The Last Full Moon of 2016—Reflections

2016 is wrapping up in about two weeks, and all too soon 2017 will be upon us. I want to use this last Full Moon, to reflect upon the events of the year in my brand/business; to see how far I’ve come; to explore what I’ve learned, what I’ve been fortunate enough to experience; and, where I hope to go in 2017.

Top 5 Achievements in 2016

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I often don’t take the time to celebrate my wins. There’s definitely a line between being humble and not too proud, but not taking the time to say, “Hey, I did this awesome thing that I ‘should’ be proud of,” can lead to burnout later down the road. So I’m going to take the time to name, and list, my top 5 achievements of 2016.

1.         Launching the viral 5 Shawls, 5 Days Challenge

 Mini Shawls from Day One!

Mini Shawls from Day One!

This one happened closer to the beginning of the year. When I was writing up my e-book, Forming Shawls and Their Charts, in order to help with the marketing, and to get the word out about the book, I wanted to host a fun, free, yet educational challenge. I came up with the idea of knitting mini prototypes of the shawls, selecting 5 common ones, but I was really nervous about how the community would view it. It was such an easy challenge? Mini-shawls? Who would want to do that? But I decided to go for it anyway, just to see the feedback, and the reaction. It was so much more overwhelmingly positive than I expected. By the time the challenge started, over 1,000 participants had signed-up: from new knitters, to wanna-be shawl knitters, even shawl designers. By the end of the challenge, the hashtag #5shawls5days was trending on IG from the sheer number of engaged users. In fact, that’s how most people in the fiber industry know me, as the “5 Shawls, 5 Days” gal. The e-book launch was a success too, and I know that people are waiting for a round three (hint, it’s coming up in January!).

Want to take the DIY version? Sign up here to take it!

2.         Launching my e-course, SWATCH Studio

This is a HUGE one. I spent months developing my signature e-course, SWATCH Studio: a course that focuses on guiding aspiring knitwear designers through the motions of designing, knitting, writing, and publishing their own knitwear designs on Ravelry. I also ran a special challenge to kick-off this course’s launch, the Initiate Knit Design Challenge, that gave participants a ten-day intensive workshop to challenge them to go through the first few steps of knitwear design, in just 10 days. I ran the challenge twice, and had over 120 students enrolled in the course. I’ll be relaunching the course next year, in February or March.

3.         Launching the Fiber Muse Community

For the longest time, the Aroha Knits brand was about me, which is important, as small brands like mine are a reflection of the person running it. However, it felt unbalanced, and during the last few months of 2016, I have figured out why. I wasn’t focusing on an equally important aspect—my followers (aka, you!). I took a special program called Master Brand, which helps small businesses like mine find their unique voice, their unique style, basically their “uniqueness” (which is super important to find when you’re in a crowded market). It really helped me discover who I was, what I wanted to bring to the fiber community, and what impact I wanted to have, but I was struggling to discover for whom I was doing this. So, on the second run of Master Brand, along with Chelsea Fitch’s, Fiber Boss College course, I went in deep on discovering who my ideal client is; who would benefit the most from my special gifts and talents; and for whom I would want to create. And the result? The Fiber Muse. I officially relaunched Aroha Knits at the beginning of the month, with my free Makariri Shawl pattern, along with the Discovery Quiz, so that Fiber Muses can unveil what their special type of magic is—are you a Dreamer, Seeker, Giver or Mystic?

When I figured out this crucial element, it was like the sky cleared and birds came tweeting down from the heavens to place a flower crown upon my head; it was a truly magical experience, from which I’m still riding the new found inspiration and motivation. 2017 won't even know what hit it, from all the new launches and offerings I plan on unveiling.

4.         Publishing my 50th pattern

Nothing much to say about this one except, yay! I started designing in April 2014, but went full force in January 2015. Two years later, it’s amazing how far I’ve come! Thank you for coming along on this journey with me!

5.         Hitting 20k IG followers

I’m aiming for 24k before 2017, but hitting 20k was a huge milestone for me. When I was living in Ubuyama, I didn’t have a local knitting community, or any community. I was also newly-married, couldn’t work, couldn’t drive, was living in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. It was about the same time that I decided to go from designing as a hobby, to a full-time career, so I went in hard on social media, Instagram especially. I taught myself the ins-and-outs of the app, practiced taking better photos, made connections in the industry, built a community, and since then, have been able to average at about 1,000 new followers per month. I plan on creating an e-course about growing an IG following, in 2017, but haven’t gotten around to that. Yet.

What 2017 Holds…

 As part of my goal for 2017, I've hired a model for my photoshooets!

As part of my goal for 2017, I've hired a model for my photoshooets!

