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Author: julie muenster

red crochet doily

Building an empire is not a linear affair

Quick post here, because:

  • I’m committed to writing.
  • I’m trying to overcome my perfectionism (so I won’t be agonizing over this one).
  • I’ve got other things to do.

With Christmas approaching, I have plenty of personal crocheting to do. I always make handmade gifts for my kids—and this year, that’s all they’re getting. So they have to be extra special.

My accountability partner will not let me make excuses! She encourages (insists) I work on my business every week. But the business is not the boss of me! It’s true, I need a plan, and sometimes I while away time rather than work on my empire. But if I want to take a couple of weeks off, that’s my right. There may be consequences, but that’s true for every decision. Instead of fretting, I’m deciding. My empire won’t crumble if I take a couple of weeks off (and I’ll still be crocheting, so perhaps it’s an investment in my education and skill development. Yes, that’s how I’ll look at it!).

My guest blogging experiment frustrated me. I was spending more time creating free patterns for the blogger than I was for my own shop. I was honest with her, we had a great conversation, and she proposed a new model that I’m pleased with. It’ll help me start the new year with some new energy.

So that’s where I am, here nearing the end of my first year of crochet empire-building. Merry Christmas!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for crochet. I am thankful that all my fingers work well (and that I have them all), that I have no trouble holding yard or hooks, and that I never have pain.

I am thankful for the creative community, the inspiration, and the sharing.

I am thankful for yarn, and the variety of fibers, colors, textures. I am thankful we live in a country where we can get high just walking down an aisle at a store.

 

Photo by Marat Gilyadzinov on Unsplash

The Craft Fair Aftermath

The Craft Fair is over. I sold eight hats. There are a number of ways I can look at this:

The Optimist

  • I sold eight hats! That’s almost three times as many hats as I sold last spring!
  • Look at my happy customer (above)!
  • My display looked great!

The Pessimist

I sold eight hats. That’s 10% of my inventory. I didn’t even recover all my material costs. What do I do with all these hats?

The Analyst

  • People loved the hats. They couldn’t resist touching them.
  • Potential customers asked for more hats in child and adult sizes.
  • Someone told me what a brilliant idea it was to make hats out of blanket yarn. I may be on to something. Until, of course, someone else copies me.

The Opportunist

One lady said my hats would be perfect for chemo patients and that I should contact the gift shop at the hospital. Thanks for the lead!
Follow up: The gift shop manager loved my hats, but the shop does not sell on consignment. She offered to pay for materials if I’d donate the hats. Maybe someday, but right now I’m in the needing-income stage. The manager understood completely. She loved the hats, though. So I know there’s a market for them.

The Marketing Manager

There are many possible reasons why my show wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped:

  • I did not have enough variety in sizes.
  • This area is not economically prosperous; perhaps many people are looking for cheap. I value my time too much.
  • Many of the visitors were retirees. I should have more hats suited to them.
  • Who is my target market? Anyone who needs a hat. Should I have a more specific niche? Or offer an even broader selection?
  • Is there a venue that would serve me better? Perhaps closer to Green Bay?

The Perseverer

I am not giving up. I will take action on what I’ve learned. Yes, I’m disappointed—but I’m also having too much fun to stop now!

Off to a craft fair, jiggety jig

Craft fair tomorrow! I have been busy preparing for six months. Ok, I have been registered for six months, and I’ve been busy preparing for a week!

This is only my second craft fair. I only sold three hats on my previous fair adventure. So why am I trying again?

I get feedback on my products.

When I put myself and my work out there, I have the opportunity to interact with potential customers. What are they buying? What are they looking at? The challenge is finding out why some people stop and DON’T buy. How do I get that information? I’d feel odd flagging them down and asking, “Why didn’t you buy anything?” Yet I need the feedback. I’ll be looking for ways to get that tomorrow.

I become known in the community.

I get my name out there. People will see me as a talented part of the community (I hope), and perhaps as a resource. This will particularly benefit me when I schedule crochet classes. “Oh, yeah,” they’ll think. “I met her at the craft fair. She knows her stuff!”

Besides, this is a local event put on by the local woman’s club. It helps the community, and I meet people I don’t cross paths with in my other spheres.

