Three years ago I was working near downtown Seattle in a little T-shirt printing shop. I had been a silk screen printer for seven years, and recently relocated to Seattle from my hometown Bozeman, Montana. I went from a seven minute commute to a 1.5 hour commute. Big open skies to buildings as far as the eye can see. A slow pace, to a constant rush. I was sick and tired. I was also in a relationship with a major pessimist, which didn't help me adjust either. But all of this change did what I now believe it was meant to do. It forced me to start thinking seriously about starting a business.
A lot of creatives find themselves turning a hobby into a business, but I decided to just start a business. Knitting was a huge hobby of mine, but dyeing yarn wasn't. I had only dyed yarn a couple times before I ordered my first box of undyed yarn and set out on building a business. But I had a lot of confidence. Confidence that I seemed to have pulled out of thin air when I look back on it now. In a way, building a business became my new hobby and passion.
I opened my Etsy shop in August of 2015, and got my first order about a month later. I was actually unemployed at the time, which made hearing that little cash register sound on my phone the most wonderful feeling in the world. I could never forget her regardless, but my first customer also happened to be one of my favorite instagrammers (to this day). A few weeks later I was hired to be part of the online team at Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, and spent the next year packing orders, answering the phone, emailing customers, and doing inventory. Basically it was the perfect training for running my own business, and I am forever grateful to everyone at Churchmouse and my wonderful managers for throwing me into jobs that I was uncomfortable doing.
During my time at Churchmouse I also went through a painful breakup, and pre-breakup period. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. My incredibly strong introverted tendencies were seen by this person as a defect and I was wearing myself out trying to suppress them (I'm sure if you're an introvert you can relate...). But after the breakup I felt so relieved, though I was sad. I knew there was someone out there for me and I wasn't going to let my sadness get in the way of meeting Mr Right. So, one month later I met Garrett. Garrett had complete faith in me and actually saw my "weaknesses" as strengths to set me apart. With his help I decided to quit my full-time job at Churchmouse and launch fully into my business with only about 40 orders under my belt and 500 instagram followers. This was October 2016.
The first couple months were slow. I remember sitting down with Garrett in the beginning of December and realizing I wasn't making any profit yet, even though I was working harder than ever and getting regular orders. It was difficult to see how it could ever be a viable business, and we questioned if I should continue or at least get a part time job to pay my bills. I knew getting a job would wear me out and distract me from the goal, so I stubbornly refused. By the end of December I was making more than I had ever made at a regular job.
In 2017 I traveled to Scotland for my first experience of EYF (I didn't vend), hosted my first yarn clubs, opened my own website, vended at Indie Untangled in New York state, did some wholesaling, navigated doing my own taxes, rebranded my labels, and made lots of friends through the online knitting community. And this really is a viable business now. I won't ever be rich, but that's not the point. I don't have a boss. I work alongside some of the best people in this industry. My customers are amazing and supportive. Oh, and did I already mention I don't have a boss? No one is telling me to do things like write this post. I am rich in blessings.
On a personal note, running a business full time has truly improved my health and well-being. I am sensitive to just about everything -- clothes touching my skin, alcohol, certain foods, wind, social situations, shampoo, grass, and most of all, stress. Even though running a business is stressful at times, it's nowhere near as stressful as working for someone else. I have gained weight (yes, this is a good thing for someone who was too stressed to eat before), no longer cry regularly, no longer have eczema, and feel calm about 95% of the time.
Oh, and Garrett and I just got engaged last weekend!
I have thought many times about what the future of Tuskenknits looks like. As for right now, I don't want to grow. I like being small and independent. I like knowing who my customers are and being involved in the entire process. Eventually I might hire help for shipping or even dyeing yarn, but it will always be small. A big business wouldn't suit me, and I don't think it would really suit my customers either.
This summer I hope to write regular posts about the lessons I've learned. Things like social media addiction, unfollowing your competition, the importance of being original, the power of photography, etc. These are things I have briefly talked about on Instagram, but they deserve a bit more time and space. And I hope they will be helpful or interesting for everyone, whether you run a small business or not.
Thank you for reading and supporting me!