Craft a thriving business. Do what matters. Crush Distractions. Get the Kit:

In the local paper!

I can't believe it's taken me 4 days to share this (blame on being snowed in!) but last Sunday, my yarn shop (A Novel Yarn) was featured in the biggest local paper – The Johnson City Press!

That's me on the left (with the pink hair) and my business partner (and mom) on the left. We're hugging a shelf full of Jen Hintz's yarn (the photographer made us do it).

As you can see, the article took up the whole front page of the Temp (ie. Lifestyle) section, with my picture of Shera, along with more of Jen's yarn and my mom's hands knitting.

The article was all about our “philosophy” of handmade yarn and living curiously (about where stuff comes from, if we can make it, how it's made, etc).

The article also briefly mentioned my first business (and true love), Blonde Chicken Boutique, so if you're here from the paper – hi!

So many of you have asked, but it doesn't appear to be online.

Helping Yarnies Share Your Thing

My work A Novel Yarn (you know, my real-life yarn store!) has put me into contact with hundreds of independant yarnies.
I've read their blogs, poured over their online shops, signed up for newsletters.
I have observed.

And all this observing (combined with my own yarnie-experiences) taught me a few things:

  1. Everyone really has their own style of yarny-ness
  2. That own-style-thing means that everyone has something different to offer
  3. A lot of yarnies aren't highlighting their own, unique, awesomeness on their website, blog, twitter…in other words, on their public face
  4. Many of these yarnies have scattershot marketing, if any at all.

These problems are so overwhelmingly universal (with a few exceptions like ColorBOMB) in the handmade world – this is so NOT limited to yarnies.

And this is a shame,  because there are so many awesome makers of awesome things that are toiling in virtual obscurity because they don't know how to share their thing.

All this observing has ignited a passion inside me.
What was once just a vague thought (I'd really like to somehow, someday  help other handmade businesses) has turned into a solid plan.

I want to help handmade businesses reach their right people in a non-icky, super simple way.

I don't have all the answers, but I've studied a lot and I've done a LOT of trial & error (& error & error).

I've put together systems that have worked really well for me (newspaper & magazine articles, showing up in books, etc) and that can be applied to ANY crafty business.

And as part of my Sharing-It Pledge, I'm ready to share this aspect of my business in a 3-week online class.

You can read all about the class here and the subjects we'll cover, but the short version is this:

  • You want to share your thing with the world
  • You have something unique to offer
  • Together we'll discover the best places for you to share your thing, a system for doing it consistently AND ways to highlight your you-ness.

If this seems like something you might like, you can learn more and register for it here.

Have any questions or comments? Leave them below!

Do the Thing in 2010

You know, the thing, the thing that's really really wanting to be done.

For me, at the end of 2008, that was getting out of the office-world and more fully into the yarny, business-y, running my own ship-world.

And I did it. And the year was so hard.

But I did it!

And after listening to the call free Q+A call I did earlier this week (you can get it here), I realize so many of you have a thing to do in 2010 and aren't sure where to start. Or you have lots of questions about how I did it, because you're not sure it'll work for you.

And the truth is, I don't know if it'll work for you. So there's no point in giving you a bunch of do-this-and-this advice.

The best I can do is suggest that you ask yourself some questions and you figure out what th the Thing is for you and how best to get there for you.

Maybe your thing isn't quitting your dayjob, but pretty much whatever your thing is, you need someplace to start. And a resolution to do the thing probably isn't enough.

With that in mind, I humbly offer a list of questions to ask yourself before you do the Thing.

These are the questions I started asking as I started on the journey to quitting my dayjob.

Let me know if you use the questions and please please pass them on to anyone who has a thing to do in 2010.

Good Asking and Happy New Year!

PS. Download the Questions to Ask pdf by clicking here.

PPS. Wondering how to get more customers, to get more sales, so you actually make what you need to make to quit your dayjob? That, my friend, is Sharing Your Thing & I'm teaching a class about it next week! Read more here.

Business Confessional

Confession:
I'm scared. Worried. Unsure.

A lot of the time when it comes to business stuff.

Especially as I prepare for today's Q+A call.
Especially when I think about the new year and all the new stuff I'm planning to try.
Especially when I think about biggifying (that's Havi's word).

