“There are always excuses not to, there is never enough time, and there are always negative things you can tell yourself that impede you from taking that first initial step – but the experiences you are missing out on and the possibilities your ideas could lead to if you just try will most likely outweigh any of those initial doubts. ” ~Jessie McShane
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Administrative Assistant and Program Coordinator at the Luann Dummer Center for Women and Counseling and Psych Services at the University of Saint Thomas & Graduate Student getting an MA in International Leadership
Side Business: Wool and Whiskey
1. Tell us about your business.
Wool and Whiskey is more than the name of my Etsy shop where you can find my handmade knitted scarves, mitts, and headbands. It is a brand that tells the story about what it means to be warm – specifically what it means to be warm in the Midwest. All of the items in the shop are knitted or crocheted accessories to keep you warm in the cold temperatures Minnesota brings. The style can be described as authentic, cozy and chic.
2.What motivated you to start your business?
The interest in my products from friends and strangers was the initial motivator. I learned how to knit when I was teaching abroad in South Korea and brought the hobby home with me. I decided to knit a few scarves for myself when I got back to MN and couldn’t believe how many people were stopping me to ask where I got my items.
3. What steps did you take to get started?
After realizing there was interest in what I was making, I decided it might be a good idea to try and sell them online. I’ve always been a fan of Etsy.com, and thought that was the best route to go for what I was trying to sell. I knew I didn’t just want a store on Etsy, and I knew if it was going to succeed I would need to create a brand behind my products. That was the next step.
4. Tell us about an action you took to help your business grow.
The best action I’ve taken was the decision to create a brand before just putting my products out there to sell. Once I established a name (while wearing one of my scarves at one of my favorite hometown bars with friends drinking Whiskey in Wisconsin) I thought about what I wanted the concept of “Wool and Whiskey” to look like from a branding perspective. By the time I put my first item up for sale, I already had photos and posts on my blog that portrayed what the items looked like from a Wool and Whiskey lifestyle standpoint. By showing buyers what the items would look like in real life and giving them a portrayal of the lifestyle of the brand, they were then able to have an idea of what that item could look like in their life, and relate to that lifestyle with the piece of clothing being a part of it.
5. Name three tools-free or paid- that are vital to your business.
1. Etsy 2. USPS 3.Coffee. Lots of coffee.
6. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge this season has been time. I had some items stockpiled, but wasn’t ready for the tremendous support and following Wool and Whiskey received this year. I had to ask for production help during the holiday season and apologize to friends and family for missing out on holiday things that I normally attend. They were all more than understanding and even asked if there was any way they could help. Their support system helped me overcome the late nights and deadlines.
I’ve also had a really great support system at my full time job, which is where I met another expert knitter and I would not know what I would do without her! She is so in line with my visions for products and her work is tremendous.
7. Share your greatest business success.
To date, my biggest business success was getting recognized by Progresso who reached out to collaborate with Wool and Whiskey to portray what #soupseason looks like in Minnesota. It’s been so much fun working with them and their brand fits so well into the cozy Wool and Whiskey brand. After Progresso I was contacted by a local news station and they came to my house to film a story on Wool and Whiskey – that was pretty cool, and definitely a great opportunity for the business!
8. What is your ultimate business goal ?
My ultimate business goal would be to expand and be recognized as a successful business. It would be a dream of mine to have my own space and focus all of my energy into Wool and Whiskey because it is something I am passionate about, and something I know I can make succeed. I would love for Wool and Whiskey items to be the go-to homemade warmth everyone wants to have, and chooses to have to stay warm.
I am also working on a few things for the summer months, and designing a few items beyond scarves, headbands and mitts for winter.
9. How do you balance your job, business and family life?
The hardest part is definitely balance…and time. This last year I think I slept 2 hours in 4 months. Not really, but it’s probably not far from the truth. Trying to balance my time while getting orders produced, packaged, and mailed out in a timely manner on top of a full time job and graduate school was definitely challenging. After Wool and Whiskey really took off last October it was a full speed race with no light at the end of the tunnel. It taught me some valuable lessons about time management and really helped me assess where I want Wool and Whiskey to go. I’ve cut back on my classes and work hours at my full time job and plan to spend 2015 really focusing on Wool and Whiskey, putting more time into building the brand to help it succeed into the future. One day at a time! It’s extremely exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time but I am really looking forward to what the future has in store.
10. What advice would you give to someone just starting their side hustle?
For anyone thinking about whether or not they should start their own business, my advice would be to try it. Two years ago I never thought my business would be running at the capacity it has been, and I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I have or developed the connections I have if I didn’t go for it and decide to put my stuff out there. There are always excuses not to, there is never enough time, and there are always negative things you can tell yourself that impede you from taking that first initial step – but the experiences you are missing out on and the possibilities your ideas could lead to if you just try will most likely outweigh any of those initial doubts.
Another piece of advice would be to buy yourself a Wool and Whiskey item to stay warm traveling between your full time job and side hustle ☺. Most of all, enjoy the ride!