Sunday, April 10, 2005

The First Post

Well hello there and welcome to my world - a place filled with dreams, ideas, creativity, and most importantly, YARN.

The purpose of the blog is to share with friends, family, and fellow knitters my experiences in achieving a dream - opening a yarn store.

NOTE: I started writing this blog in late May 2005, after much had already happened, so the first handful of posts are written in the past tense. I figure it's good to get people up to speed. I've back-dated the posts so that they are close to the actual dates at which things happened.

Yarn yarn yarn. Little fluffy furry balls of fiber have intoxicated me since 1990 when my grandmother fell ill and needed to be incarcerated in a nursing home. The event caused extreme stress and anxiety in the household, and I felt the need to do something constructive with my hands. I pulled out an old Coats & Clark pamphlet entitled 'Learn How To Knit' and taught myself how to knit. I was already an accomplished crocheter (grandma taught me when I was very young), so knitting while holding the yarn in my right hand seemed very WRONG and unnatural. I decided to innovate and hold the yarn in my LEFT hand instead of my right. Silly me, I had no idea others did it and the technique had a name - 'continental-style knitting'. Nevertheless I was off and running, knitting a pineapple lace afghan as my first project. I quickly graduated to sweaters and gradually became addicted to the rhythmic motions of the needles and the amazing fabrics that flowed from my hands.

I knit solidly for the next fifteen years, with brief lapses here and there. I became a fixture at my local yarn store located in Birmingham, MI - The Knitting Room - a wonderful store with wonderful people. I learned so much by sitting in their shop for hours at a time - sometimes for an entire afternoon listening and watching as Julie, Sara and the gang guide customers through the intricacies of knitting. Little did I realize that I was also learning about the business of selling yarn.

After many years and several career changes, I now find myself living in the San Francisco Bay Area abhoring my job of 4.5 years as a web software developer. Staring at a computer all day, tied to a chair in a cubicle, was slowly sucking the life from me. Out of the blue, fate tapped me on the shoulder one day and said 'ahem, let's get on with your destiny, shall we?"

The epiphany came after I returned home from a visit to Stitches West, an impressive knitting convention held at the Santa Clara Convention Center in February of 2005. I had been to this show a few years earlier at a different location, and was not particularly impressed. This show was very different. The facility was much nicer and more importantly, there was an air of excitement and vitality everywhere. The marketplace hall was filled with booths belonging to small indpendent producers of amazing yarns. Mail order companies were also well-represented. The show floor was bustling with seasoned knitters and newbies, hungry for new yarn, information, and instruction. Knitters were knitting everywhere... in the makeshift cafes, in the hotel lobby, even sitting on the floor in hallways. I was literally bouncing off the walls after returning home. I paced around the room muttering "I must be part of this industry, somehow! This is where my career must be."

The choices seemed rather limited at first. Knit for a living? Hardly a living - too labor intensive. I'd barely make minimum wage selling what I knit. Design knitwear & patterns? Again, very hard to make it a full-time career. Open a knit shop? Only wealthy housewives owned yarn stores, right? Maybe not. It was then that I remembered several conversations with a good friend of mine at the office. In a previous life Ihssan was an entrepreneur and coffee-shop owner; over the past two years, he has been trying to convince me to open a yarn store. "Opening a retail store is much easier than you think, trust me!" he'd implore. Although an intriguing idea, I never took it seriously. Surely one must be indpendently wealthy or have a sugar daddy in order to open a yarn store, or so I thought.

After my Stitches West Epiphany, I embarked on some serious research. Already aware that the hand knitting industry was booming like never before, and yarn shops were popping up everywhere, I went online and googled for information. I studied the Small Business Association's website to get a firm understanding of small business basics. I engaged in an email mentorship program through the SBA, which connects people with SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. I contacted via email and phone various professionals in the retail knitting industry. I obtained market research data from needlework and yarn trade associations. I emailed yarn store owners. After gathering a great deal of information, I wrote a business plan in order to determine the feasability of opening a yarn store, working closely with my SCORE counselor.

About a month later, in March 2005, I came to the conclusion that yes, I *can* open a yarn store. Business is surging and the area in which I live (Marin County, north of San Francisco) has a dearth of good yarn stores. Opportunity was staring me in the face. Shall I walk away from a long-buried dream? Shall I ignore my current job dissatisfaction? Should I continue sleep-walking through life, living for the weekends, but too mentally drained to have fun? I decided to pursue my dream - and watch it gradually become a reality. Finally, a life filled with yarn.

1 comment:

Forrest Shumate said...

Interested. Keep Blogging!