Diana learned to knit from her great grandmother, and although she didn't realise it at the time, the skills she developed put her on the path to becoming a true “knitterpreneur”.
Like so many knitting businesses, it started as a hobby and grew over time into a full-time occupation. Now Diana enjoys spending her days doing what she loves to do. Read on to find how she has created a fantastic niche knitting business that grows and grows, with an advertising budget of zero!
Diana's knitterpreneur journey started back in 1975 when her daughter was born. After learning from her great grandmother how to knit complete garments for her dolls, she started doing the same for her daughter. Neighbors noticed her creations and started asking her to knit for their children too.
Diana offered a very personalised service, with her customers able to choose colours and adjust styles and sizing, and very soon she could hardly keep up with demand. Even after moving interstate and starting her knitting business over, her customer base quickly grew as word spread about her unique and high quality creations including children's clothes and layettes. Even today she knits for the same customers, but now it's for their grandchildren!
The Switch To Machine Knitting
It was at this point in her business that she realised she just couldn't keep up with hand knitting alone, so Diana invested in a knitting machine and hasn't looked back. After figuring out how to use the machine herself, she also began teaching others. This included demonstrations in yarn-stores, craft shows, school events and adult education classes.
Throughout her knitting career, Diana has used every one of the five “Knitting For Profit” strategies. She has done contract knitting for designers to test patterns and correct mistakes, she taught others how to knit, she has re-created vintage knitwear for a Parisian couturier, she has designed knitting patterns of her own, and also created unique made-to-order garments for theatre, vintage and historical costuming. She never tires of knitting, because something new and interesting is always available!
How Diana's Son Changed Her Whole Business…
Diana's knitting business now includes a great niche market and whole new marketing strategy, all because her son wanted to go to a convention dressed as Harry Potter in a Hogwarts uniform. She knitted up a woollen scarf and school sweater for him, and suddenly there were requests from friends and other fans for the same. Her son posted the items on the internet, and they got more orders than they could fill – the scarves selling out in just 3 hours!
Diana's knitting service had always been so personalised she hadn't thought that she would be able to sell online, but after the success of the scarves and sweaters she created wizardknits.com and found that her high quality garments and personalised service were a winning formula online as well as off.
She has not spent a cent on advertising – all her traffic and orders come from word of mouth and referrals. People from around the world now know her name and will seek her out to get their knitted wizarding garments.
The secret she says, is authenticity. When you buy from wizardknits, you get a quality product of 100% wool that has the most authentic design and colours available. And the second most important factors are customisation and service. She tailors each sweater to suit her customers and always maintains communication with them. She will answer each and every email because “If you want to get a sale, you need to act like you are interested and respond to questions. Working on the internet is not the same as being live in front of someone, but you still need to communicate with people!”
The Problem Of Pricing?
Every knitterpreneur has to contend with the issue of pricing – valuing your time and skills can be hard – and Diana was no different. “I have spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what is a fair price for me, but also working out how much someone would be willing to spend, and I know I would pay almost any price to get something that fit me and looked great. In the end, you need to look at it that way, get the best materials and make it as something you would buy yourself”.
She has found that her most expensive products actually sell just as well (if not better) than her lower priced ones, which shows that people are willing to pay more when they are getting a high quality niche product that they won't find anywhere else.
Stock Control And Minimising Costs
Diana has some great advice for keeping costs down. Once you find your niche and know what knitted products you are going to provide you'll be able to order your yarns in bulk and from yarn wholesalers rather than retail. Diana has found that by knitting to order (and having virtually no stock) she can order only the yarn she needs, so she doesn't have costly leftovers lying around and she doesn't need lots of space to store stock.
Diana's Advice For Starting Out?
“The first thing you need to do is decide whether you are ready to spend the time to make your knitting into a business. You can be knitting furiously all day but it doesn't make a knitting business, there are a lot of things that go with it. If you spend the hours to start the right way, and if you set it up correctly then it pretty much runs itself.”
And Her Advice For Starting Machine Knitting…
“There's a big learning curve with a knitting machine, in my opinion you need to spend the money and get a good quality machine. So you need to decide if your knitting business is ready for it – do you have enough orders and business to warrant it? A knitting machine is an investment, I take it off in my tax return, and my business did not warrant one in the beginning, but it came to a point where I just couldn't keep up with demand and it really helped.”
“There are many different kinds of knitting machine so you need one that suits your business and the kind of knitwear you produce. Stay away from plastic machines, and get one with accessories because once you have achieved the learning curve and are comfortable with it, you want your knitting machine to be able to grow with you as you are able to do more complex designs.”
“Remember its a learning experience, you shouldn't assume that you can buy a knitting machine and instantly have a sweater, even the knitting on a machine takes a long time to learn. It will speed things up in the end, and if you are knitting the same things over and over again then its perfect”
Her Favourite Part Of Knitting For Profit?
“I just enjoy the knitting, and knowing that the person on the other end just can't wait to get what I'm making for them. You would think I would get tired of knitting these, but they are all different – different sizes and colours. I knit hundreds of sweaters and scarves a year, so you can't do that without really loving it!
And it's the unsolicited testimonials and that they are always pleasantly surprised when they open their package from me, that's what I enjoy hearing”