Spring Crafts in Chelsea

This coming Saturday, May 19th, between 11AM-4PM,  I’ll be participating in the 2012 Spring Crafts in Chelsea.

Last fall, I participated in Crafts in Chelsea, and wind aside, enjoyed my time at the event. It was my first solo-tabling event that year and while I didn’t make a crazy amount of money, I made enough to make up for the expenses and have some money left over. It was a success in my book!

This year, I’m doing things a bit differently. This may be my only tabling/market event in 2012 (with my upcoming trip) and I’m determined to do things a bit differently. For starters, I’m going to talk to everyone who comes to my table and let them know about my work and my goals. I am also not going crazy making things, but I am offering:

  • more men specific items
  • more children specific items (although I think it’s too late for me to try and get some summer camp postcards ready…hmmm)
  • more cards for teachers and notes they can use for end-of-the-year
  • I’m also going to have a few more “dad” specific things since Father’s Day is approaching.

Lord help me, I only have a week to get this all done! The biggest part, I’ll be getting done today, so that’s a relief.

Anyhow, I’m really excited for this event. It’s going to be a great time out, hopefully a gorgeous day (last year was nice, but windy and many of my items flew under parked cars and required me having to run around the street for them), and well, I’ll be there, so I hope you’ll come out!

In addition to me being there, there will be tons of other NY based artists that I know and love selling their wares. From jewelry to children’s goods, to paper (like mine) and bath and body items, everything will be available. Not to mention you’ll be buying locally, supporting hand-made AND my favorite part, participating in an event that raises money for educational purposes. My fee to participate in this event goes directly to P.S. 11, the school that resides on that block. The Etsy NY Team works with the PTA of P.S. 11 to help raise money necessary to keep arts and other educational activities running for the children. A cause, worthy of my time and definitely an interest in charitable giving for S2 Stationery and Design.

You can find out more information on the Etsy New York Team’s Website.

You can also RSVP to the event on our Facebook page. I tried to invite all of my NYC peeps, but I’m not sure that I got everyone.

Hope to see you there! And if not, send me some positive energy-that’s what half of life is about anyway. I’ll write a recap after the event next week.

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January’s Woman Entrepreneur – Kerry Batty of K. Batty Design & Stationery

After a brief hiatus, the monthly Woman Entrepreneur series is making a come back…I think (I am working on my schedule for the rest of the year).

I am pleased to present the lovely Kerry Batty of K. Batty Design and Stationery for this month. She is a fellow {NewNew} team member who I got to know when I did my blogging workshop for team members back in October. Since our meeting, we’ve talked a bit, okay a lot, and will be working together in the blogsphere. We already kind of do as  writers for the NewNew Blog. Kerry in the future will be a guest blogger on my blog and I will be doing the same on hers.  Exciting, no? I think so! We are still working out the details so a formal announcement will be out soonish, but until then, I’ll leave you to read about Kerry, her work, and thoughts on being an entrepreneur.

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Hi! Please introduce yourself. Tell us your name, your company name, how long have you been in business and what is your business. 

Hello! My name is Kerry Batty. I am the creative director-accountant-coffee maker at my own little design & stationery business called K. Batty Design & Stationery. I’ve been in design for many years (more than 6!) but opened my Etsy shop to sell stationery as K. Batty in 2009.

How do you define “entrepreneur”?

Someone who works for themselves.  I think my definition is more about a mind set than what you actually do.

When did you first think you could be an entrepreneur?

I always new I could do it. I just didn’t know that I would do it. My parents & grandparents have all been entrepreneurs at some point, owning & running businesses of various kinds as I was growing up. My dad has run his veterinary practice my whole life right on our farm in North Carolina so I have always had him as an example and, watching him, I knew that I could create & manage my own business.

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

I’ve had several on my journey to working for myself. My first one came when I realized that I could be a designer & make a living. My second came when I realized I didn’t have to work for any one person or agency to make that living. Freelancing was perfect for me because I liked the change of pace & projects.

But my ah ha moment for my current business was really more of an oh-no moment. Freelancing was great until I couldn’t get any. In a panic I took a full time job at a major ad agency as an art director, working with a good friend. Quickly I realized that the security I gained in a full time position was quickly lost in the toxic work environment. K. Batty Design & Stationery was born.

What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?

Hmmm…that’s a tough question. I am a natural leader so being an entrepreneur feels second nature to me. It’s a good feeling. I guess what I’m saying is that I like to be in charge. Ha!

