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Running A Small Fibre Business

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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