How a Small Business is Paving the Way for the Handspun Market
In this customer spotlight we speak with Liz, a small business owner from Vancouver, Washington. Liz has been actively creating a market for her handspun products by promoting and educating people about the category itself.
My name is Liz Westlake, and I am the owner of Dragonflylotus Designs, which sells handspun thread for needleartists. Dragonflylotus Designs started out as a handspun yarn company in early 2010, but slowly morphed into a handspun thread company later that year, due both to my utter lack of interest in knitting/crocheting and the heavy market saturation for handspun yarn.
Not only did I not want to do anything with the yarn I spun, but based on very slow sales, it seemed like no one else did, either! At one point, I decided to call it quits and tried to figure out what to do with my unspun fiber inventory. I happened to glance over at my large stash of cross stitch thread, and asked myself “can I spin thread?” Dozens of test batches later, I had my first product line, Blissful Threads, and the rest is history.
What products or services does your business offer?
Today, Dragonflylotus Designs offers more than ten handspun thread lines, featuring everything from merino wool and bamboo to mulberry silk. Earlier this year, we started our monthly subscription service, Thread Club. Each month, Thread Club members receive two club-exclusive threads, as well as the option to pre-order any of that month’s new releases at a 10% discount. Last month, we debuted our latest thread line, Silk Threads, spun from 100% mulberry silk. Each month we will be releasing a new Silk Threads collection, consisting of one variegated colorway and several matching semi-solids. Our first collection, Rainbow’s End, has been quite popular!
What are some day to day challenges you face?
When you make all of you product by hand, you walk a very fine line when it comes to inventory. Not only do we need to know how much finished thread we have in stock (down to the last yard!), but we also need to closely monitor our unspun fiber levels. The majority of our suppliers are small, independent dyers themselves, so it can take a month or longer to receive a new fiber shipment. inFlow lets us track both our finished thread inventories and raw materials. It even runs reports to let us know what needs to be spun or ordered next. Using the Work Order module not only allows us to track what threads are in process, but also gives us the material cost for each finished thread batch automatically. Any time saved on admin tasks like these means more time spinning thread!
From your experience, what advice could you give to other small businesses?
Don’t be afraid to make your own market. Over the last year, our biggest challenge has been spreading awareness that handspun thread even exists. Not only do I stitch with it every day, but I’ve also taught myself embroidery and needlepoint, so I can show off the thread in a variety of projects. I know we still have a lot of work to do, but it has been so gratifying to see customers’ finished projects pop up on Facebook, Tumblr, etc over the last few months!
Please see @dragonflylotusd on Twitter where Liz will quickly become one of your favourite people to tweet with. You can also check Facebook page and see what’s currently available for sale in the Dragonflylotus Designs Online Store.