What is your least favorite thing?

I do everything. I have to figure out what to do with my website, how to file my taxes. How to collect & pay sales tax & what forms do I need to fill out to do that. It’s tough to stay creative, develop designs AND do all the business-side things that I should be doing, like advertising.

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 know that tomorrow will be a new day. My grandfather used to say: Today is another day in which to excel.

Also, it helps to go for a run or take my dog for a walk. Bad days in your business can make you feel like you have the biggest problems in the world, especially if you are a company of 1. The change of scenery is a huge help, plus seeing other people, hearing their conversations…lends perspective.

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?

Ha, not sure that there is a typical week. I usually plan to work on blog posts Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, knowing that I have an automated summary of posts going out to my mailing list on Friday morning.

The rest really depends on what my client projects are & what stage of completion they are in at the moment. I check in on those first thing in the morning & set my day around what stage they are in. Do I need to send proofs to the client today? Get print quotes? Order materials? Develop more options? Make envelope liners?

If those projects are wrapping up, I spend my morning checking email & blog reading, then my afternoon working on my Etsy shop. Products always need to be updated, relisted, and further developed.

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

My husband is a sales & marketing consultant & is currently in the middle of several things. I manage his business (read: collect the money!) and also act as his design team & business partner. We joke around that I am the COO, the CTO, the CCO & have started introducing me as his “power wife.” Believe me, it’s a full plate.

How do you keep yourself focused? 

I know that stressing out will get ZERO off my plate. So, I set myself small tasks – usually a series of 3 things that are the next 3 things I need to do. Also I give myself permission to put things off until tomorrow. I won’t do anything well if I don’t give something my full attention.

How do you keep yourself creative?

Reading design blogs that have nothing to do with stationery is awesome. A good home DIY or craft post is great. Also, going for a walk. I try not to operate in a vaccum all the time. If I sit inside at my computer ALL day, it stifles my creativity.

Who is your personal hero and why?

I have 2. My parents. They have shown me what it really means to grow as a person. Watching them has provided me with valuable lessons in life. Sometimes about what to do…sometimes about what not to do…

Ok, I have 3. My husband. He is stronger than he realizes & never lets fear of a big risk stop him from taking it. Plus, he taught me to be calm in my decision-making. He tells me: There is always enough time to make the right decision.

Who is your business hero and why?

I would echo my answer from above, plus add that women today amaze me. As does the small business communities that we participate in. I am fortunate that so many women have started & run successful small businesses. They are not only willing to share their experiences, but coach others in their businesses. Yeah for me!

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

Yes, I think so & in many ways. One of the greatest forms of success for me in 2011 was having so many referrals from friends & family. They love me, I know, but to send their business to me & their friends’ business is a huge compliment. Also I participated in my first craft fair. Ever. I sold a lot of cards & the feedback was endlessly helpful.

What does your business offer the world that is unique?

Me. I’m the only one who has me – my unique skill set.

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

Key West?? Ha!

I see myself with a custom invitation book that I sell to retail shops. I see other people writing my blog. I see my business with my husband booming.

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 view it the same way I do in my personal life – if you can take steps to help the environment, why wouldn’t you? I am concerned about it & do what I can to purchase recycled paper & other materials, plus to know how I get rid of materials (like printer cartridges) when their product life is over.

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.)

I am always aware of the bottom line. But, I try not to let it run my life too much.

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?

I use a standard retail model: cost of materials x 2 = my price. But, I really just use that number as a starting point. I am constantly checking what’s selling, what my competitors are offering & at what price. Then I try to price my product similarly. Sometimes that means sourcing cheaper materials or marking my work up a little more.

Discounts & deals – I offer them all the time & don’t find them much of a driver to purchases, though I think they do drive traffic to my shop. I always offer a discount to my custom clients who purchase in large quantities.

Advice: DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! Look for several vendors for your materials. Know what your competition is offering & where they sell. Also, I have to say that I’ve met several other stationery makers who were more than happy to talk about how they got to where they are & offered help & advice to me. So, recognize that competitors can be resources & friends.

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?

First, starting a business is scary no matter how you’ve planned for it. But it will be worth it.

Second,  2 years in I still get overwhelmed by the amount of things I need…or want…to get accomplished in a day. Working for yourself will probably mean working harder than you did when you worked for someone else, but take it in small pieces & you’ll get the work done.

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Told you she is lovely! Thank you Kerry!

Readers, stay tuned for next month’s woman entrepreneur.