The word that I’ve chosen for 2017 is “collaboration”. The word I had for 2016 was “courage,” which was definitely very fitting, as launching my new offerings, and growing my brand required lots of bravery, and getting over my fears.

I’ve chosen collaboration, because I want to learn how to work better, and more efficiently with others in the industry. I want to use my platform to shine a light on other small brands, those who are starting out or growing, as I know the hard work that goes into doing so. However, I’m not always the most organized or streamlined, so this year I want to be more professional, official, and organized about such collaborations. It’s just really simple things too: like setting proper deadlines, keeping in good communication, preparing for launches a couple weeks in advance, not the day of, etc. Hopefully, it’ll be a good growth mechanism, for both parties involved.

To start off, I’ve set up several methods of collaboration: design commissions, KAL/challenge sponsorships, monthly Patreon giveaway sponsorships. To learn more about each program, click the links below:

Also in 2017, I’ll be kicking off a new podcast series—the Yarn Alchemist Spotlight Series—where I’ll be interviewing some of my students from SWATCH Studio, asking them to share their stories, experiences, achievements, and struggles, about being an aspiring knitwear designer.

Whew, that was a LONG post, but seeing that it’s the end of the year, it’s fitting. I would like to hear your top 5 (or 3, if that’s too much!) experiences of 2016, as well as your “word” for 2017.

Ignite magic,

Frenchie

The Importance of Having an Email List

This week in SWATCH Studio, as we are welcoming in new enrollments for the course, students are already asking some very good questions:

I'm wondering if a website is essential or can you make a biz work through using social media? I feel like I know more about how to use social media than making a website and I couldn't afford to pay someone to make one for me. If it is essential can you recommend any resources to help make a diy website?

As someone who is just getting started in designing and wanting to get a business going, what are the must haves I should start with? Something techy? A certain number of patterns? Separate accounts for things? Help a newb out

I wonder about how to grow my "following" and getting my patterns noticed. I know I can't convert every pattern view but more views couldn't hurt. I'd love to hear more ways to market myself and my work without being spammy.

One of my problems so far is finding test knitters. I've posted in a few places but haven't gotten any bites yet. How can you find reliable test knitters that are willing to actually test knit your patterns when you're just starting out and don't have any following yet?

As I was reading through these, I realized that the answer to all of them was very much the same:

Email lists!

A website is not essential when you’re just starting out, (although it’s useful to have down the line), because you can certainly make it work on social media. What you really need to complement your social media presence is a landing page for your email list. Note: A landing page is a one-page website that is used to collect email addresses.

To get a business going, when you are starting out, it is crucial to have an audience for your work! So, a must is to have an irresistible freebie that you will promote on your landing page, enticing people to sign up for your email list. People who are willing to sign up for your list, in order to get the freebie, are already interested in what you provide, or they wouldn’t have signed up at all!

Growing your following and getting noticed: email lists. A good way to grow your email list is to present any new pattern releases, to your list, possibly with a special subscriber discount—you have to give extra benefits to your followers!

As for finding reliable test knitters, I have a special list on my website. I have a sign-up form for those who are interested in being a test knitter for me. This helps when I have a pattern that I want to have tested. I just send an email to them, and I know my call will be answered, because those on that list signed up specifically for this purpose.

So why are email lists so essential?

It’s still the best way to build an engaged audience, sell a product online, or create hype around your next big event or service project. When people signup to be on your list, they are interested in what you do and want to stay in the loop. They want you to let them know when you have a new pattern release, an upcoming KAL, or any other cool event.

That’s why I’m teaching my students in SWATCH Studio, this semester, how to set up, build and grow their email list AND Facebook Group, through a FREE and LIVE 6-week workshop. (Why FB groups too? Because it’s a great way to foster daily engagement and relationship building, and to see what your audience wants from you!) This is the only time I will be doing this workshop, along with the SWATCH Studio course, as I will be offering this workshop as a separate course in the future.

Enrollment for SWATCH Studio closes October 10th. If you want to discover your magic as a knitwear designer, so you can kick start your design career AND learn my secrets behind building my audience, click here to enroll now!

How to Make a Stand-Out Impression for Collaborations

In the Facebook group, Transform Your Yarn, I give members a chance to get their questions about knitwear design answered, via “Catalyst Call” live-streams, or in a blog post that I write—both on a weekly basis. If you are not in the group, click here to join. If you do not have  Facebook, but have some questions that you would like answered, just send me an email!

I also have mentoring spots open as part of my Patreon membership. For $50 a month (in addition to benefits you get with the $10 membership), you will get monthly one-on-one personal coaching calls, and access to my e-course Swatch Studio, as well as future programs. There are only 5 spots, so contact me if you are interested in this mentoring opportunity!

