inspired!

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

6 thoughts on “It’s a Launch! Introducing the Women Entrepreneur Series and an Underground Crafter”

    1. Thanks for the bingpack! Marie’s interview was such a delight to be part of and to share. Also I’m a knitter and crocheter so I love learning about women doing great things in that area. Please continue to spread the word!

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