Recognise the faux fox stole? It was Etsy seller Louise Walker of Sincerely Louise’s first listing. This and her many other faux taxidermy designs has lead to a full-blown design career with commissions from Boden, craft mags and a dead-gorgeous book. Dream of a similar day job? We caught up with Louise to find out more about setting up shop, the most effective way to get noticed and her most useful business resources.
Please tell us about your business and how it all started.
My business started as an Etsy shop during my second year at university. I was studying commercial photography but caught the knitting bug. Once I’d mastered the basics I started designing and listed ready-made faux fox stoles. I was alway over the moon when an order came in, however it wasn’t until after I graduated that I realised the potential of Etsy. I spent some time interning but began to realise I could run my own business. I was lucky enough to have some of my work go viral which lead to a commission from Boden for six faux taxidermy heads and a couple of magazines commissioning woodland themed patterns. That was the start of my journey as a pattern designer.
Tell us a bit about your book and the story behind that.
After being commissioned to write a few patterns and now selling my animal heads with the children’s retailer Molly-Meg I was approached by my publishers, David & Charles. They asked me to put together a proposal for the book based along the faux taxidermy lines. It all happened quite fast and before I knew it I was travelling to Torquay for a planning meeting. Suddenly it was all go-go-go! I remember placing all the yarn for the 15 projects in a pile and thinking, “I’m going to write a book”. I spent from September to February writing the patterns, then the whole of April photographing and editing the photos. Faux Taxidermy Knits was a real labour of love, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Which blog or book would you say was your most useful resource when starting your business?
When starting my business I did start reading The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design by Shannon Okey, I especially liked the interview section in the back. The knitting world was very new to me, so I had a lot to learn, I’m sure I still do. I think Okey’s book had a few home truths that at the time I didn’t quite understand, however I can now look back and reflect upon them in a new light. I also fell in love with Knitting Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec which showed me a whole new world of knitting. It inspired me to add my own personality to my designs and taught me that projects don’t always have to be practical and serious things!
Any advice for start-ups?
It can be a really good thing to concentrate on just one platform. I don’t have my own online shop so point all my traffic to Etsy. This has meant that I’ve built up a very good following, had loads of reviews and been given amazing opportunities – such as this one with Mollie Makes! For me it’s a perfect place to sell my digital patterns, especially with the new VAT Moss laws. I think, personally as a sole trader, if I had four or five different shopping platforms to run I’d be spreading myself too thin. I think Etsy has some amazing ways to connect with other members too, such as building treasuries of your favourite items. This is something I’ve just started doing, when I can find the time.
What’s the most effective way to get your shop noticed?
I think a great way to get noticed is to have beautiful photos. Researching into what kind of imagery your target market would be drawn to is a great place to start. This way you’ll have a clear way of how to photograph and style your shots. I think my degree in photography has really helped push my business forward. If you’re not confident taking the photos why not take a short course to improve your skills or find somebody to take them for you. This way when people are searching on Etsy you’ll have a much higher chance of catching their eye.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Louise has kindly offered our readers 20% off all Sincerely Louise products until 11 June 2015. Use the code MOLLIEMAKES20 to get your favourite critter knitting kit or ready-made knits from her Etsy shop.
Get Sincerely Louise’s cactus cushion knitting pattern in Mollie Makes 54, out now. Available from all good newsagents, supermarkets and our official online store. Sold out? Download it from Zinio, Google Play or Apple Newsstand.