Posted: 3rd October 2017
Last year, I set up a new business with my longtime pal Helen. Helen (based near Edinburgh) and I (based in London) had both worked fairly standard jobs – Hels as a Recruitment Consultant in the IT industry, and me as a Project Manager within the charity, education and third sectors. We had, for years, talked about running our own business, but never quite got round to deciding exactly what and how we were going to do it.
In 2015 my husband was headhunted to a firm in the West Midlands, and I found myself based rurally near Lichfield, having given up my London job with Media Trust, where I’d worked with the Cabinet Office and companies like the BBC and Channel 4 to project manage national education programmes for young people. It was time for the new start I’d talked about for so long.
Helen (who lives in a hamlet in the Scottish Borders) and I met up for a snowy weekend of walking in the Lake District, and finally started to plan our future as business partners. We thought long and hard about what motivated us, and we decided that whatever we ended up doing, we wanted to have something meaningful at the centre of it – we really wanted our customers to feel part of something, our products to be the best quality we could make them, and to feel that we were making a difference to people’s lives as well as hopefully, one day, making some money out of it.
For a number of years, I’d knitted things for Helen, and for a number of years, she’d got cross when she’d tried to knit things in return – she didn’t know how to start learning, and she felt defeated at the first dropped stitch. We talked a lot about the fact that skills like knitting were often learned from parents and grandparents, and that for a lot of young people who had the misfortune of not learning from their elders, they appeared to be obsolete. But we’d also noticed something else: a burgeoning online community of knitters, all helping each other, all sharing beautiful designs and wonderful yarns, and we were reminded of what we’d loved about it to start with: the pride and pleasure of creating something either to give to someone you love, or just to wear yourself.
So we took the plunge, andwas born. We exist specifically to help beginners, because – on top of the fact that there are lots of people out there who are way too busy to research/know what to look for to teach themselves – we found that existing kits just didn’t go the extra mile with the info that was needed to help beginners overcome those first few hurdles to get going with a knitting project. All our kits include yarn, needles, instructions, help cards, a sewing needle and a lovely cotton project bag, and if you’re already a knitter you can just buy the yarn or accessories from us too. We source our yarn from friendly suppliers in the UK and have knitters here and abroad who are helping us develop beautiful patterns and ideas.
We often hear “I’d love to learn how to knit, but I can’t do it / don’t have the time / always make mistakes.” Mistakes are part of the story too – we try to remind people that it’s the imperfections that make what you’ve made so unique. When we started out we were surprised at some people’s attitudes that just because a knitter was new they should get cheap yarn “because they’ll make mistakes”… absolutely not! You’ve spent hours creating something wonderful, why would you want to spoil it by using yarn you actually don’t want to wear or give as a gift?
We’ve learned how to run our business on a shoe-string and have taught ourselves how to build our website, gone to free marketing/business/finance workshops, learned how to ask for help from friends with PR, design, tech and photography experience (and gladly accepted it), and created an awful lot of spreadsheets. We’re still learning, and we’ve almost assuredly made some mistakes. But we seem to be getting some things right, too. We’ve got nearly 1,800 followers on social media, some fantastic reviews, and we’re busily planning our next lot of kits.
So if you’re looking for something unique as we enter the Autumn, maybe think about checking us out. We’d love to hear from you.
*NB. Image featured is our Urchin Spiral Hat.*