It’s better timing than in spring.

Christmas is coming, so people are looking for gifts. And there’s already snow on the ground here, we broke a new low-temperature record last night, and I sell hats. I hope hats fly tomorrow!

I’ve already made an investment.

I spent a fair (pun intended) amount of time and money on my display last spring, and I want it to count for something! I wanted a professional presentation and a shopping experience that made the customer feel important. That meant investing in items to better display my hats, purchasing bags, buying a credit card reader, etc. It is too soon to give up on recouping that money!

I don’t have a lot of wisdom and experience when it comes to craft fairs, but isn’t this why I share my journey here? I’ll let you know how it goes!

Does God want me to have a crochet business?

As a woman of faith, I want to walk in response to God’s leading in my life. I believe he has good plans for me. I just wish he’d tell me what they are, right now!

Whose voice is that?

When the idea of a crochet empire popped into my head, I could not determine the origin of the thought. Was it a prompt from the Holy Spirit? Is it my own desire? Is it just a crazy notion?! How do I know? I don’t want to move ahead if it’s just a crazy notion—that doesn’t sound like a good reason for starting a business. Yet, with proper research and sound business practices, even crazy notions can be successful.

I must be doing something wrong.

For a long time, I thought that if I wasn’t clear on the direction I am supposed to go, it must be because I’m not hearing. And if God is silent, it must be because I’m doing something wrong. This thinking is a holdover from the religion of my youth (God blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient). Jesus said the sheep hear his voice. Does the fact I’m not sure I’m hearing mean I’m not part of his flock? No. It means he has to speak louder—I may just be a dense sheep.

God doesn’t want me to have fun.

I’ve had a lot of losses and disappointments in my life; I’ve learned to keep my expectations low. This means I don’t dare hope that I could have a thriving business that I love. Abundant life? Yeah, right! Yet the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. I’m still working on this one. I daily write what I’m grateful for. And sometimes I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me—it just doesn’t always look like what I think it should (i.e. financial success!).

Thou shalt be a crochet designer.

I’ve been looking for specific direction, thinking that if this is truly the way I’m supposed to go, the road will be easy, and my success will be assured. Just writing this makes me laugh! What crazy thinking! Does anything of value in this life come easily? And when does the result justify the decision? If I get in a car accident on the way to Walmart, does that mean I shouldn’t shop at Walmart? Or I shouldn’t drive on that road? Or at that time of day? If I start a business and fail, does that mean I shouldn’t have started the business? No; maybe I had important things to learn.

Eat, drink, and enjoy your work.

Solomon said that we should eat, drink, and enjoy our work. Proverbs tells us to be diligent and work with excellence. Yes, we are supposed to trust God and he will direct our steps, but perhaps our life choices are not as limited as we imagine. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if I start a crochet business or do something else—maybe the important thing is how I approach my work. Maybe God has gifted me with the freedom to pursue my dreams, whatever I decide they are.

I am learning to live with the discomfort of not knowing. But I am also enjoying the peace of knowing for certain that if I seek him first, God will provide my needs. And so far, I have not heard a booming voice saying, “Hey, you! Stop crocheting!”

Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash

I have an accountability partner!

It has been a long search. I’ve been picky. But it’s been worth it—I’ve had an accountability partner for less than a week, and my focus and productivity have skyrocketed!

Why I didn’t need an accountability partner.

  • I listen to podcasts, read blogs, and watch videos—I’ve already learned enough to be relatively successful in business.
  • I’m an introvert; I enjoy working alone.
  • I’m an INTJ (Architect), according to Myers-Briggs. That means I’m good at planning and achieving. I’ve got this.
  • When it comes to meeting expectations, I’m a Questioner. I love analyzing systems and efficiency, and I love to solve problems.

Why I now need an accountability partner.

  • Despite all my education, I’m not successful (yet!). I believe the missing ingredient is connection. Not just networking with an eye for a sale, but developing mutually beneficial relationships. We’re all in this together—why not enjoy the journey together?
  • Strengths have a flip side. Yes, I’m good at planning and achieving, but I also suffer from analysis paralysis. I research, but don’t come to conclusions. I create, but tweak ad infinitum.
  • I’m human! I procrastinate. I get distracted. I put off investing in deep work by seeking a quick fix in Facebook.