The topic for this week comes from Babs:

How do you approach indie dyers or yarn companies for business relationships?

I work a lot with indie dyers and yarn companies, for my designs. In fact, I can hardly remember the last design I worked on that was purely for fun and not in collaboration with anyone.

Actually, that’s not true. The last one was the Kakano hat made from YOTH yarns, but that’s been the first one in a loooooong time.

Honestly, I am the one who has been approached for collaborations, rather than the other way around. I think this gives me some unique insight since I can say what really impresses me and makes brands stand out. [Read more]

First, even if you do not know what to say or do, sending an email to ASK for yarn support, a collaboration or some other kind of relationship is so much better than doing nothing or waiting for people to come to you. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no?

I think we are scared of rejection because we are so used to rejections that turn personal. But when you are interacting with a company, it’s purely business if they do reject your offer, absolutely nothing personal. It’s a simple, “We appreciate your email, but we must say no at this time” or something along those lines.

We want our emails to stand out, because as you can imagine companies and brands receive lots of emails every day. Keep the headline, of your email, simple and to the point. The content of the email is more important:

1.         Introduce yourself, what you do (mission statement), who you serve, and HOW you serve your audience. This is your elevator pitch!

Example: My name is Francoise, a knitwear designer and teacher under the label Aroha Knits. My company’s mission is to help knitters transform their yarn into unique, hand-knit pieces to boost their confidence and creativity. How? I design knitwear designs to inspire and delight, wanting knitters to add their special touch, and I offer courses and books that transform knitters into confident designers. 

2.         State the purpose of your email: yarn support, collaboration, business relations, whatever.

Example: I have been following your work for awhile now and have been recently inspired to design a shawl using your yarn. I am reaching out to inquire about yarn support and possibly fostering a relationship for future collaborations, depending on how well this one goes.

3.         Let them know how your brand is going to provide value back to their company. You have to give back, too. Basically, how you are going to SERVE them.

Example: I have a combined social media and newsletter following of over 30k+*, and I can offer you a copy of the pattern for you to sell in your shop as a kit. We can discuss our promotion campaign together, in order to get the most amount of eyes and sales possible on our work.

*If you don’t have big numbers, that’s ok! Brainstorm ways you will be able to help each other. In fact, if you are just starting out, I would look into finding brands that are just starting out too. Help each other out!

4.         Mention your portfolio of work: Ravelry page, website/blog, social media followings.

Example: You can find my portfolio of previous collaborations at www.arohaknits.com. Talk to you soon!

Obviously, you’ll want to expand a bit more in some of these points, like the specifics of your design or your project, but this is a good outline to use, so you can start to really make an impression on companies.

P.S. This is a bonus tip—if you can make it to any of The National Needlarts Association (TNNA)  tradeshows, DO IT. This is the perfect place to network with others in the fiber industry. In-person meetings are so much more powerful than email. I cannot tell you how much freelance work I have obtained during those three days; how many new relationships I’ve made; and how many amazing people I’ve met. While I will probably expand on this topic much further on, I just wanted to make you aware of this.

Collaboration Over Competition

When I started my Facebook group for participants of the Initiate Design Challenge, one of my goals (and fears) for the group was communicating the importance of two things: 1) there is space for everyone, and 2) collaboration over competition

It can be really easy to feel like you’re falling behind, in a group where everyone has the same goal: find the confidence and learn the techniques to publish designs. The green-eyed monster of envy starts to creep out when you notice that a fellow aspiring designer’s pattern has hit number one on Ravelry’s Hot Right Now. You wonder to yourself, “Why can’t I do that? I’m such a failure. I’m not cut out for this”.

This type of thinking is dangerous and a form of self-sabotage. We are our own worst critics.

One of the earliest lessons I had to learn was recognizing that not only was I my own worst critic, but I was LITERALLY my own worst critic, because I was wrong! I can create my own beautiful designs. I overcame a challenge, therefore I am a success and I am definitely cut out for this line of work.

When we have a competitive mindset, we see the pie as limited: when someone takes one piece, that’s one piece less for me. Resources are scarce so I need to get ahead of everyone else, in order to snatch it all up and ultimately push them out of business. This will ensure my prosperity.

 This is a really ugly way of seeing things and I highly encourage and challenge those who are struggling with this to shift your mindset from competition to collaboration.

In a collaborative mindset, we are sharing our knowledge and resources with each other. We encourage and truly support one another’s efforts. It doesn’t mean we should become complacent and stagnant with our own work—no.

We can find other’s efforts and growth inspiring. Use that inspiration to put yourself outside your comfort zone and really challenge yourself to create the best version of yourself.

