Diane from “Lulette!”
Diane Naegel turned her love of knitting into a fashion empire in 2003, with her unique made-to-order scarves sold from her website, www.lulette.com .
Diane has been machine knitting since 2002, when she did her first knitwear project in fashion school. Her project included a giant scarf that combined patterns, colors and textures. “I’ve always loved the versatility of scarves, and that it’s something that can be enjoyed by anyone” she says. After finishing her senior thesis, which also featured scarves, she came up with the idea to create personalised scarves, with messages written on them instead of motifs.
“My customers can have their own personal message custom knit into a scarf for them. They get to choose the font and the colors used, and we make it happen. I also have some cute motif scarves and pre-designed messages where people are able to choose the colors and order as is. No one else out there offers custom message scarves, so I think I have the market cornered! I sell 90% of my scarves online via my website, www.lulette.com, and the rest are sold wholesale to small boutiques around the United States and Canada.”
Lulette was a full time job and the only source of income for Diane until recently, when she moved to New York. Before starting Lulette, Diane had no business experience, just an innate sense of entrepreneurship. Like many knitters in business, she had a great idea and put it into action, then learned the rest as she went.
When asked, “where did you start?”, Diane says that perfecting the product was the first thing she focused on. “I had to figure out how to create the scarves exactly how I wanted them to be as far as tension, yarn, fonts, colors, etc…getting the product right first is key! From there I started thinking out the concept of the brand, how I wanted to present it aesthetically, and was working on the website/hangtags for quite a while (along with getting the proper business licenses and things, of course!). From there it was a lot of using the internet to promote my business and selling myself to local stores to get my product into them.”
The biggest challenge that Diane faced when starting out was having a small budget, but she found that this gave her the drive to be more creative in her approach to business. She had to learn how to sell, how to do all the accounts, how to fix a jammed knitting machine (yikes!) and eventually as the business grew, how to outsource the work to other knitters. Starting a business is hard work, but Diane says, “its also incredibly satisfying and a major education in itself.”
So what is her secret to success?
“I think my business works because my product is unique, and gives the customer an opportunity to be the designer as well. My products also make great gifts because they are knitted to order, which makes them very personal and special”
“My advice to those thinking of starting a knitting business is to just to go ahead and do it! You will doubt yourself sometimes, but trying and giving it your all is essential…the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t work out as you imagined and perhaps you move on…but you need to jump in with both feet and go for it from day one!”
Ruth from “nonstopknits”
Ruth is relatively new to knitting having started only 5 years ago, but as soon as she learned she was hooked, and hasn’t stopped since! She now designs a range of easy-to-knit patterns, as well as finished hats and purses for her knitting business, nonstop knits.
Ruth first started selling her creations at local Bazaars. She had found that one of the keys to success in selling knitting was to make her products unique and different. By using unique styles and colours, and adding decorations to her work, she offered knitted pieces that people could fall in love with and desperately want to own.
Then she began taking custom orders, and it wasn’t long before her knitting business grew. Most of her sales are still local, from art sales and word of mouth. She also sells knitting online through her etsy.com shop at www.nonstopknits.etsy.com .
Ruth found another knitting niche by accident one day when she knitted a hat for her son to wear to Ice Hockey. “My intention was that Adam would have a cool knitted hat,” she says. He started wearing it to the games and soon all the coaches, parents and kids were requesting the same knitted hats, and suddenly she had a whole new income stream!
Ruth didn’t realise she was to become a knitting pattern designer either. She began getting requests for her knitting patterns when visiting yarn stores with her daughter, who often wears her mother’s original knitted designs. After all these requests, a local yarn store owner said she would sell her patterns for if Ruth would write them down.
This gave Ruth the motivation she needed to get started. She had hit on another niche market with her knitting patterns. They are great for both new and experienced knitters because the projects are quick to knit, and the directions are very detailed. Her knitted hat and purse patterns are made using circular needles to make knitting faster, many of her projects can be completed in an hour or two – perfect for people who want to sell their products!
“I love that all this began as something within my family,” she says, “I have on my knitting patterns that I’m a home-grown business, and that couldn’t be more true.”
Ruth’s advice to budding “knitterpreneurs”:
‘I am on a steep learning curve as I make my knitting hobby and passion into a business. I constantly try to keep my focus on doing what I love. Designing, creating and fitting art into life is the edge where I like to work. If you want to sell your knitted items, my advice is to listen to the comments people make about your work and watch how they react to your products. This will show you where your marketing opportunities are.’
Susan and Jill from Y2Knit
Susan and Jill have combined their love of knitting and yarn, their skills, life passions and experiences to create www.Y2Knit.net, a knitting business with a difference!
These sisters are a wonderful example of the many paths that a life in knitting can take you down, and how being creative with your approach can set you apart and make your knitting business a success.
Both Susan and Jill have been knitting since they were young children, and both have been teaching knitting for many years now. Their knitting business, Y2Knit, has evolved over the last few years to include not only the yarn store, but also knitting workshops (online and live), an extensive pattern collection, two published knitting books, two more books on the way, and of course their famous knitting retreats!
“Jill and I both loved the idea of combining a relaxing experience with knitting workshops, good food, yoga, massage and fun conversation. Our most recent knitting getaway was in Tuscany” says Susan.
This is a great example of finding a niche and doing something that really sets you apart.
Both Susan and Jill attribute their success to determination and hard work, as well as flexibility and being able to capitalise on each others skills. “We tend to have different strengths, so we can balance each other, and we are also able to bounce ideas off one another” says Jill.
They both had some experience in business when they started out, and now have a knitting business plan which helps keep them moving in the direction they want to go. “We are constantly looking at how we can excel and succeed in our knitting business” says Susan.
And they have some great advice for anyone wanting to start teaching knitting:
“I think the first step is to identify if you are a good teacher. Try teaching your friends and see what it’s like. If you find that you can’t stifle your impatience, then teaching knitting isn’t for you!
Jill and I both love to teach knitting, and I think that our enthusiasm shows through. To start, develop some lesson plans, find a venue, and work at getting people to sign up. To be an entrepreneur, you must be able to do your own marketing.”
They freely admit that their hours are long, and it can be challenging to embrace the rapid changes that have occurred in this industry over the last few years, but both Jill and Susan show a wonderful passion for knitting and teaching knitting, and live life surrounded by the people and things that are most enjoyable for them, a dream come true for many of us!