17 Jul How to Craft a Better Business: Heather Zoppetti Stitch Sprouts
Today we’re kicking off a new series, How to Craft a Better Business. From time to time we’ll interview a maker in the craft industry to learn more about their crafty business. How did they get started? What are some of their biggest challenges and successes? We hope you’ll enjoy reading and learning more from these crafty entrepreneurs!
Our first interview is with Heather Zoppetti. Heather is a knitwear designer, teacher, and author of Everyday Lace (Interweave, 2014) and Unexpected Cables (Interweave, 2015). She lives and works in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Her patterns have been published in numerous Interweave publications, in Vogue Knitting, in Creative Knitting, and by a multitude of yarn companies.
Heather is the owner and founder of Stitch Sprouts, a company dedicated to helping your stitches grow. Stitch Sprouts is a distribution company offering the highest quality yarns to fill your shelves, hundreds of patterns and books by the industry’s most popular designers, the finest needles and hooks, and dozens of unique handmade stitch markers to adorn your handwork.
SCM: How did you get your start as a creative entrepreneur? What made you want to start your own business?
HZ: I started as an independent designer which grew into Stitch Sprouts. Designing came naturally as knitting became an obsession. I couldn’t stop knitting and I frequently found myself changing patterns to suit my own needs. From there I joined other designers in wanting to distribute patterns to yarn shops. Together we knew we would make a better case as shops would find it easier to buy patterns from several designers all from one company. That’s how Stitch Sprouts was born. Slowly we grew into now offering an entire yarn shop’s needs of patterns, needles, notions, and yarn.
SCM: What have been some of your biggest challenges as you’ve built your crafty business?
HZ: The biggest challenge we’ve faced is trying to be seen as “enough”. I often hear that I’m not enough, which is hard. I don’t offer enough colors, enough lines of yarn, enough big-name designers, enough variety, enough of anything, etc. It’s a constant struggle because I also want to stay focused and streamlined. I don’t want to offer too much of everything and dilute the brand. I always have designers asking to join, companies asking for distribution, and mills asking us if we need more yarns. For designers, if I take on more that takes away from the ones we have. We have 30 of the BEST designers in the industry. I support and promote them, they are fantastic. Our yarns, needles, and notions are top quality. We keep our eye out for others, but I don’t take on more than we can handle or afford just to have more. I want the best to offer to our shops and I think we do that.
SCM: What have been some of your greatest successes?
HZ: We’ve seen tremendous success with both our class kits and our custom products. Our class kits offer busy store owners a way to run classes without having to worry about making class handouts. We kit the yarn, patterns, and class handouts, and in some of the kits needles or hook; all this so the store has everything they need to launch a class with little prep. Our custom products like stitch markers are huge. Store owners can get their logos laser engraved on these items for truly unique products for special events or giveaways. They are always popular.
SCM: Where do you look for inspiration?
HZ: I’m always looking for inspiration. The internet is bursting with people sharing what they are working on, for example, Instagram is HOT. I love how easy it is to search with a click of a hashtag to find amazing photos of crafts I never knew existed.
SCM: What recent trends are you most excited about in your craft industry?
HZ: I’m most excited about the multi-craftual trend right now. I love that crafters are getting into multiple disciplines and reaching out into various hobbies. Even if it’s just dabbling, I think it’s a great way to learn about other people, mediums, and ideas. I think we will see a resurgence in crafts many of us thought of as obscure or “old-timey” as people rediscover them. Also, the possibilities are endless when it comes to mixing and remixing crafts together. It’s a fun time.
SCM: If you had to give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start their own crafty business, what would it be? And why?
HZ: Start small and don’t be afraid to grow slow. Biting off more than you can chew is one of the fastest roads to failure. I’ve seen it time and time again, companies get excited and overpromise. It’s easy to put a lot of advertising out there, get a lot of buzz going, spend all your capital on ads, and then have no money to spend on product and labor to fill your orders. Be smart, budget, and make sure you can deliver on your promises.
SCM: What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you as a result of your crafty business?
HZ: I met my boyfriend. He admitted that he didn’t want to go on our planned first date (maybe even cancel) until he looked me up and saw what I did. But then he was intrigued and thought I was interesting, creative, and worth meeting. That was a year ago, so, I’m thrilled!
SCM: What do you do to avoid creative burnout?
HZ: I took on a new hobby, watercoloring. It’s funny, even with that my brain started to think about ways to turn it into more than a hobby and I constantly have to tell myself, “No. Keep this as something just for relaxation. Be selfish, keep it just for me.” Being able to turn to something else non-fiber related to relax and unwind is important. It helps me to be able to return to knitting and fiber with focus and renewed energy.