Friday, October 19, 2012

An Interview with...Elizabeth Fallone Owner of Eliza’s Buttons and Yarn

Once a week I post interviews with interesting knitting professionals about their insights on their experience of working in the knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find  Elizabeth here and here on Ravelry.

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?
I have always been passionate about knitting. After working in different yarn shops and teaching in shows over the years I started regularly teaching students out of my home, and hosting a social knit night. I started accumulating yarn as the demand from my students grew for different yarns that weren’t offered in the local yarn shop. Finally I decided to just go for it and open a store front.
How long have you been in business? 
I have just celebrated my 1 year anniversary.
Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop? 
I run the shop by myself for the most part, however during classes I  have a part time employee that comes in to make sure everyone gets the appropriate attention.
How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?
The yarn in the shop is all the yarn that I would use and recommend. I love knowing what the product feels like as well as how it knits up. Also it’s like a fantastic stash that can be inspiring. 

What have done to create a sense of community in your store? 
We have a sock club that meets the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, a lace group that meet every Tuesday night, I also host a drop in on Wednesday evenings with tea, coffee, it is a great social time. 

When I was teaching out of my home, we always had a separate knit night. I knew this was an important fixture, so I moved it to the store, it helps with allowing people from various backgrounds open up and find something in common with each other. Also we were running out of space in my basement.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?
My absolute favorite part of running the shop is witnessing the diversity of each knitter and their project choices.

We've seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your  thoughts on where things might be headed now?
The best part about creating a community in my knitting store is being able to see the new generation of knitters that are popping up. Instead of parents bringing their kids in to learn how to knit, I am witnessing young knitters between 5 - 12 years old bringing in their parents. It’s amazing.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I didn’t have a very firm business plan, but I knew where I wanted to end up and what I want to accomplish.

Do you have a mentor?
I have met so many amazing people over the years that have inspired me. Julie from Ancaster’s Needle Emporium has been so supportive. I admire what she brings to her students and customers alike. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I have never really been a follower, so if I had to describe my business model it would be to maintain the atmosphere that I created in my home with the students.  

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?
Surprisingly yes, the retail promotion course the  I took many years ago has come in handy.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It has helped to spread the word  a lot faster that there is a new yarn shop in town.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have recently acquired a puppy so he helps to make me take a break, go for walks, and forces me to have scheduled down time.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
The business is off to an amazing start however I am not totally self sufficient as of yet, but very hopeful.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store? 
Be knowledgeable and passionate about what you’re selling. When dealing with clientele always be honest and know what they want. If there are other shops in the area, be different and embrace that.

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