Confession:
I don't know what I'm doing a lot of the time.

I have an idea, I put it into motion.
Whether the Learn to Knit Kit or the Year of Yarn or today's call.

An idea comes to me and I run with it, while I have the courage.

But often, during that sprint from new idea to finished product, I second-guess, doubt, wonder.

I wanted to share that today, as so many of us are thinking of the new year. You may be plotting to quit your dayjob or trying follow your big dream and I wanted to remind you that these big things often come with fear or doubt.

It's a step in the process, not a sign you need to turn back.
If anything, it's a sign you're on the right path, that you're really reaching towards awesomeness.

So today, if you're feeling a bit of overwhelm at the awesomesauce of the coming year, I want to let you know: you're not alone.

In fact, you're right on schedule.

Sharing It

Last January, I sat down to think about the upcoming year.

I'm not one for resolutions or promises or big change-your-life sort of goals.
But I do like to figure out what I want out of the next year.

First on my list for 2009 was to quit my day job. But that goal had a lot of mini-goals that I wanted to happen before I quit:

  • get some press coverage
  • make enough, by selling yarn, to replace my dayjob salary for 3 months in a row
  • create new, not-strictly handspun yarn-related products

As I look back on 2009, despite all the other icky stuff this year brought, I'm really proud of myself for accomplishing those goals.

But what about YOU?

But my goal was two-fold: I want to crush it and share it. (I wrote about that here).

And while I've shared as much as I could as I was going through the process, I now have the time (and presence of mind) to share even more, with more details.

This year, it's not a goal or a resolution or anything, but I am commiting to sharing it in 2010.

Since making my own goals public and then sharing the process, I've gotten a steady stream of emailed questions. I know there are more people who are NOT asking and I want to share as much as I can!

I have lots of ideas for really in-depth ways to share it (and by “it”, I mean the whole quit-your-dayjob, do-what-you-love, make-a-biz-from-your-craftyness thing) but I wanted to get started right away.

Let's talk!

Next Monday (12/28), at 2pm EST, let's take a break from the holiday-craziness and just chat about business stuff.

I'll give you a toll-free number (and access code) to call and you can call in and ask questions  about anything business-y.  Even if you don't have questions or you're shy and don't like to speak up (that's me!), call in to hear other people's answers!

If you can't make it at that time, I'll send you the recording (as long as you've registered for the call).

To get the phone number & the recording, just sign up here.

I look forward to talking to you!

PS. I'm not selling ANYthing! They'll be no sales pitch or anything on this call, I just want to answer the questions you have!

My real-life Yarn Shop

I own a yarn shop.

A Novel Yarn

A real-life, bricks and mortar, come-in-and-have-a-seat yarn store.

I signed the lease just 11 days ago and we're opening tomorrow. Tomorrow!

I've been blogging our day by day progress on the website, you can read it here.

I've waited to announce it here, because I was still working out the details. What would the shop be like? What would it's personality be?
How would it affect Blonde Chicken Boutique?

Now that I know the answer, I'm ready to share it with you.

Blonde Chicken Boutique is going to continue on as it has. It's my own company, my own line of yarn. I will keep posting new yarns weekly to the Boutique and talking about eco-friendly fiber and pattern ideas here, on the blog. Blonde Chciken Boutique is my creative outlet and it's not going anywhere.

A Novel Yarn is in partnership with my mom. We're trying to create an open studio for fiber arts and a gallery for handmade yarn.

But what's that mean?

Open studio: I'll be spinning at the shop during business hours. I'll also have my carder, so you can see the process from fiber to yarn. I'll also have one-on-one lessons for knitting and spinning. We'll be teaching classes on a all sorts of knitterly endevours from learning to knit to knitting with handspun to using Ravelry.

Gallery for handmade yarn: Our shelves with be overflowing with handmade yarn from myself and a host of my spinny friends. Anyting relating to fiber that is handdyed, handspun or otherwise handmade  is welcome! We'll have handpainted needles, Learn to Knit Kits, books by indie publishers and (eventually) patterns by indie designers.

It has been a whirlwind to get open but so so satisfying to just begin to promote so many fabulous fiber artists.