Yelp Giftacular Holiday Market, A Recap

This weekend that just wrapped up found me doing both my third and last market of the year- The 2011 Yelp Giftacular Holiday Market. It was part of their shop local campaign for the holiday season.

Rather than getting super long-winded on the stories, I’m going to share the ups and the downs and then share one or two favorite moments via sentences, long and short, with the possibility of a run on here and there and definitely some paragraphs. There may also be some words in all caps, too. Don’t worry though, I’m not yelling. 🙂

So the UPS: 

  • I made sales both days.
  • I got a handful of people to write holiday postcard greetings to send to friends and family. I mailed them today as promised.
  • I got eight new people to sign up for the newsletter.
  • I gave out so many cards that I ran out of my first run business card from last year, hooray!
  • I got tons of requests for just my holiday glitter envelopes. Go figure! I didn’t think that was going to happen.
  • I talked to tons of engaged couples interested in wedding invitations.
  • I got to spend quality time with my aunt and cousin who helped out one day.
  • I spent lots of time talking to fellow {NewNew} teammates who were also selling.
  • I FINALLY sold a set of my “Eat & Veg” invitations.
This one gets a story because IT IS huge.  As is the case with these particular invites, I get great feedback about them (all of them, the “Meat and Eat” invitations and postcard version of both), but no one buys them. I don’t know if the $3.75 price tag per invite or the $30 per set cost, but everyone picks them up, laughs, holds them for a while and then tells me, “they’re cute”, or “these are really good”, or my personal favorite, “I love these, but I don’t have any events to use them for.  I always think during the last comment, “you COULD create an event and then have a reason to buy and use these”, but I never say it. I just smile and say, “I understand”.
Saturday afternoon after one encounter where one of the above statements was used, I told my cousin, “When I sell one of these invite sets, I’m going to be so happy”.  Little was I to know that it would come the next day.
Sunday, started off a bit slow. As I waited for traffic to move on in, I sat and read my magazine. At one point, I looked up and there was Danielle from Etsy. I had the pleasure of meeting Danielle back in October when I held the Blogging for Beginners session in the Etsy Labs for my teammates. We talked briefly that night and I told her about my shop, but she had never seen my product in person. Well, there she was! She and I chatted for a bit and she told me that my stuff was really cute and asked me if I had applied for any jobs at Etsy. We discussed this some more and then she told me to keep an eye out for some upcoming positions and to contact her. Not only that, but she signed up for my newsletter AND purchased the “Eat & Veg” invites.  I later said to Sandra, my friend’s friend manning her booth, that even if I didn’t make another sale that day, that was the sale I had been waiting for.   And not for any other reason than I finally sold my first set of “Eat & Veg” invitations– I LOVE those invites deeply and well, I feel validated now.
  • I have more experience working the market scene.
  • I gained more insight on what I should do for future markets.
  • I got to hang up my new S2 banner, which is exciting!
  • I made connections, practiced patience, and kept reminding myself that this is what it takes to make a business run.

There can not be ups without downs. Here are the DOWNS: 

  • This was the first Yelp Holiday Market.
  • While there was traffic, traffic was also lacking.
  • Sunday was cold, which I think played into people being out and about shopping.
  • I had to spend money to make money.
  • I should have talked more about the interactive Holiday postcard promotion. I didn’t get nearly as many as I wanted to.
  • I ate too much of the free food samples they passed out.
  • I should sleep more before long hours of selling.
  • I need to work on my display a bit more. Everything flat is not a good idea.
  • I haven’t gotten my sales clincher down yet.
  • I don’t have patience. I wanted to leave earlier during the day after I realized I wasn’t going to make more money.
  • I need to find a better way to pack and carry everything. Breaking bags is NOT fun.

But those are the only downs. Really!

I should work on some of my lines more, maybe have a few single cards that might attract smaller sales (even though I have no intention of doing greetings cards as a main line of my business). I should also work to carry more men specific stationery sets. The few that I have, don’t bring the bright eyes of the ladies that my “merci” set do.  While improvements need to be made, over all, these are not bad things. These are not things that make me stop and think I’m in the wrong business, or maybe I should switch gears.  In fact, I felt validated by the laughs, smiles, and comments/questions that I did get from customers. 

Did I have two amazing days full of money?  No.