How I found my partner.

I searched for an accountability partner in a variety of groups, both free and paid (Fizzle, Puttytribe, various Facebook groups). I connected with one partner through one of these groups, but after the first week, I never heard from her again.

It was through the Creative Yarn Entrepreneurs group on Facebook that I found Magda. I had been visiting (stalking?) the group to see if I naturally connected with anyone. Then Magda posted, looking for an accountability partner. Try me, try me! We met on Skype, and agreed this partnership is a go. She’s in the knitting world; I’m in crochet (compatible without competing). She’s a little further ahead in her business, and I look forward to learning from her experience; I hope I can still help her.

How she’s already changed my life.

  • She introduced me to Trello! Now I can organize my life (as long as I’m not distracted by all the features and spend all my time organizing instead of accomplishing!).
  • She forces me to make decisions. She says I must share three goals in Trello. This means actually putting them in black and white. I need this.
  • The whole process makes me take a step back and determine the direction of my business. What are the bigger goals that I’m working toward? Are this week’s goals in alignment with that direction? Are these the most important steps I should be taking this week?

Since one of my goals this week is to publish a blog post, I’m looking forward to talking to Magda on Friday!

The benevolent crochet empress

I took some time off from empire-building to participate in a local theater production of “Steel Magnolias.” (I got to play Ouiser Boudreaux—one of the highlights of my life! But I digress.)

I decided my character did not like to sit still. She liked to crochet! So with the director’s approval, I crocheted on-stage, in character.

I also crocheted different totes for each of my scenes. The photo above shows the one I coordinated with my outfit. I offered the totes to my castmates after the show, and they snatched them right up.

I also crocheted a baby afghan for our director who is expecting a girl. The colors are blush and bashful, and the design has a magnolia in the corner and is framed in baby’s breath (all nods to the show).

But maybe this is part of empire-building, too. If other emperors/empresses had shared their love and talent with others, the world would be a much nice place.

Book Review: Make Money Teaching Crochet

A great way to grow as a business owner and crocheter is to read good books. I had the opportunity to read Make Money Teaching Crochet: Launch Your Business, Increase Your Side Income, Reach More Students by Marie Segares.

I first met Marie through her podcast, Creative Yarn Entrepreneur. She came across as so practical, knowledgeable, and thorough—the shows were jam-packed with good information, and she seemed friendly and down-to-earth. When I finally took the step to create a legitimate crochet business, I was able to join her Facebook group, Creative Yarn Entrepreneurs. I feel like I’m in the big leagues now!

When she offered her book in exchange for an honest review, I jumped on the opportunity. I like reading, learning, and editing…and crochet! I had taught a handful of crochet classes and was curious about her experience.

It took me a while to read because it’s a workbook, and I wanted the entire experience. She asks thought-provoking questions that I wanted to ponder. However, I found the book so inspiring and motivating that after the first couple of chapters, I plowed right through it to get all the nuggets and will go back to complete the worksheets.

So here’s my review:

I highly recommend Making Money Teaching Crochet. The book is conversational, practical, and comprehensive.

Marie’s writing style feels like she’s talking directly to me. She asks questions, makes humorous points, and seems genuinely interested in my success. The writing is concise, yet jam-packed with solid information, ideas, and strategies.

Organized as a workbook, Making Money Teaching Crochet is loaded with questions, guides, and templates. I found myself eager to keep reading and glad there were worksheets to go back and work through later.

The amount of information packed into this book is incredible. Marie covers everything from setting up a business to social media marketing, from defining your target audience to personal hygiene in the classroom. Her “Cro-Pro Tips” are phenomenal, from developing a cancelation policy to suggestions for yarn and hook colors for demonstrations. She covers not only practical steps and checklists but also advice on soft skills needed for successful teaching.

Having taught a handful of crochet classes, I was able to concur with many points in the book. “In some class settings, students frequently come unprepared.” Yes, that’s my experience, too! This lends to her credibility—I believe everything else she writes is probably true, too.

