This is a very honest and sincere post. It comes from several conversations with creative and passionate and very hard working people such as myself who wear the many hats of an entrepreneur. Please take a moment to think about what I am writing. It is from 18 years of observation and working in this incredible industry. It comes from my heart. And it comes with a hope that you will finish reading my words and be educated a little more about the happiness, and the struggles both mentally and physically of this working mom. It is meant to start a conversation and be honest about feelings that are so important to a entrepreneur who also takes her parenting job very seriously.
I am 44 years old. I was born and grew up on a small Island in Downeast Maine where the seasons change dramatically and just when it seems like you can't take another windy cold afternoon or foggy, muggy morning ... things change.
I learned a good work ethic from a young age -blueberry raking, boat painting, babysitting, caretaking houses, raking periwinkles off ledges, wreath making, you name it, I did it. I learned that if I wanted some bad enough I had to earn it. And it wasn't easy in a small town without much industry not fishing related or seasonal.
Coming from a creative family, I had the need to be creative daily. I painted and sewed, I made lots of crafty things as a kid, picking up driftwood and offerings from the sea. I took long walks around the shore collecting materials in the summer. Not many of my Christmas gifts to my friends and family came from store shelves. Art class was my favorite class in High School along with English and Creative Writing. All of my young life was creative and yet when it came time to choose a college or make plans for after high school, I was lost. But I did know this ... I was happiest when I was being creative and I excelled when I was busy.
Fast forward ... after happily working 2-3 jobs at a time I'm now at home with my first child, going through the "new mom" adjustments, making the decision to be a stay-at-home mom rather than try and juggle my life and his and to make sure I had a child who grew up with the security of knowing Mom is always there when he needed her. I continued this commitment to my daughter and then second son. It was at this time in my life that I began to feel I was loosing me. I needed more, but I also felt very obligated to my children and so with a few sheep in the yard, I began spinning their fleeces and selling the yarns from my garden shed.
From here I found my place in life. I was growing my farm, growing my business and growing my skills, all while working at home and being there when my kids needed me. As they grew along with it all I was able to branch out to more shows and festivals. I built my website, and began selling online as well as from my farm. It was exhausting some days, but very fulfilling other days. It was never organized, always chaotic and ever changing ...and I loved it.
I took a few business classes, but mostly learned from reading and watching videos and tutorials. Most importantly I watched, read, listened to and learned from people in the industry. I listened to my customers and learned from them. There is so much more in between, but this gives you the basics. I have been watching the industry from the shepherd's, hand-dyer's, retailer's, wholesaler's and a consumer's side for 18 years.. I have watched trends come and go, watched businesses come and go.
Now I'm seeing a change in the way we reach our customers by maybe relying too much on social media that changes weekly and leaves us a little lost. It's very time consuming to keep up but because it is the quickest and easiest way sometimes, I, and many others, continue to use the "free" sources. Not just because they are free, but because they are quick and easy and let's face it ... fun. I'm grateful for the reach I have through social media and the friends I have made and how we can all chat from waaaayyyyyyyy across the country and even to other countries! But is this a little bit of the demise of the LYS? Along with the fast paced life and the lack of time, are we so comfortable with our screens that we are replacing our friend's faces? Do videos that fit our time schedules replace the fun classes? I am just a guilty! There is a knitting group that I can walk to and I have yet to make it there on a Tuesday night.
Is there an age group that we can welcome into the world of fiber arts? Are the younger generations interested? If I look at the analytics of my fb page, my website, my instagram feed and twitter, I see that you are mostly women between the ages of 34-68. Are there young mom's who could use the night out to create an express themselves and learn not only skills but wisdom from us who have lived just a little longer than them? :) How about college students who would enjoy learning how to create their own scarf or hat in their school colors? Though I don't believe our current knitters are going anywhere are we gaining any new ones? Is there an interest?
Tell me your thoughts! They are important to me and the industry! How can we as yarn producers continue to keep your needles happy?
In my next post I am going to tell you about being sad and how it consumed me and how I am slowly allowing myself to be okay. I think its important to be honest with yourself in life and that maybe sharing it can let others know that they are not alone and that Superwoman cries every now and then and it's okay.