I was asked recently for some of my ideas on becoming successful with a fiber business. I shared my thoughts with that person but thought others might want to hear them as well. And, it’s a great time to talk about it because this is a great time of year for changing things up and perhaps doing things differently.
But, first, let’s set the stage for this conversation. There are different types of success in business. Being well known, being able to love what you do, and financial success are often what people are referring to. The Holy Grail being having all three at once. This is a tall order. These three dimensions each require different mindsets and skill sets that are not often all found in one person.
I like to say, “you can have everything you want, but usually not all at once.” And, I think that applies to the above mentioned Holy Grail. Most people with a fiber business are doing it out of love so that one is covered. Being well known is a topic all by itself which we will save for another time. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on financial success. The business side of fiber isn’t an easy place to achieve financial success but it can be done. Working hard is a given, from the standpoint of the effort and energy expended. If you are just engaging in your fiber business for the pure love of what you are doing, you might be satisfied with working hard and not getting a lot of financial payback. However, based upon some of the things I read on social media, I think there are a lot of people hoping to do better than that, wondering why they are not and what they can do about it.
At the outset, I can tell you there is no entitlement to financial success just because you work hard and are very knowledgeable. There are a lot of folks that meet that criteria. The old adage, “work smarter, not harder” applies here. The working smarter part begins with discovering your “Blue Ocean”.
Imagine for a moment sharks in the ocean fighting over something to eat. This is a “Red Ocean”. How much of that food is each shark going to get? Probably just a small piece and not enough to live on for sure unless you are the biggest, meanest shark. Fighting over scraps in the Red Ocean also causes a lot of resentment and negativity. In real terms, we are talking about the problems of market saturation, commoditization and a lot of direct competition.
What happens if the shark leaves that area and finds a part of the ocean where there aren’t other sharks? This is a Blue Ocean. There the shark finds food that it doesn’t have to compete for and gets plenty to eat.
So to get away from the problems of market saturation, commoditization and a lot of direct competition, look for your Blue Ocean Strategy. What offering can you put together to get out of the Red Ocean? It doesn’t have to be a complete departure away from the pack but different enough to get the attention of your potential customers. Whenever Suzy and I are putting together a new idea, we spend a lot of time thinking about this. Sometimes you are putting something together that is quite a bit different from what else is out there such as when we brought out The Journey to the Golden Fleece. Other times you might be putting something out there that is not as unique in concept but you design it to have special characteristics such as our Yarn Recipe Cards which are printed in full color on hard stock paper. This approach takes thought, originality and creativity but well worth it financially.
If you feel a little stumped as to where to look for your Blue Ocean, drill down to what it is that you do where you have the most mastery. As a general rule of thumb, we’re talking about something that you’ve being doing for about five years and have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 hours doing. There is your gold. You know something about that through your hard earned experience that is worth sharing. And, when you’ve been doing something for that long, you probably have developed your own way of doing things that you can monetize effectively. If you are new to fiber arts and don’t have this depth of experience yet, don’t despair. You can still find your Blue Ocean but you still need to make sure you can back it up with sufficient technical expertise.
On the heels of developing your Blue Ocean Strategy comes the Art of Pricing your offering. Personally, I really enjoy this part of product development. What you are striving for is to price for customer value while at the same time maximizing the return on investment for your time. I see a lot of people investing significant time and energy into stuff without thinking this through. The questions you need to ask yourself are “If I put X amount of time and money into producing this offering, what do I need to get as a return?”, “Will the market bear that price?”, “If not, how can I enhance or scale back my offering to get things in balance?”
I do all of this now by gut feel based upon watching things very closely for a number of years. However, here is a simple example of how this plays out. Recently, a friend of mine expressed an interest in going into catering small dinner parties and she was very excited about the idea. I asked her how many people would be at these dinner parties and she said ten. I asked how much of your time would go into providing the service and she said, ten. Then, I said, how much do you want to get paid per hour to do that? She said $100 per hour. A very nice thought, $100 per hour, right? But, then I said, how easy do you think it will be to find ten people to pay you $1000 for a small dinner party? At that point, she got it. You are not going to find too many groups of ten willing to pay $1000 for dinner plus you’ve got to cover costs. In this example, you either have to be willing to bring down your expectations way down for the rate per hour and just take what the market will bear or you have to figure out how to make your dinner party so different and interesting that you can charge and get better than the market rate. You have to go back and forth between these two places until you get to a place where, in your estimation, it is worth your time.
What I have written here isn’t the end and be all of achieving financial success with a fiber business but they are important concepts for you to help get you started on the road to prosperity with your business. Once you find your Blue Ocean, or niche that utilizes your special and unique skills, you have marketing gold! You will know what your points of difference are. By having a unique offering, you will be in the best place to price your product or service in a way that gives customer value while delivering a fair return on your time to you.
Until next time, all my fibery best, Arlene