The book has challenged and inspired me, not only in teaching crochet classes, but also in my general crochet business. Many of her points—such as identifying the who, what, when, where, why, and how of my venture—have universal applications. I feel a step ahead of the game, being able to take advantage of her experience. The book not only helps me establish a foundation for building a business, it also provides all the tools needed for success.

This book gives me the boost I need to work through my resistance in reaching my goals (see last post), I can’t emphasize enough—it’s so practical and comprehensive!

You can find the book here (Workbook Edition): https://www.amazon.com/Make-Money-Teaching-Crochet-Business/dp/0990683419/

Why I resist what I want to do

A blog post a week—that’s reasonable, right? Indeed it was. For four weeks. Then I hit a wall.

Here are some of my excuses for not writing my weekly blog post and some questions to challenge myself:

I have more urgent things to do.

This is a common excuse in all areas of my life! There are things that need to get done. I am often so distracted by the urgent that I put off what’s important. The dishes will get moldy; my waiting blog post won’t. So that means I must do the dishes now, right?

Are the things I consider urgent really so?

I want gratification now.

I crave two things every day: A sense of productivity, and income. (Okay, three—add dark chocolate). I can get the first by doing the dishes. Or playing a game of Ruzzle. I can get the second by investing my time in activities that are a long-term investment. Like sharpening the saw, as Stephen Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s easier to chop down a tree if you take the time to sharpen the saw first, rather than hack furiously with a dull blade. I’d be more successful if I took the time to invest in big picture activities that will eventually yield both productivity and money.

Also, writing is work. It takes a lot of time with no immediate reward. There’s no writing fairy that taps me on the head and gifts me with brilliance and motivation.

What are the consequences if I put off the more time-consuming, important things? How can I have a balance of accomplishment and investment every day? Where is my copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?!

I’m a perfectionist.

I want every blog post to be interesting, helpful, maybe even profound. Sometimes the imposter syndrome kicks in, and I doubt my ability to offer anything useful. Sometimes I want to dig deeper into a topic but feel the effort to do the research won’t pay off or that it will take hours (see previous points!).

What can I do to just start, to get out of my head and into my fingers? Would a little chocolate treat help?!

My decision-maker is tired.

My brain gets tired of making decisions all day long (it’s been estimated that we make thousands of decisions a day). What should I write about? Are my posts coming out in a logical order? Should I even be trying for some kind of logical order?! What day is good to write this week? When is the best time of day for me to write? What photo or graphics should I use?

Can I let the process be more organic? Should I just decide on a certain time to write my blog post—in other words, make a major decision that removes a lot of the minor decisions?

I don’t manage my time well.

I confess: I spend way too much time on Facebook, looking for that quick dopamine hit. I play too many games of Ruzzle a day (a quick hit of accomplishment). I work for a couple of hours and feel I deserve a reward (this is embarrassing to admit!). Sometimes I crave structure, and other times I want the freedom to do whatever I want. Often, in my rebellion to do what I want now, I sabotage my own future success and happiness.

When I’m really stuck, I set the timer and work like crazy for thirty minutes, then take a ten-minute break. This system really breaks through a lot of my inner resistance to a project. And often the break means doing the dishes or going for a walk—activities which give me a sense of accomplishment or recharge the body for another round of sitting.

How can I include deep work and free time in my life every day?

I believe work should come before fun.

Like a well-disciplined child, I have a voice that tells me I need to work before I have fun. And crocheting is fun! So I think the house needs to be clean before I sit down with my yarn and hook. Or that my crochet work should only be done in the evenings and on the weekends when it’s my “free” time rather than during “work” hours.

Is this way of thinking discipline or bondage?

I have psychological problems.

It’s the only logical conclusion! I resist the very thing I want to do—seems like a deep psychological issue to me. I have identified several bad habits and ineffective ways of thinking, but I’m not sure I’ve pinpointed the root cause of my resistance. But I can’t let stewing about it (or perfectionism) stop me from moving forward. Maybe action itself will reveal the subconscious hesitation; perhaps new behaviors will change my thinking.

Do I need to read The War of Art again? Or just get moving?

