One issue we’ve heard many female founders discuss, is whether it’s ever truly possible to turn a passion into profit. So if you’re an out and out foodie, can you really become a super successful manufacturer or retailer of delicious produce? If you’re crazy about clothes and dress-making in your spare time, does it mean you’ll be more or less likely to win in the world of commercial business?
Here’s one woman who very much achieved the jump….and did so in an extremely innovative way.
Let this be a lesson to you, the very next time you catch sight of a young woman clickety-clacking with knitting needles at the café table in front of you.
Judge at your peril.
While knitting may never have really managed to shake off the veil of being seen as something of an ‘elder woman’s pursuit’, there’s increasing evidence that craft-based hobbies like this are being pursued by larger numbers of women sub 45.
Not only that – some of these craft loving females are turning themselves into commercial geniuses, aided by the many online marketplaces in existence now – from etsy to Folksy.
Katy Griffett is the perfect proof that there’s a very real opportunity to turn such pastimes and passions into profitable businesses.
In fact, she’s sitting pretty on a five figure sum from selling on her knitting business – only 18 months after launch.
We’re guessing that’s got your attention?
“I’ve been knitting since the age of seven, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I’d felt embarrassed about the fact that I enjoy it,” says Katy, as she casts an eye in the direction of her three playful young children.
“I’m very aware that people mock it as an ‘old person’s thing’, and plenty of friends have at times teased me about it – although, perhaps not so much now that it’s made me pretty successful in business!”.
A trained school teacher, it wasn’t until Katy’s first child was born in 2010 that she really picked up her knitting needles with any great conviction.
Naturally, at the time she was turning to a learned craft in order to create beautiful bespoke clothes for her child. But quickly, those items were being enviably eyed by friends and family.
“I was a good teacher – a really good teacher,” says Katy, recollecting her past career.
“But at the time I became pregnant I was already very accepting of the fact that the profession was very little to do with advancing children and having hands-on teaching time.
“It was so much about paperwork and box-ticking.
“That disappointment in my career path, together with the fact that I knew very swiftly that I didn’t want to leave my daughter in day care every day to go back to work, meant that I took to knitting as a way of selling items so that I could stay at home and be a mum.”
While it may have been something of an alien journey for many to embrace – from salaried teacher to a self-sufficient mumpreneur – Katy was not the least bit daunted.
Indeed, dig a little further and you soon discover that perhaps Katy was rather ‘born’ for business.
“I’m going to sound extremely greedy saying this, but I’ve always loved money and the thought of making a lot of it,” Katy admits, somewhat hesitantly.
“When I was a little girl I’d always be pestering my mum and dad for ways I could do things to earn money – from washing the car to cleaning or doing other little tasks.
“I left school and went into a pretty ‘normal’ career route, but I think there’s always been that entrepreneurial part of me that was going to need to be explored at some stage.”
That turning point was clearly the arrival of motherhood, and the opportunity to create the kind of individual knitted items which gained rapid interest on a self-created website, and subsequently in the likes of Etsy and Love Knitting.com.
By subsequently deciding to ‘type up’ her own knitting patterns and make these available online, she was able to discover a further strand of income, which saw buyers clambering after the instructions by which they too could create something so unique.
But the commercially astute part of Katy also knew that selling items alone was not enough to make a sizeable business impact.
It took her next pregnancy several years later, and the sad death of her mother, to ignite an ambition to reach further and aim higher.
“Something really triggered me at the time of my Mum’s death in 2015, which left me feeling that I absolutely did not want to look back on my life and say ‘I wish I had…’,” admits Katy.
“I’d had another terrible pregnancy because I suffer a condition which makes me extremely sick, so again I’d been producing lots and lots of knitted items during that period as I was pretty much housebound, but I was really aware that you couldn’t make huge amounts of money just on those clothes.
“It was then that I started mulling over the fact that my bugbear was the really ‘dull’ nature of things we use for a knitting hobby.
“Younger knitters like myself wanted to have ‘pretty’ needles, not these boring grey ones which our grandmothers used to use.”
That frustration was to develop into the idea of meeting the needs of modern younger knitters who would love to receive prettier, funkier, less available items – straight through the door.
Katy, now 35, knew that the subscription box model had remained untapped for her hobby.
It was ripe for her commercial approach.
“I’d been a lover of subscription box concepts myself, as a consumer of things like beauty products, so this just felt like the perfect way of accelerating my knitting passion and creating something people would really want,” she says.
“I started a Facebook page just to see what sort of interest I would get – in the hope I would sell about 10 boxes in my first month.
“I went looking for items I could add into the boxes, from funky needles to gorgeous patterns, and really unusual wools, all parcelled up in some lovely gift packaging.
“By the time I pushed it to launch, 40 people had placed orders, and within a year, we were regularly mailing out 350 boxes.”
It was, without a shadow of a doubt, a true triumph for a woman who had often been mocked for merely ‘trying to make money from a hobby’.
She admits to being incredibly proud with the speed of the success – not least because just last month she agreed to sell the business for a five figure sum – but more than this, she feels she’s shifted the perception of both knitting, and craft businesses.
“Of course I’m thrilled that someone wanted to buy my business so soon after its creation, but there are other things which I’m feeling are a measure of the success,” she smiles.
“For example, my husband is in the RAF and when he started telling his colleagues about what I was doing and showing them, he even started telling me that a couple of the guys had taught themselves to knit with my patterns.
“It turns out that it’s a great thing for mental health, so they’re really benefiting, and certainly not feeling embarrassed.”
And if you thought Katy was about to put her feet up (under a nicely knitted blanket) and smugly applaud herself until she takes her next commercial path….think again.
She’s now determined to prove to others that they too can turn a craft business into a really profitable success.
“I’m on a mission now to show other women that they can create a business from their hobby, and that they can do very similar to what I have with my business,” she enthuses.
“I’ve devised a 10 month online course, complete with workbooks and toolkits, and some video tutorials and various ‘live’ online coaching sessions.
“I’m feeling incredibly excited about where this journey could take me next, and I’m so excited to be passing on what I’ve learned to other people.”
What about those doubters who cast a doubtful eye over the clickety-clacking knitter in the corner of a coffee shop, or that craftsperson creating homemade cards and embroidery in their own front room?
“I’ve no problem with people poking fun at knitting or thinking it’s an elderly person’s craft,” she laughs.
“My days of being embarrassed are long gone. I’ve made a successful business of it and I couldn’t be happier.”
***Eloquently Her will be staging an event with Katy in the near future. Keep an eye on our website for more details.