Just look at that girl! She's young, she loves yarn and she really knows how to rock a headband. I stumbled upon this photo the other day. It was one of my first facebook profile pics from October 2007 (I think). Those are some of the first skeins that I ever dyed. This photo was taken by Chris in the first apartment that we shared together. I would dye yarn in our tiny little kitchen and then hang it on doorknobs around the apartment. When I got "serious" we upgraded to hanging the yarn on a broomstick and then hanging the broomstick over a set of french doors. I kinda love this photo. Chris' skateboard in the background, the cluttered bookshelves... Chris was incredibly supportive of my yarn-dyeing pursuits. He would have had every right to find my dyeing and drying of yarn annoying. The first time I ordered 100 pounds of yarn, cones of sock yarn became a permanent fixture in our living room. Chris never complained. I had no idea what I was doing, and I don't think that Chris knew exactly what I was up to either, but he enthusiastically supported me every step of the way. I really love that guy.
A few weeks ago I did an interview with Julie. She's started this cool new feature where she'll be interviewing indie business owners. I think the whole concept is really interesting and I enjoyed the challenge of giving my own business model some serious thought. I am not usually one to give advice. Maybe it's because everything I know about knitting, dyeing and owning a yarn business I've learnt on my own through trial and error. I'm a big believer in that method of learning, but it doesn't make me feel particularly qualified to be giving out business advice. I also think that a big part of my hesitancy to offer advice has to do with the fact that I don't believe in there being a right way or a wrong way to do just about anything. Whatever is right for you is probably what's right for your indie-business. When Julie asked me what advice I'd give to someone starting their own business I gave it a lot of thought and came up with this:
Comparing yourself to others is a total waste of time because what really sets your product apart is the fact that you made it. I believe that the artist's hand is present in their work and that people can see that. Staying true to your vision is the best way to set yourself apart and ultimately be successful.
I believe that to be true with all of my heart. It applies to more than just the creative side of things, but also to the way that you choose to structure your business. I think that part of being true to yourself, in terms of business, means knowing yourself. Since that photo was taken over seven years ago TFA has taken me in all sorts of different directions, given me lots of opportunities and forced me to make a lot of tough decisions. Over time I've learnt to figure out what we (Chris and I, since it's no longer just me) are good at, what we like to do and how we can make TFA as good as possible, both for our customers and for us. This may seem obvious, but it took me a while to figure out that as a two person company we simply just can't do it all. It also took me a while to figure out that we don't love doing it all! There are plenty of things that we've tried and didn't enjoy. Lessons learned.
Knowing our strengths and building our business around them rather than trying to force our business to be something that doesn't come naturally to us has been key. After over seven years of navigating the sometimes choppy seas of indie-business ownership, I think that we're just now really settling into a rhythm that works for us. Funny that it took starting a family for us to get our priorities straight and force us to think long and hard about how we want to be spending our days.
Chris and I both love doing Etsy updates, experimenting with colour, following our instincts and being creative. I love working on patterns, and putting together colour combinations for kits and for the Club. I love blogging and sharing the inspiration that fuels me with you all, and we really love knowing that the TFA yarn that you knit with has gone from our hands to yours. One of us put that label on and carefully packaged up your order and sent it off. It allows us to feel a real connection to the people that we are creating our yarns for. Focussing on these aspects of our business is what fulfills us and what, I think, makes for the best possible TFA.
So, this Throwback Thursday post, inspired by that image of TFA when we were just getting started, is to remind myself to continue to take my own advice and to stay true to ourselves.