According to Facebook, February 5th is a special day.
I opened my Etsy shop one year ago today!
I’m so proud of the humble little Etsy shop I’ve built. I’ve had just 13 online sales (and more in-person or special order sales) BUT! several of those 13 online sales were purchases of more than one item, including one wholesale purchase of multiple necklaces for resale. And let’s not forget the not-so-brief hiatus I took over the summer that surely halted sales for a good three months.
In the last year, a lot has changed for me. I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, I am 1.5 courses away from finishing my MBA (graduating in May!!), I have become a more prolific knitter (3 sweaters completed!), I got a small promotion at work, I’ve published two articles on forbes.com, and of course… I’ve owned and operated an Etsy shop for one whole year now!
Now one year since opening shop, I can see that my life is in a bit of a “state of transition.” With the light at the end of the tunnel of business school getting brighter and brighter, I spend a lot of time thinking: what’s next?
In the absence of business school, I have a few goals I’d like to work toward once I graduate – professional certifications and speaking opportunities mostly. But as far as Old Salt is concerned, I know that my weekends, which are currently dominated by reading case studies, writing papers, collaborating on group projects, watching video lectures, and so on, will be immensely freed up, and I want to dedicate a sizable fraction of that unlocked time to Old Salt.
I know – I said a few months ago that I was no longer going be completely consumed by high-volume production for Old Salt. Make no mistake: in many ways that is still very true.
Yes, if you’ve been reading my blog (or if you care to go back down the rabbit hole of the old posts) you know that my Etsy shop has been at times a true labor of love, and frankly, cranking out the same items over and over has been more labor than love. I’ve learned that knitting to mass produce is not something I am at all interested in. And with only 13 sales to show for it, despite how incredibly grateful I am for each and every one of those sales, reassessing my revenue strategy is probably a worthwhile endeavor.
In all reality, though, the change I’m about to announce was something I toyed around with as a future possibility for Old Salt ever since I launched it a year ago. In fact, when I launched, I included the words “Craft Co.” in the name of the brand because I wanted to be able to do either one of two things at some point in the future: a) sell other handicrafts and not just knitted items or b) sell products targeted toward other fiber artists and makers.
Well, the path forward has become clear! Option B, sell to other makers, seems like a really smart option right now. Necessity is the mother of invention. I recently completed a mitten, and I had originally planned to just make a few minor adjustments to the pattern so it would fit me better. However, by the time I completed the first mitten, I realized I had essentially written an entirely new pattern – and I’m actually pleased with how it turned out!
Thus, I’d like to start offering Old Salt Craft Co knitting patterns. But that will require a true “pivot” from Old Slat. The market I’m appealing to on Etsy right now is specifically people who do not knit (otherwise, they wouldn’t buy my products – they’d make them). So I need to change who I’m selling to if I want to sell patterns, and this may mean getting away from selling finished hand knit products.
If you are not a knitter / fiber artist: this may sound like crazy talk. But yes. People (including myself on a very regular basis) pay to download knitting patterns, usually from Ravelry.com or even on Etsy. Pattern downloads are typically about $3-7 depending on complexity. Sure, PDFs can be emailed and shared around, but it doesn’t happen that much since the low price is usually less than the trouble of scouring the internet for an illegal version. It’s a great way for talented designers to make passive income. Once a designer uploads it to either site, there’s very little involved (besides customer service). No further production, no packaging, shipping, etc. You still have plenty of marketing and administrative duties, but it’s much easier and higher volume than selling a physical product.
Don’t worry. No big moves just yet. For now, I hope to dip my toes in pattern writing by offering free patterns on Ravelry at first, and then I’ll see what the feedback is before I start making more complex patterns with a price attached to them. I’m not going to charge anyone for my first few patterns, since I’m sure there’s a learning curve.
So rest assured, all the hand-knit items currently in my shop aren’t going anywhere any time soon…unless of course people start buying them! In fact, I may (?) continue to add items to the shop occasionally, since it’s going to be a while before I am expert enough to start selling patterns. I haven’t decided if, in the future, I will completely delete all my current listings when I’ve fully made the pivot toward the new market, or if I’ll just sell to both markets.
Selling to two mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed markets is NOT recommended for any business, especially not on Etsy, but I’m not trying to be Richard Branson here. I just want to cover my costs of makin’ stuff so I can make more stuff.
That being said, I do have some ideas for other offerings that will be rolled up into this pivot. The first one being one you’ll see soon, and the one that will hopefully help promote and spread the word about all other Old Salt aspirations.