I did have two fun days, talking with people, making connections and learning more of the game of having a business.  Yelp provided me and countless other vendors in the city an opportunity to reach people that we might not otherwise and to move our businesses. I am grateful for the opportunity and for the success that I did have both day. I may not be rolling in a heap of dough, but I learned a bit more about myself and S2 Stationery and Design.   Below are some more pictures from the event.

I’m glad my first year of markets ended with this one! 2012, I’m getting ready for you!

 

Happy Birthday Blog!

2011 has marked several anniversaries for S2 Stationery and Design:

    • June 1st marked the two-year mark that we’ve been a “business”;
    • July 18th marked a year that I’ve been a “legal business”;
    • today, September 16th marks a year that this blog has been active.

Woot! 

Today, also marks my second posting as a blogger for The {NewNew}, the Etsy team I’m part of.  As you can see, I’ve been busy, but these are all exciting things and I’m pleased that I’ve committed myself to blogging because it’s a tons of fun and it helps me get these business thoughts out. I’m also pleased that I get to stretch my voice on a lot of different topics and hopefully inspire some of the people wearing similar shoes.

Next week promises to be busy, busy, so I must run, but thank you readers for reading a year’s worth of long posts and all your encouragement. Here’s to the next year and on!

Announcing (from the Beach)…Crafts in Chelsea!!

Greetings readers from Rohoboth Beach! Yes, yes, I’m beaching, even with hurricane Irene on the horizon. Don’t worry, I do have a healthy fear of the ocean and will not venture in with crazy waves, or anything else that seems not right.

Because I want to dash to the beach, this posting will be brief. I want to announce that the official posting for Crafts in Chelsea. For those of you who don’t know, Crafts in Chelsea is “the bi-annual event started by PS11 and the [NewNew} York ETSY Group, and helps to fund PS11’s wonderful arts programs (the wonderful school that sits on that block).” This year the event is being coordinated by Brooklyn Craft Central and I am pleased to announce that S2 Stationery and Design will be selling this fall (and hopefully, in the future!).

S2 Stationery and Design will be sharing a table with Angie Winnicka of Agasunset Studio, a fellow Etsian and {NewNew}er. I am oh, so excited to share space with her!

Angie describes her work in the following way “Tatting and other lace making is my passion, but not in traditional way. I love to redesign old patterns and give them modern twist. I am a mother and housewife. My life revolves around my home but my imagination runs with speed of light and complicates my daily routines.Read more about my line of thought and origins of my designs on my blog agasunset.blogspot.com” (Angie’s Etsy profile).

My excitement for this event is also because I intend to introduce some new, fall and winter pieces in time for the holidays and also my signature collection that I’ve been dreaming up since the beginning.  I will be documenting the planning and production processes for this along the way. Make sure you check out this blog regularly in the next few days…exciting stuff, friends, exciting stuff!

Crafts in Chelsea will be held on October 15th on West 21st Street between 8th and 9th Aves. I hope you all save-the-date and come check out and support S2 Stationery and Design, Agasunset Studios and the many, many other {NewNew}ers, Etsians and craftians in NY.

I must now get back to the beach! Ciao until next week!

Moving Forward

Before I left for my road trip adventure with my little bro, almost two-weeks ago, I got the following horoscope:

Sagittarius: Do you stare for hours every day into little screens like those on smart phones, computer monitors, and TVs? If so, I recommend that you tear your gaze away from them more than usual in the coming week. A change in your brain chemistry needs to happen, and one good way to accomplish it will be to feast your eyes on vast panoramas and expansive natural scenes. Doing so will invigorate your thinking about the design and contours of your own destiny, and that would be in sweet alignment with the astrological omens. So catch regular views of the big picture, Sagittarius. Treat clouds and birds and stars as if they were restorative messages from the wide-open future. Gaze lovingly at the big sky.  (courtesy of Free Will Astrology)

As soon as I read it, I was giddy as could be. After all, I was heading out to the West to drive back East. Could Rob Brezny been more spot-on about “feast your eyes on vast panoramas and expansive natural scenes”?!

Me walking toward the sunset up in the Shenandoah Mountains, July 2011

Needless to say with extreme optimism and high spirits, I went out West with my little brother and, as I mentioned in a previous posting, traveled/drove through 16 states in 5 days. Amazing!  As we drove, I did indeed feast my eyes on vast panoramas and expansive natural scenes along with feeling the sensation of freedom that comes with being behind the wheel.

