HG: My name is Heidi Gustad, and I make colorful designs for contemporary knit & crochet. Hands Occupied is a blog and pattern design company that’s created original designs for everything from knitting and crochet magazines to custom work for Kleenex. I do a lot of video work for clients in the craft publishing world.
JM: Why did you start your business?
HG: Hands Occupied began as a blog six years ago. When I started, I knew I was passionate about knitting and crochet, but I was too scared to commit my blog to that. I didn’t see how yarn crafts could be a sustainable business. I knew nothing about business or blogging when I started – at all. Hands Occupied was just a way for me to actively engage with the creative community online in 2010 (pre-Pinterest, pre-Instagram, etc.), and I was hoping I’d learn a little web design and photography skills along the way. Boy, I did not know what I was in for!
JM: What is your favorite thing about being a yarnpreneur™?
HG: When I started my blog, I didn’t have a clue this was going to become my full time job. I was 23, in grad school to be a librarian, and living in a state hard hit by the recession. In no way did I think we lived in a world where being one’s own boss was a possibility anymore. Fast forward to now, my favorite thing (and probably the scariest) is being my own boss.
JM: What is your least favorite thing about being a yarnpreneur™?
HG: The schedule can be a challenge. I’m currently a solopreneuer for the most part, and balancing design work, video work, teaching, and keeping up with bloging & social media content can be a lot. I have keep on top of my planner, that’s for sure!
HG: Learn how to take good photos. They don’t have to be magazine quality, but when you’re marketing a material like yarn or a knitting pattern, customers have to be able to see what they’re getting their hands on. Your photos are your visual brand. They matter a LOT. These days, you can build an entire yarn business with just an Instagram account. Visuals are everything, and I’m still only okay at it! (More on that in the next question…)
JM: What do you wish you had done differently when you first started your business?
HG: I wish I would have dove right in with yarn. When I started Hands Occupied, I did general crafts & DIY. My brand was unfocused and I didn’t know how to take a photo or market content. I’m glad I started somewhere because if I’d have waited to know all of these skills perfectly before hitting publish on the first post, I’d never have done it. If I’d known Hands Occupied was going to become my actual business and full time career I would have probably been too intimidated to do it. Diving in, even if you don’t feel 100% prepared, is just how being a small business works. You’ve got to keep trying new things to see what works and what’s next. It’s the hardest thing for me about business.
JM: What’s next for you and your business?
HG: I’m (always) working hard to tighten up my own visual brand, and I’m hoping to launch physical products later this year. Taking my own advice about not waiting for things to be perfect will be hard, but important, for this next step!