Here’s a peek at Old Salt’s future:
“THE OLD SALT KNITTING PODCAST”
Yep – I’m dead serious. If you don’t already know, knitting podcasts are a thing (and actually they are a very popular thing, thank you very much). The urge to do a video podcast is, in all reality, the impetus behind the change to Old Salt’s target market. Even before I accidentally on purpose wrote my own knitting pattern, I’ve wanted to podcast for a while, but I couldn’t reason why my current market would watch a knitting podcast. So, when I realized I could get into pattern writing, I started to think more realistically about changing my offerings and my target market so to have an excuse to start a podcast. And the more I thought about it, the more the podcast and the other changes made sense as a way to carve out a more accessible and specific target market.
I plan on getting the podcast going in March (when I have a month off from school). I’m so excited for all the segments I’ve dreamed up, but I’m even more pumped to join the incredible community of knitting podcasters on YouTube! For a great example of the content this community is producing, check out (if you haven’t already): Wool, Needles, Hands – and then say goodbye to a good 20 hours of your life. The online fiber community is such an accepting and inclusive place, and I’m so eager to become more active in that special, safe corner of the internet.
Even though it will produce virtually no revenue, this is definitely the venture I’m most excited about in all of this. I truly could talk about knitting all day, but I don’t have an outlet for it. As an example, I’ve somewhat regularly posted to this blog about my adventures in knitting even though I never share any of it, and I can see that pretty much no one has discovered it. Most people probably don’t know it exists, but I just have this need to get my fiber thoughts out there, and I think a podcast will be a great avenue for doing that.
This is something that Old Salt Craft Co was likely destined to offer. As I mentioned, I named it “Craft Co” to allow for this specific endeavor. I have so many ideas for more mittens, socks, shawls, cowls, and so forth that I think this will be a great way to both do some selfish knitting (since I’ll get to keep the prototypes!) and to make some passive income by charging a few bucks per download. I have been designing my own patterns for years, but I’ve never written them up in a way that anyone else would understand them. Once I’m confident with my pattern writing skills, I’ll start selling my one-of-a-kind designs to the new target market that I’ll hopefully reach through my podcast.
(I realize I’m talking a lot of inside baseball here – it just helps me process my ideas)
This is another invention born out of necessity. As I’ve said now numerous times, I have a towering stash of recycled fabric yarn in my spare bedroom, most of which I have no desire to knit with despite how absolutely gorgeous it all is. I have beautiful patterned fabrics that are just calling out to be paired up with one another for my signature necklaces (one of which is pictured below).
I intend to put together kits of the right amount of fabric yarn, beads, and clasps, as well as a printed pattern (not a download), so that other makers can create these necklaces themselves. There really isn’t anything proprietary to the pattern. Even someone who is new to knitting can probably figure out how to construct these just by looking at the picture, but I have all the fabric yarns to unload, and if I can toot my own horn, I have an eye for pairing the fabrics with one another. This way, people can buy the kit without doing what I did – that is, buy a lifetime supply of fabric yarn cones.
Disclaimer: I fully recognize that putting together kits also has the potential of becoming a burden of mass production. We’ll see – I’m completely open to sunsetting this offering if it starts killing my mojo.
WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE!
The podcast, necklace kits, and patterns are just the start. I would love to offer other items for makers and fiber artists, but these three ventures are the first that I’d like to get off the ground in 2018. Other ideas include: more maker kits, handmade stitch markers and progress trackers, knitting tutorial webinars, project and notions bags (using the fabric yarn I have), and who knows what else. I know, I know – easy there, sister. I am taking the babiest of steps. A gal can dream, though.
So, long story long, that’s what’s been going on in my ever-scheming brain. Old Salt’s first year was not a resounding success. I can own that. However, it was not a failure either because I learned a lot and I’m determined to figure out what is the right path. I’m certain that the potential of what Old Salt can become has yet to be fully tapped.
I’m trying to accept that every time I launch a new product and discontinue another, or whenever I decide I’m going to tweak the brand’s target market slightly (which I have already done several times), I get a little bit closer to whatever it is Old Salt will eventually be. The truth is, if I hadn’t tried to sell ready-to-wear items first – if I had started with the knitting market – I would have wondered if I should be selling finished products, and I likely would have longed to do so. I needed to try it this way first.
And yes, any brand will evolve perpetually over time. I recognize that expecting to unlock some secret, permanent formula is never going to happen, but Old Salt has yet to arrive at a specific target market or a real core business that doesn’t regularly change. I don’t think I have quite figured out that core business yet, but I’m pretty confident that I’m finally landing on, once and for all, my market: fiber artists and makers.
After all, those are my people. 🙂