Running A Small Fibre Business

Today our guest writer is Lyn from rosiepink who, with her daughter Annie, has run a successful small fibre business. They are also the authors of the excellent books, Creating Felt Artwork and How to Make 3D Felt Vessels Using Flat Resists.

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I like to buy small packs of assorted fibre-goodies because it’s an economical way to try different fibres and materials, and a good way to build up a varied stash. As a felt maker, stitcher and general fluff lover I can never have too much of various bits ‘n’ bobs in every colour to dive in and out of.  I like to include coloured scrim in my felt, and a few years ago I couldn’t find much available to buy, so I bought a roll of un-dyed scrim and my daughter and I made a batch of small pieces in a big variety of colours to play with.  It was a fun day, with lots of tea and laughing.  Then people asked if we sold it.  So we had a go!

We sold bundles of hand-dyed scrim and then expanded to offer small packs of wool in several colour choices.  The scrim bundles were well received by people who wanted a wide variety of colours of hand-dyed fabric to use as textile inclusions, and the packs of wool were popular with people who wanted a lot a colours but not a lot of wool.

hand dyed scrimAfter three years, we decided to take a change of direction and wanted to concentrate our spare time on making and designing things rather than selling the materials, but it was a great small business experience.

Small packs of unique or varied textile items are a good product for a ‘kitchen table’ business, and if you have thought about taking the plunge, hopefully sharing our experience will help to give you a checklist of things to consider before you start, and show you what was involved for us to run a small online fibre business.

Before you start a kitchen table business, the first thing to consider is space.  The making of the bundles of hand-dyed scrim used not only the kitchen table, but the rest of the kitchen and the room next to it as well.  The wool was bought in bulk from a well-known company and the making-up of small packs of wool needed a whole room.  When you’re done with producing the packs, you then have to find storage space for them.

Are you fit enough?  Dyeing a few pieces of fabric is a relaxing pastime, but producing a great quantity is hard physical labour.  And rolling up a few balls of wool is pleasant, but will your shoulders and wrists still feel the same after doing it for eight hours?

But don’t worry too much, after a few weeks of walking backwards and forwards to the post office to dispatch your sales, you’ll soon get fit!

Merino woolYou’ll need a good head for figures to calculate the retail price of your packs.

First, add up how much the materials for your packs cost, and remember to include: the cost of the raw materials and the postage you have to pay to get them; packaging materials; listing and selling fees; paypal or other bank charges.

Then work out the cost of your labour, based on the hourly rate you choose, for: sourcing and purchasing the raw materials; producing the packs;  photographing and listing them for sale; dealing with orders and enquiries; packing and then posting.

You will need to keep an account of all the money that comes in and all the money that goes out, because once a year the taxman will need to be informed.

However, despite the hard work, it’s lovely being your own boss and spending your working day surrounded by fabulous fibres!

Thanks a lot for all that information, Lyn :)  If you have any questions about running a small business, please leave them in the comments. If you have any suggestions for future articles, please use the Contact Us page.

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3 Responses to Running A Small Fibre Business

  1. ruthlane says:

    Thanks for the article Lyn! I keep thinking this would be a good idea until I remember I don’t have enough time in my day as it is :)

    • Lyn says:

      Having only 24 hours in a day is always tough for creative people. So little time and so many things to make!

  2. Great article Lyn, people never think how much storage space is needed. It is always more than you think you will need.

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