Trying to build a small business involves many unknown factors, some of which cannot be foreseen, especially if you are doing it for the first time. It requires the ability to plan and prioritize, to mention just a few. I have already learned that I must embrace the unknown, adjust my plans, implement changes, and take the risk and responsibilities. These aspects are inevitable in the process of growing a business, and I want to give you a glimpse of what is not shown on your social media feed.
The very beginning
I started my career as a knitter back in 2017 when I bought my first and only knitting machine. Before that I only knew how to crochet, but I desperately wanted to learn how to use this device, and the best way of learning was making clothes for others. I created a Facebook page where I posted my crochet dresses and knitted pieces. My friends and relatives were my first clients, and I would go to different places in search of the right yarn for each and every order, because everyone wanted something very specific.
What I was thinking at that time! The final results were far from what I can make right now, but my desire to go forward was stronger than the fear of failure. However, fulfilling my customers’ orders was not enough for me to improve my skills, so I started looking for women who would help me increase my knowledge.
From a learner to the manager
I found a woman who agreed to help me out by teaching me some tricks. Yet, our first encounter was not what I had expected. I instantly understood that she was not that willing to have me as her student. Instead of showing me the techniques I wanted to master, she explained them to me briefly and I had to leave. It did not take me long to realize that if I cannot be her student, I can be her employer.
She became my helper with customers’ orders. I assigned her to make complicated items, whereas I dedicated myself to learning things at my slower pace.
One order after another made me think that I needed one more professional knitter who could make better clothes than I did at the time. With the help of some relatives, I met another lady who agreed to fulfill my ideas and help me make my first collection, which was both knitted and crochet clothes. The collection was a failure, but that is a different story. So I became the manager of another artisan who is still happy to help me when necessary.
Wait for it…
I did not give up on learning, and I launched a website and an Etsy shop in the hope of attracting a bigger audience and showing how wonderful Merino wool is. I would receive a few orders during the colder months, and women’s interest was minimal compared to the summer of 2023. Wow! I was not prepared for this! Just a few reels showing a bit of the knitting process made me reconsider my plans and strategies and the way I was going to handle the increased number of orders.
Help me! I am in trouble
Just a few more orders than I was used to and here I am in trouble. Now I know that my two knitters and I might not manage to complete all the orders in time. I know that I set the terms, and I want others to understand what slow and ethical fashion is, but I do not want to disappoint my customers and lose their trust.
Naturally, I need to accept the situation and come with a quick solution. I have either to make my customer wait longer, or find new women who could keep up with our level and help me complete some of the orders.
Expectations vs. reality
I choose the latter option and set myself to find one more artisan. I find one far away from where I live, but I have no option but to take the risk and let her do some work. There is no time for testing or anything else. Not to overload my two current knitters with too much work, I assigned some of the orders to that far-away lady. The clock is ticking, and I am patiently waiting for the result, which proves to be below my expectations. The time and material are wasted, not to mention my nerves!
How open-minded are you?
Finding the right people to work with takes time, especially when you need to increase the team so suddenly. I know there will be more issues that I will have to cope with, and those problems will have to do not only with my artisans. I embrace the unknown.
I do respect every customer of mine and want to bring her the best customer experience so she remembers my brand not only by the softness of the wool, but by the service she gets. I admit that I may fail, and I dislike it so much, but sometimes there is no way out. I am just curious whether you have tolerance for small businesses’ mistakes and failures. I would like to know your story.