The conclusion of the matter? I have spent hours on this post. In the middle of the day (I’m already stretching myself!). I am tempted to sit on it another day and read it with fresh eyes tomorrow. See, the procrastination monster is attacking me! So is the fear of imperfection! I’m going to hit Publish—then check this week’s blog off my To Do list. And have some dark chocolate.

What’s in a name? A business by any other name…

Naming my business was an important step in creating my empire. A name would legitimize my status. Things with names are more real than ideas.

Though I was in a hurry to build my empire, I allowed myself a couple of weeks to brainstorm, research, and ponder this important decision.

As I began the process, I decided I wanted a name that was:

  • Available. (Unfortunately, I did not do enough research—I found a J Crochet on Etsy after I’d decided on my name.)
  • Something I would be proud to say.
  • Simple and cheerful.

These are steps I took (not necessarily in order) to come up with my business name.

1. I considered using a name I already had.

I already had a business that I was no longer promoting, so the name was available. Julie’s Off the Wall was/is a painting business, and I liked the name. I am working to get out of this business, so I considered transitioning it from a painting/art business to crochet. However, since I have a Facebook following that likes my work at Off the Wall, I decided to select a new name.

By the way, I also researched whether having “crochet” in the business name makes a difference for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It is not necessary. Crochet content on my site will improve my SEO ranking. In other words, when people enter “crochet” in a search engine, the name of the business is not as important as the information on the site in getting the business to show up in the search results.

2. I brainstormed.

One fun way to look for names is using a business name generator. (Just search “business name generator.”) I didn’t find any names I really liked, but it expanded my thinking.

I also looked at the names of other crafters’ businesses.

Finally, I asked myself questions and wrote all the answers, no matter how unlikely I was to use them:

  • What are some words for hat (since hats are my niche)? Hat, cap, crown, cover…
  • What are some craft business words? Creation, craft, design…
  • What are some happy words? Yay, got it, wow, cool…
  • What are some words that start with C (to use as alliteration with “crochet”?) crown, cool, creative, creation, contemporary, classy…
  • What are some crochet terms? Stitch, hook, yarn…
  • Do I want my name associated with it? Crochet by Julie, Julie’s Crochet, J Crochet… (I also considered whether this was limiting. What if I’m a success, and I want to sell my empire—would having my name in it be a hindrance? Think big, people!)

Then I started putting some ideas together.

3. I tried them on.

I combined the elements from my brainstorming and went for a fitting. I wanted to see how they felt on my tongue, how they sounded in my ear, how they looked on paper. Some of the combinations I came up with are:

  • Crowning Touch Crochet
  • Hats Off Crochet
  • Yay Crochet
  • Crown Crochet
  • Crochet by Julie
  • Crochet from J
  • J Crochet

4. I researched their availability.

To know if my name was already taken, I conducted searches on:

  • Google
  • Etsy
  • Facebook

I learned that several of the above names were already taken. But not all!

I narrowed it down to “Crown Crochet” and “J Crochet.” I lived with them for a few days, asked my friends what they thought, and doodled logo ideas. I landed on J Crochet. Crown Crochet looked good, but it didn’t roll off the tongue. And it might be limiting—what if I want to expand beyond hats? I liked J Crochet because it’s simple, and I like the rhyme. The name is somewhat limiting as it has my initial, but I thought that it could also stand for Jazzy or Jaunty or Joyful.

It wasn’t until this stage that I searched for a domain name. That’s because I have experienced domain name front running. This sometimes occurs when you search a domain name but don’t buy it right away—then you come back and find the name has been taken (yes, you can still buy it—for a premium price! Someone else has snatched it up). So I don’t search until I’m ready to buy.

In my search, I found jcrochet.com was not available (actually, it is available for a premium price; it has not been taken by another business). This led to another important decision—what do I want my domain to be? We know .com’s are the go-to choice for business. I decided not to go back to another selection on my list but to choose a .co extension. I do not know the long-term ramifications of this choice, but I am comfortable with my decision. (By the way, I use Namecheap to purchase my domains. I am not an affiliate—I just like their prices and user interface.)

 

My advice: Don’t hurry through this process. Despite what Juliet says, a name is important. I’m not sure I’d be as successful with something like Julie the Hooker (that’s not the kind of empire I want to build!).