I’ve discussed freedom and my need for freedom before, but as I drove and looked out at the beauty that is the United States of America my passion was ignited even more than before. As I looked at reds and oranges of the rocks in Sedona, Arizona and bits of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I saw fall themed cards and wedding invitations.  More importantly, as I drove, I saw quite clear signs about my life in the next few years.

I want to be as clear as possible yet cautious when I make the next few claims.  I have always believed that when we want something, we must speak those wants out into the universe (yes, this is the hippie Sara coming out). In order for goals to come true, we must make them happen and there is nothing like speaking the words out loud, whether to a good friend, a few good friends, or even just the open air, to make them happen. I know that every time I have spoken a goal/desire, it has come to be. Yes, of course it has come to be with some extra arm muscle of my own, but it has also come to be because I have stated it. I have willed it.

This speaking has led me to both good and not so good things; all part of life lessons. However the one thing that I have struggled with the past year or so is that I state things and people expect them to come true. More so than myself.  I realize that this is mostly my own fault and also a result of me continuously doing the things I’ve said I will do. I am a doer and being a doer requires a great deal of responsibility and action. I am completely aware of this and I accept it, but in the past I’ve gotten some slack from friends that have questioned why something planned hasn’t been happened.

A great example is my idea to move to Italy by 2012.  For those readers who do not know about this plan, the gist is this-after I returned from traveling around Italy in 2009, I was so enamored with the country (I have been since I was 8-years-old), that I boldly stated that I was going to move to Naples, Italy and make stationery.  I originally said by 2011, but then realized I needed to be here for my little brother’s graduation in June 2012.  And now look, if I had moved in 2011, I wouldn’t have been able to go on the road trip with my little brother just last week. Again, everything happens for a reason and everything unfolds as it should.

Which is why as I drove and my life plan evolved yet again, I realized that nothing lasts for ever. Something I am okay with. We must remain flexible beings otherwise when things crash, or abruptly end we will face great disappointment. Not to mention, if we don’t allow for flexibility, we will never allow for new and potentially life changing experiences to move us forward.

Henceforth, my new plan:

1. Spend the rest of 2011 getting my business in forward direction (potential wholesale orders, complete and start wedding invitation orders, complete other stationery orders, strategize other revenue streams,  launch website, update etsy account, start goodsie site, create facebook business page – that’s a lot!).

2.  Save money and look at freelance opportunities to develop my revenue streams outside of stationery.

3.  See my little brother graduate from high school and help prep him for college.

4. Travel to Japan and South East Asia in late Summer/Fall of 2012.

5. Apply for internship at Hatch Print Show

6. Return from Asia and move to Nashville and Memphis for a year.  Also, apply for a Masters at the School of Visual Arts

7. Move back to NYC with less debt, more experience and (hopefully) to complete the two year program.

If none of this pans out as planned, although I have a feeling it will (unless something catastrophic occurs), then I’ll probably move out of NYC for a bit and focus on stationery.

Stationery will be the main focus here because it is my passion and it is what I want to do.  Along with all the clarity and shake-up that I received from this trip was the following two things:

1. I mailed a postcard to a friend of mine and yesterday received a message that said, “thank you for the post card you sent me, it means a lot. It made me happy and was nice to wake up to.”  My response to him was, “your reaction just helped solidify why I make stationery.”

2. While traveling, I received notification from my Etsy New York team, The {NewNew} confirming that I had been selected as a new writer for the team blog. I am so excited!

Several weeks ago an email was sent out about joining the blog team.  I know what you are thinking- “Sara, aren’t you stretched thin enough?” Yes. Most definitely.  However, even with everything I have on my plate this can not hurt;  it can only help me build my editing/writing portfolio.  Starting this month, I will  have one or two columns to write.  I am looking into writing a green column for artists. My first posting is due August 30th, which also happens to be my Dad’s birthday (he would have been 55 this year). I find it promising, encouraging and a new challenge. Needless to say, I’m excited for the new opportunity.

Which is why I think I needed to write this blog today. I needed to reel in my thoughts and goals and get them down so I have a better sense on where I am headed and in what direction it will lead S2 Stationery and Design.  This posting helps me to see things as clearly as the signs for Arizona State (for my little brother), my dad’s name (on the road) and the emblem of the United States Marines (something a little private).

It seems as though I’ve created a new set of goals mid-year. How exciting! Happy New Mid-Year to me!

I hope that this posting helps you to consider a mid-year review. Happy moving forward. It is the only way to move!

In the spirit of moving forward, exciting things are happening this month in the S2 Stationery and Design realm.  Stay tuned!

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!