Tomorrow is our first day and December 19th is our Grand Opening. If you're in Jonesborough, TN, come say hi!

And if you can't come in to the yarn shop, you can always find your favorite Blonde Chicken Boutique yarn right here in the shop.

Fiber Friday – Sheepies

Maddie, straight on

Maddie (seen above) is a bit miffed that I haven't blogged much about her life.

She wants you to know that she was shorn months ago and I just got around to carding her fiber. Simply unacceptable! She was happy to learn the Xiane took the majority of her fleece (she can't bear to think of it unused!) but chided me on my own slacker-y-ness.

Shera, munching

Shera, who donated her very first fleece to my fiber-y pursuits is slightly more relaxed about it, but she would like you to know that I'll be selling some of her dyed locks (so curly!) and a few batts carded from her fleece.

Shera, wanting grain

The fiber will be in the Boutique tomorrow (Saturday, 11/14) at noon (EST).

The sheep hope you like it!

Knit Green – Book Review

I received my copy of Knit Green 2 weeks ago. Since then, I have been pouring through it.
IMGP6642

Now, I should warn you – I am NOT unbiased about this book – I sold my photographs to the editor and they appear in the book. This is the first time I've seen my name in print, in a bound BOOK. So yeah, I was more than a little excited when my copy came in the mail!

Knit Green, pg 109

That said, I was prepared to just scan the book and put it on my shelf (or let's be honest, on my coffee table where I can casually flip to my pictures whenever anyone wanders into the room). I've been reading and researching eco-friendly fibers since I first thought about starting a yarn business, over 4 years ago. I didn't think this book had a lot to teach me.

Whoa.

I was wrong. So very wrong.

This book is FULL of things I didn't know or couldn't find the answers to.

Part of the book's brilliance is in it's layout. Each chapter tackles a different angle of “green” knitting: Biodiversity, sustainable farming, vegan fibers, maintaining folk traditions, fair trade, organic, recycling, buying local & changing habits.

Each chapter has a well-researched article on the topic, followed by 2 – 3 patterns using yarns that embody the characteristic.
Knit Green - My photo!

While most of the patterns aren't for me (I hardly ever knit from patterns, so *most* patterns aren't for me), the fact that the author gives you real applications for what the book is teaching is refreshing.

The real gem in this book is the articles. The articles are worth the price, even if you never knit any of the patterns, if you are concerned with making concientious decisions in your knitting.

And don't let the whole “green” thing scare you away. The author never becomes preachy or pedantic. She seems to share my belief that knitting “green” needn't be a major life-changing commitment; it can be a slow path to making decisions you are comfortable with.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Book: Knit Green, written by Joanne Seiff
(since we're all about the shopping-local, why don't you try to find a local indie bookstore through IndieBound?)

Can you help?

This is Jay.
Jay, loving the pizza

He needs a job.
I have a theory that maybe you can help.

Since Jay got laid off, we've been talking a LOT about how one looks for a job. He's been shaving, getting dressed nice, going in and asking “Are you hiring?” or “Are you looking for help”, along with a pile of resumes. They all say “fill out our online application,” or send his resume to HR never to be heard from again.  There's little to no interpersonal communication, no talking to a real person, no getting to know each other. And this is rough if you're great with people but have a less-than-impressive resume.

But I'm all about the online. My entire business is based on meeting and getting to know awesome knitterly types online. Most of my newest friendships and collaborations have been formed online. Sure, I've now met tons of them in person, but we keep our relationship going online.

So I thought we'd do a little experiment and bring Jay's job search online. Not just an online application, but an online version of a getting-to-know-you chat. Not all those “What's your weakest trait” questions, but real, useful stuff about him.

After you read this if you think “Wow, I have just the job for Jay!”, leave a comment below or email him at jamison.swigerATgmail.com.

Jay is currently the shipping department, tech guy, graphic designer, head chef and dog walker at Blonde Chicken Boutique. Oh yeah, he's also my husband.

For a few months, he's been working in all those capacities full-time, but now he'd like to help other small businesses (or individuals), doing, well, anything they need doing. Here's a bit more about what he's done for BCB.