And if you really want to break the numbers down, the pie is big enough for everyone. There are over 6 million Ravelry users, with about 5,000 at the high traffic levels, daily. Certainly we can see that out of those numbers, there’s an audience and fan base for everyone.


So now fiber bosses, I would love to hear your thoughts! Has this been something you've been struggling with? How are you dealing with it? Are you currently living in a collaborative mindset? Share your thoughts below and I would super appreciate it if you would share this article and spread the good will around.  

Initiate Knit Design: Lessons Learned

Initiate Knit Design kicked off this week, with over 1,000 fiber bosses signed up to participate. Scrolling through the hashtags, I noticed a couple themes that I wanted to address here in this blog post.

1.         Overcoming Fear

Whether it was just participating in the challenge, creating the mood board, or working up the sketch there was always a level of fear present. This is totally normal, but sometimes we (for good reason) try to hide it. Fear is paralyzing and holds us back from taking action or trying new things. I saw so many creative and talented people this week push through their fear and challenge themselves to attempt something new. I cannot say enough how proud I am of each one of you for not letting fear hold you back and just doing it. The first time is the scariest and I hope that if you do find yourself returning to this particular design process, you will think, “Ha! I did it once—I can do it again!”

And I will confess right now, I am scared about hosting this challenge—what if it is not helping anyone? What if it is turning more people off to knitwear design than turning them onto it? I like how fear talks in all-or-nothing terms. K

2.         Learning What Doesn’t Work

This challenge was created to provide clarity and confidence in knitwear design. The process I am guiding you through, over these five days, is just one way of approaching knitwear design. Do I expect everyone to say, “THIS is the way to do it!” or “This totally works for me!”? For some, yes! For others, no! I expect people to look over the steps we went through, the past few days, and assess what played to their strengths and what felt stifling and cumbersome. You may find yourself shifting steps around or adding your own touch to the mix. That is what this challenge is all about: introducing you to a process, a foundation, that you can take and make your own. As one participant put it: “That’s what I love about creativity… You have to show up for it, so it can show up for you!” If you do not take action, you do not know what will or will not work for you.

We still have some days to get through, before the challenge is over, but keep up the good work! I certainly hope this challenge has been illuminating to you, in one way or another!

Ignite magic,

Francoise

Start Conquering Fear and Gaining Self-Confidence TODAY

One common trait I see among aspiring knitwear designers or other beginning fiber entrepreneurs is fear. Fear of no-one liking their work, fear of ridicule, fear of criticism, fear of failing. Whatever that fear, it is strong enough to hold them back from pursuing their dreams of sharing their creative vision with the fiber community.

A few months ago, I was interviewed on the SweetGeorgia Yarn’s podcast. The lovely host, Felicia, asked me a question that really threw me for a loop: “Where do you find your self-confidence and fearlessness?” At the time I really didn’t know how to answer the question, but over the months it stuck with me as I asked myself, “How DID I gain the self-confidence to fearlessly do what I do?”

Then it struck me! The reason why I wasn’t able to pin-point that “aha” moment, when I magically started believing in myself, was because there was no “aha” moment. It was a gradual process that took place over the months I’ve been a designer.

What did I do? The answer lies within the question. I just DID. I took action. When I was first starting out as a knitwear designer, I was super nervous about hitting the “Publish to Ravelry” button. I was scared about people not liking the design; that the design was too complicated to read or hard to follow; that it wasn’t perfect. But I clicked that button anyway and guess what? My fears were just that – fears - not predictions of the future. People loved my work!

I know that my work isn’t perfect. Some mistakes do slip by requiring people to email me for help. But even that isn’t the life-ending experience that I had built it up in my head. I provide quality customer service, in order to make up for the mistakes in my product. So now when I receive an email asking for help, I don’t sweat it.

So if you’re feeling fear and are heavily doubting yourself: take action. By taking action you gain PROOF and examples of putting those fears to rest. I’m now able to click the Publish button on Ravelry without a second thought; it’s almost second nature to me. I’m not scared about going onto Periscope to do live video-streams with my audience. I’m not scared about sharing my work on Instagram. But conquering these fears didn’t happen overnight. It was through consistent and deliberate action over weeks and months that I was able to get to where I am now.

So start taking action today - everyday. Determine what fear is holding you back, and just do it anyway. Even if it’s a series of small steps, doing something is better than nothing! That’s my challenge to you this week.

You’ll be thanking yourself that you did - a week, a month, a year from now.


You don't have to conquer fear alone! Get the chance to work with me with my Spark-Igniter Session, a one-hour one-on-one personalized Skype coaching and mentoring call. During these calls, I am 100% focused on you and your goals, and dedicated to helping YOU overcome your obstacles in your biz. Click here to request a free 15-minute consultation.