Hope you’re all enjoying the posts this week, the guest posts have given me so much to think about & consider in these early days of my self employment – and they’ve really got me fired up for my future!
Today’s guest post comes from the super crafty business lady & long time internet pal of mine, Twinkie Chan, who has successfully carved herself a niche in the market & hasn’t been scared of taking risks and stepping outside the pre-defined craft conformities. It’s refreshing to see someone combine a healthy business mind with the crafting world, so often crafters don’t explore their potential because they consider their craft to be a cottage industry… time to turn it into a mansion!!
It’s Twinkie Chan here! For those who don’t know me, I am a crochet designer out of San Francisco. I cook up fun, food-themed accessories at www.TwinkieChan.com, and I have a crochet book out called “Twinkie Chan’s Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies: 20 Yummy Treats to Wear.” Right now I am working really hard on some super secret projects to re-launch my mass line called “Yummy You! by Twinkie Chan” (www.YummyYouClothing.com), and a question I get a lot is: “Do you craft for a living or have a day-job?”
I am now a full-time crafter and small-business lady, still trying to figure it all out. As an English major with a creative writing focus, I worked in publishing as an agent for ten years. I’d already believed I’d found my dream job: helping books come to life and making writers’ dreams come true. I worked in a great office full of highly driven, intelligent women, and we all loved books together. I had never considered I would one day work for myself!
But after working in the same industry for ten years, you can watch it change, watch the world change, actually. I felt like publishing was not for me anymore, but I didn’t know what was. In 2005, I started www.TwinkieChan.com to sell my crocheted goodies on the side. I crocheted late at night after work, just as a fun, creative outlet. Surprisingly, this random hobby started generating a bit of internet buzz. A few licensing agents/brand managers contacted me, asking if I was interested in mass-producing, but I was really scared of the whole idea and wasn’t sure that was the route I wanted to take. I didn’t hear about many of my crafting pals doing any mass production. That seemed like selling out! And also extremely ludicrous! I had considered going to law school as my next step, not designing pepperoni pizza scarves!
By the time 2009 rolled around, I was really unhappy at the office. I had be-friended one of the brand managers throughout the years and told him I was ready to go forward. Sell out schmell out. It was time for the next step! I told my boss and my clients I was leaving. I had no real plan. I just had a crazy belief I could make it work. I gave myself one year to focus on my brand.
While my brand manager/biz partner went out there to scope out business deals, I was home 24/7 trying to pump crochet goodies out into the universe to pay my bills. I had a few helpers, but I didn’t want to spend my time managing a big crew of crocheters. In my effort to make it work, I racked up a HUGE personal credit card bill! I’m definitely the worst business woman ever. I wanted to make sure my helpers felt taken care of, even if it meant I didn’t make a lot of money. But I also considered all the debt an investment in my own future, and with all investments there are risks and/or rewards.
Thankfully, my biz partner got us a deal to mass-produce at the end of 2009, and with that, some money came in. In 2010, we had a big booth at the Magic/Pool Tradeshow in Vegas. We were taking wholesale orders. My travel and hotel were taken care of. I had a sales team! I had a book deal! Things were looking up! And then at the end of 2010, due to various reasons, we decided to part ways with the company we were working with, thus leading to a lag in production, and kind of a bummer start to 2011. I sort of felt like I was back at square one.
Pool trade show in Las Vegas
Things are looking up again, though. I have a new licensing team, and potentially some awesome new licensees. Actually lots of other stuff happened in between the down and the up that I’d love to gossip about, but the heart of the matter is that I never know what’s going to happen in this crazy universe I have created out of yarn and pom poms!
When you work for yourself, you can feel lonely. I don’t even mean that in the sense that you are working by yourself at home with no one else around, but as I venture into the world of mass-production and licensing, I find it’s often difficult to know what the right decision is or what’s standard in the industry. Is someone in a suit ripping me off? Am I getting taken advantage of? I know I’m a smart lady, but everyone is in the business to make a buck, and I never know who is out there to take advantage of the new girl in town. It’s hard to know who your true mentors are. Sticking up for what you want and following your gut is so important. Also sometimes it feels like nobody understands the lifestyle you have chosen. I am working ALL the time. If I’m not crocheting or crafting, I’m shooting photos of product for my shop, or I’m sketching new designs for new products, or I’m reading contracts, or blogging, or social networking. Don’t even get me started on the accounting and the legal stuff. It’s blowing my mind and is a lot to juggle and figure out. I feel like I have two jobs: hand-making “Twinkie Chan” originals and also managing my Yummy You brand.
At a book signing in London
But as much as it is to handle, I LOVE IT. When working for yourself feels like a nightmare, just remember you are fighting to live the dream. All that cliche stuff that goes on your resume for an office job – “I’m an organized, motivated, multi-tasking self-starter!” – all that stuff is KEY! Sure, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I wake up at noon every day, but I’m also up until 6am. It’s fun to make your own rules when you’re your own boss, but less fun is stuff like lack of a steady paycheck or free health insurance! :P
To be honest, I am actually not that big of a dreamer. I am hopeful, but realistic. I am going to stick to working for myself for as long as it is fun and potentially profitable. But my mind is wide open. I think that a lot of opportunities can come our way that we’d never predict, and the lesson I seem to be learning so far is that change is good so never let fear of the unknown get in your way.
You can find a whole host of Twinkie Chan goodies in her Etsy store, and for late-night updates & photos of her cute as hell dogs you can follow Twinkie on twitter!