Tech Guy:
Jay makes all the decisions for the BCB's hardware and software needs. He maintains the network and fixes the printer before I throw it out the window. He regularly does something to my laptop that makes it run all smooth and happy and have more memory. He also researches and finds the best (usually free) software to meet the need of whatever new project I dream up.

I know he's good at this because I don't have to know anything or think about anything and he makes it  all work out, giving me time/energy to focus on the yarn.

Graphic Designer:
Jay just recently redesigned my product labels and whoa, they're awesome. He also designs all my ads and looks at the stats to see which one performs best. He designed my much-complimented business card, thank you cards and everything I've ever printed out.

He also built a website for our friend, Mama Beehive, and designs posters for the local wrestling company and youth groups.

Head Chef:
It's embarrassing, but most days I don't remember to eat until 6 or 7. Jay not only remembers that I need to eat, he whips me up tasty goodness. He's a vegetarian and makes the best burgers (no beans!), chili and enchiladas EVER. And his deep dish pizza crust. Legendary!

(This is the kind of skill that doesn't come up often in interviews but it is priceless.  When there's a “potluck” Christmas party, you are going to be glad that you have Jay's pizza and not another bacon/mayonnaise/peas “salad”.)

Jay has a bachelor's degree in History and almost has one in Political Science, and he's spent the past few years working full-time in restaurants. All that reading and learning and paper-writing seriously honed his critical thinking skills.

For example, everything you see at BCB, from the Yarn Mail to the (soon-coming) Learn to Knit Kit first starts like this:
“Hey, Jay, I'm thinking I could do X”
“Oh, good idea! What about Y & Z? “

It's not just idea-bouncing, it's stuckness-slicing. I've been trying to come up with a good learn-to-knit pattern to include in my kit. I think scarves are too long for new knitters, too easy to get bored. So I'm obsessing over this, giving the 50,000 pros & cons and Jay says “So, are you selling the item or are you selling the learning to knit? Which is more important?

*Ding!*

And now, in the grand tradition of Havi's Personal Ads,

What we'd like:
A job for Jay. Or even some freelance work until he gets a job.

How this could work:
You have something that needs doing and think Jay would be right for it. This could be dog-walking, graphic design, bringing you food or working for your fabulous company, located here in Johnson City or available online.

You'll either leave a comment below or email him at jamison.swigerATgmail.com.

If you don't have a job for Jay, you'll pass this around to people who might like it.

Thanks! I'll keep you posted on what comes of this!

Heavy Honesty

Last night, my house was broken into and anything we had of value was stolen: TV, Xbox360 (my husband's birthday gift), most of our DVDs, our old gaming systems (the Nintendos of our childhood) and my husband's great-grandma's acoustic guitar.

The door & frame were busted (replaced already, by our fabulous landlady). Our medicine cabinet was trashed (several glass bottles broken, but since we have no prescriptions, nothing was taken). We don't have renter's insurance, so unless we find the stuff at a pawn shop, it's really all gone.

We're safe. Our pets are safe (amazingly, since the door was busted and standing open when we got home). I was wearing the only valuable jewelry I have (my wedding ring!) & the laptop was in the car. The yarn, fiber and wheel is safe.

For this, I am so grateful, I can scarcely breathe.

Despite the new door and a night snuggled at mom's, we don't feel quite right.

The house feels much less home-y.

It's not the stuff they took; it's the comfort, the security, the feeling of snuggling on my couch with a cup of tea alone at night that we miss.

I considered not writing this, but then I remembered the responses I got when I quit my dayjob. The cheers, the emails, the loveliness of sharing that big decision.

But since then, since July, there have a been a lot of little not-so fun things that I haven't shared. Jay lost his job, our car exploded, and now our house was broken into.

I want to share this for the same reason I shared the story of quitting my dayjob:  it's honest and it's real.

These trials, just like the triumphs, are the stuff that Blonde Chicken Boutique is made from.

Blonde Chicken Boutique (and my life) is fun and colorful and sometimes a grand adventure. And sometimes it's hard and icky and entirely unpleasant.

And you, all of you who are part of BCB as a customer, commenter or silent friend, my relationship with you allows me to be honest, to share the good and the bad, the hard and the soft, the colorful and the dark.

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